Will blogs replace newspapers? If they do, it’ll be with a technie agenda, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism.
Pew gathered a year’s worth of data on the top stories discussed and linked to on blogs and seven months’ worth of comparable data from Twitter. The findings: The news that people discuss in social networks is a lot different from what the mainstream media discusses. Also, the type of media makes a different. Topics that are talked up on Twitter aren’t the same as those that get chatted about on YouTube.
Twitter is the techiest of the platforms. During the period measured, an astonishing 43% of news topics on Twitter related to technology, compared to just 1% in traditional media. On the flip side, mainstream media spilled 10% of its ink on the economy, compared to 1% in the Twittersphere.
Bloggers most closely matched mainstream media in the topics they discussed, but even they have a techie orientation. During the week of May 24-28, when most of America was riveted on the oil spill that threatened the entire Gulf Coast, bloggers talked mainly about Facebook privacy. Meanwhile, on Twitter the talk was all about Apple surpassing Microsoft in size.
The research draws some interesting contrasts in the styles that dominate these social media. In the year studied, “bloggers gravitated toward stories that elicited emotion, concerned individual or group rights or triggered ideological passion,” researchers said. On Twitter, in contrast, “The mission is primarily about passing along important — often breaking — information in a way that unifies or assumes shared values within the Twitter community.” There’s a narcissistic fascination with Twitter itself in much of this news. Still, Twitter was the only medium of the four studied that devoted significant attention to the Iranian election protests.
Pew also remarks on the attention-deficit style of consumption that dominates the Internet. Stories quickly pass from prominence into obscurity. “On blogs, 53% of the lead stories in a given week stay on the list no more than three days. On Twitter that is true of 72% of lead stories, and more than half (52%) are on the list for just 24 hours.”
Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. On Twitter, it was just four of 29 weeks studied; just 5% of the top five stories on Twitter remained among the top stories the following week;More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. On Twitter, the ratio was considerably different, with only half of the links going to legacy outlets;YouTube is the most international of the four platforms studied. One quarter of the most-watched news videos on YouTube were of non-U.S. events.
A few other striking findings:
- Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. On Twitter, it was just four of 29 weeks studied;
- Just 5% of the top five stories on Twitter remained among the top stories the following week;
- More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. On Twitter, the ratio was considerably different, with only half of the links going to legacy outlets;
- YouTube is the most international of the four platforms studied. One quarter of the most-watched news videos on YouTube were of non-U.S. events.
What can we learn from this? For one thing, it appears that, when left to their own devices, long form social media practitioners gravitate toward a mainstream media model. The profile of blog content is remarkably similar to that of traditional media. This is probably a matter of the blogosphere reflecting its sources of information rather than the other way around, because, the survey also found that mainstream media reflect very little of what starts in the blogosphere. It does indicate that the topics covered by mainstream media match pretty closely the interests of people who care enough to compose thoughtful commentary about the news of the day.
It’s also clear that bloggers need mainstream media, although maybe not as much as media professionals would like to believe. The research found that 80% percent of the mainstream media citations from bloggers went to just four outlets: the BBC, CNN, The New York Times and the Washington Post.
Twitter and YouTube are not cast in the same mold as blogs. Those outlets reflect a specific set of interests, most notably the digirati who use Twitter. It’s also interesting that the research found such a small percentage of content devoted to technology on YouTube, but that may be due to the nature of the medium. Most computer stuff isn’t very visual.
There’s nothing in these results to indicate that blogs are going to replace mainstream news anytime soon. “Bloggers gravitated towards stories that elicited emotion, concerned individual or group rights or triggered ideological passion,” the survey authors wrote. In other words, blogs are commentary, not news.
Yahoo is continuing its slow crawl into the world occupied by news outlets. In the past year, the company has hired several editors to staff a fledgling news bureau and acquired Associated Content. Now TechCrunch says Yahoo wants Huffington Post. The two are in a content syndication deal and Yahoo may even try to acquire HuffPo, although the price is probably prohibitive.
Huffington Post is now the biggest blog on the planet, TechCrunch says, with more traffic than NYTimes.com. It’s on track to generate $100 million in revenue next year, making it a pricey acquisition for the struggling Yahoo. Meanwhile, Google continues to insist that it’s not interested in getting into the original content game, indicating that Yahoo may be the bigger threat to traditional publishers.
Laid-off journalists are increasingly finding new careers in the public relations industry, according to an article in the UK’s Independent. But the new trend is to hire journalists for their journalism skills rather than their contacts in the industry. Edelman, the global PR firm, recently hired Richard Sambrook, the former head of BBC News, and gave him the title of Chief Content Officer. It also just hired business journalist Stefan Stern from the Financial Times as the new head of strategy.
The article quotes Sambrook as saying that Edelman realizes its clients can now take their message directly to the consumer. “”The walls of the traditional box of PR are falling away and Edelman is taking the opportunity to move into new territory,” he said. “We are at a moment when a lot of the traditional lines between PR and consulting and advertising and broadcasting are blurring.”
This trend may make a lot of traditionalists cringe, but it’s clearly gathering momentum. In recent weeks we’ve talked to several business bloggers who are refugees from flailing media operations. The question is whether businesses have the guts to let these journalists do what they do best or if they will try to box them into the traditional role of corporate shill. It’s unlikely that people like Sambrook will tolerate the latter approach, which is why his hiring has considerable symbolic importance.
You know times are tough when you’re rejoicing over the slowing of a decline. Newspaper advertising revenue declined to $5.98 billion in the first quarter, a drop of 9.7%. The good news: that’s the smallest drop since the third quarter of 2007. Print revenue was down over 11% and classifieds were off 14%. Online revenue, though, was up nearly 5%. “Declines are moderating across the board and, in some instances, have turned positive,” NAA President-CEO John Sturm said in a statement.