Thomson, T.J., & Keith Greenwood (2017, October-December). I “like” that: Exploring the characteristics that promote social media engagement with news photographs. Visual Communication Quarterly, 24(4), 203-218. (doi: 10.1080/15551393.2017.1388701) (link: https://doi.org/10.1080/15551393.2017.1388701)

Abstract: While business models and technological innovations continue to disrupt journalistic practice, global image culture has never been stronger. Developed society is inundated daily with a torrent of images. Yet some of these are barely seen, while others almost instantly accrue scores of likes, shares, and comments. What, then, are the factors that constitute engaging, social photojournalism? Using Q methodology, which bridges qualitative and quantitative approaches, 30 participants ranked photos published on Instagram by news organizations or photographers and shared insight through interviews on what factors affect their engagement. In this way, the users’ and the images’ characteristics were both studied to shed light on why certain photos accrue more engagement and why certain types of people “like” certain types of content. The findings identify three types of users—feature lovers, newshounds, and optimists—and describe their motivations for interacting on the platform. Insights on how the number of people in the frame, the visibility of facial features, the presence of watermarks, and the post type affect user engagement were also gathered and discussed.

TJ Thomson <contact@tjthomson.com> and Keith Greenwood <greenwoodk@missouri.edu> are in the School of Journalism, University of Missouri, Columbia, MO, USA.

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