Sensational Stories: The Role of Narrative Characteristics in Distinguishing Real and Fake News and Predicting Their Spread

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Media content – whether real or fake – is often presented in a story format. While research has examined some of the linguistic differences between real and fake news articles, less attention has been given to the ways in which they vary in terms of their narrativity. The current work leverages text analysis to build on recent work in the consumer field examining narrativity in predicting messages’ persuasiveness. We conduct three studies in the context of real and fake news to examine how they differ in terms of their narrative content and discourse features. We further examine how variation in narrativity predicts the likelihood that the article is shared on social media, an outcome of importance to marketers and persuasion agents.