A new report from the New York Times finds that news sites that use a fragmented media marketplace (MFM) model are more likely to feature fewer stories from a variety of sources and are more susceptible to being targeted by social media trolls and abusive users.
The report, “What’s Next for News Sites?”, found that only 6% of MFM news sites had at least one story that was exclusively about a specific topic.
And only 6.5% of sites featured at least two articles about the same topic.
Of those that did feature at least four articles about a particular topic, only 19.3% featured at most one news story about it.
The findings, which were based on data from a survey of 50,000 users of news sites, were published on Thursday in a series of articles that will appear in the New Yorker and elsewhere.
The study was led by New York University professor Daniel Ghezli and analyzed the content of the MFM sites.
The results showed that the sites with the most stories about a single topic were also the sites that had the most “trolls,” or people who use social media to attack or harass others.
The authors noted that it is very hard to predict who will be a troll and who won’t.
But, Ghezzli told the Times, the findings suggest that sites like The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, and The Daily Beast that rely on a MFM model to build their audience are at higher risk for being targeted.
“The data we found indicates that these sites have the most trolls, who are engaged in a sustained campaign of harassment, to try to shape the stories that are presented to the users,” he said.
The sites in question, according to the study, are CNN, the BBC, the New Republic, Buzzfeed, and Yahoo News.
The New York Post was excluded because it has been closed to users since the start of the year.
The researchers also found that sites that featured more than one article about a topic were more likely than sites that did not to have at least 50% of their stories about the topic in their stories.
And those that featured fewer than 50% stories were also more likely, in general, to be attacked by people who troll.
While the study was published as part of a series on how to create more engaging and relevant stories, Gherzli told ABC News that the findings were a valuable contribution to a larger conversation on how news media should deal with the rise of online harassment.
“This is an important piece of data, and it can help inform how we develop and improve our storytelling,” he told ABC.
“I think it’s important that we look at the news sites and the content that they’re producing to understand how to make the site more engaging to a broader audience, and to get better at generating the content and stories that they want to deliver.”
According to Gherzzli, the MFMs also have a role to play in curating and protecting stories.
“There are many examples of what happens when you start using this model of the media ecosystem,” he explained.
“You get a lot of trolls, and then you have a lot more trolls.
You get a whole lot of false news.”
He added that the report was “the first time I’ve seen a group of people do a systematic analysis to look at how we can improve the way the media works.”
Follow Laura Poitras on Twitter:@lpoitrasABC News, ABC News Digital, and ABC News Investigations contributed to this report.