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What Our Choice of German Newspapers Says about Us

The final paper in this ECREA 2012 session is by Teresa Naab, but presented by proxy; it focusses on the use of media for managing the impression that others have of us. People engage with the news conspicuously in order to appear to others in a certain way – but does this actually work? People also perceive other, obvious characteristics about each other, and from this extrapolate (partly stereotypic) impressions; can conspicuous display of media use affect such impressions, then?

Impressions are not formed only based on preset, unchangeable characteristics; smaller aspects may be able to influence them. Teresa's study examined the impact of newspaper readership in Germany, where use of different papers may signal different news interests and sophistication; such perceptions can be understood as both attributed attractiveness and attributed cultural capital, and may exist both as independent factors and as relative factors which relate to the perceiver's own preferences.

He study created a number of fake Facebook profiles which each show a preference for a specific German newspaper. Participants in the study were asked about their own newspaper preferences and about their reactions to the fake profiles. Social attraction, task attraction, physical attraction, and attributed cultural capital were all measured, based on a group of 333 respondents between 18 and 30 years, recruited via Facebook.

Attributed social, task, and physical attraction did not differ dependent on the profiles' newspaper preferences – but attributed cultural did; broadsheets and tabloids were perceived strongly differently. Correspondence between respondents' own interests and the fake profiles' also affected this strongly.

This study will need to be extended by looking at a much wider range of news sources and a much wider range of respondents, however; newspaper use may not be as important in the attribution of cultural capital as the use of other types of news sources, or for the wider population. Clearly, though, there is something that a conspicuous preference for specific newspapers does contribute to the perception of one's persona.