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Extant research has demonstrated that the media are rarely able to tell audience members what to think, but are remarkably successful in telling audiences what to think about; this is known as an agenda-setting effect (McCombs & Shaw, 1972). However, little research has examined whether such effects occur when audiences are exposed to news within daily email newsletters- emailed news bulletins sent by aggregator news media featuring important stories of the day. A 2 (topic) x 2 (placement) x 3 (message) mixed online experiment was conducted to examine whether topic and placement of articles within daily email newsletters produced agenda-setting effects over a period of three days. News topic was manipulated as being either health or education content, and placement of articles was manipulated as being the first or last article presented in the newsletter. News topic and placement served as between subjects factors. Participants (N = 108) were randomly assigned to one of four conditions. Participants read one newsletter everyday over the course of three days; thus message repetition was a within subjects factor. Results showed that participants in the health condition exhibited stronger agenda-setting effects relative to participants in the education condition. This difference was stronger when placement of the news story was presented first, indicating prominence as a cue of salience within the newsletters. However, placement of topic was non-significant across both topics, as the cue of placement specifically produced conflicting results within the education condition. The results from this study contribute to the growing body of agenda setting research within the digital news era.
A Thesis submitted to the School of Communication in partial fulfillment of the requirement for the degree of Master of Science.
Includes bibliographical references.
Patrick F. Merle, Professor Directing Thesis; Russell B. Clayton, Committee Member; Summer Harlow, Committee Member.
Florida State University
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