Going with the flow: Nudging attention online

Angela Xiao Wu, Harsh Taneja, James G. Webster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Theories explaining the impacts of online media often swing between the actions of empowered individuals and the distribution structures put in place by powerful corporations. To explicate how these factors interact, we adapt the concept of audience flow to highlight the temporal dimension of web use and demonstrate how digital architectures subtly nudge masses of people into online attention flows. We identify sequential usage patterns through a network analysis of passively measured clickstreams, combined with data on website ownership and website architectures. Our sample, based on a panel of 1 million users, includes 1761 websites that reached at least 1% of Internet users in the United States. Our findings reveal previously unseen patterns of online audience formation, which have implications for studying media effects and understanding institutional power on the Internet.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2979-2998
Number of pages20
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2021


  • Audience building
  • audience formation
  • audience fragmentation
  • choice architectures
  • clickstreams
  • flow
  • media ownership
  • nudges
  • online attention
  • web usage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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