An Analysis of Topics and Story Sources — Bloggers vs. the Traditional Press

Have you ever wondered where bloggers and tweeters find their stories and topics? This is the question asked by journalism.org, in a study conducted to determine the topics and sources of social media stories. Next, GOOD and Part & Parcel collaborated to created an infographic of the results of the study. Dorian Orange created an animation of the data to complement the infographic.

So, why the study? Who cares where bloggers get their topics and from what media source? Well…the word is that traditional — especially, print — journalism is under siege, primarily due to the effects of “new media”. So…if the new media relies on the old media for their stories, then perhaps the old media “just” needs to figure out a new economic model? And that reports of the journalism profession’s death have been greatly exaggerated?

[Note: a discussion of this issue is beyond the scope of this blogger, but comments are welcome.]

First, I’ll show the animation. Second, I’ll show the infographic. Last, but hardly least, I’ll post some of the data from the study itself.

As the infographic authors write:

Every day, thousands of stories are passed around the internet on blogs and via Twitter. A new study by Journalism.org has examined the source of those stories. It turns out, most of them come from old-school media. We may like to share information via Twitter, but the information we share comes from the morning’s newspaper. This is a look at where blogs and Twitter users are getting their stories, and what kind of stories their users are most likely to link to.

Topics and Sources: Traditional Press vs. Bloggers

(An interactive (flash) version of the infographic is available here.)

I am not a journalist, but I would sure hate to see traditional news sources disappear. I was intrigued by the idea that new media relies primarily on the old media for topics, especially because I keep hearing that traditional journalism is dead. (Then again, could all bloggers be amatuer journalists themselves? No, that is unlikely, too, now that I think about it.) Regardless, I decided to give the actual article a read-through, as opposed to only examining the infographic and animation.

First, the article discussed the most common topics in each medium.

In the broadest sense, the top news agenda in the blogosphere coincides with that of the traditional press; politics and foreign events are the topic areas linked to most often. The next most popular subject areas, however, tend to differ; science stories – often off-beat findings – were the No. 3 subject area in blogs and social media pages, followed by technology related news. (Those topics are much less popular in the traditional press).

Topics of News Coverage: Blogs vs. the Traditional Press

[Note: I have only quoted a small excerpt of the topic analysis here; I encourage you to read the full analysis.]

Next, the author discussed the source for these topics. I was actually surprised — bloggers do rely on traditional media for their story sources, in spite of all of their (and my) opinion writing!

Despite the unconventional agenda of bloggers, traditional media still provides the vast majority of their information. More than 99% of the stories linked to came from legacy outlets like newspapers and broadcast networks. American legacy outlets made up 75% of all items.[2]

Web-only sites, on the other hand, made up less than 1% of the links in the blogosphere.

The majority of links bloggers examined were also text-based stories as opposed to interactive pages with multimedia components such as video, slide shows or interactive charts. Fully 83% of the links were to stories that were text-based stories compared with 17% of stories that were multimedia based.

[Note: Again, I have only quoted a small excerpt of the source analysis here; I encourage you to read the full analysis.]

My own takeaway on the analysis of bloggers’ sources and topics is that traditional media is currently going through some growing pains as the Internet has forced changes to their traditional economic model. As a profession, journalists have to find a new economic model. (I know that’s easy for me to say!) The good news is that, outside of economic growing pains, the journalism profession appears to be alive and well in term’s of how society and “new media” values it and uses their output.

What is your takeaway of journalism.org’s study and analysis of bloggers sources and topics?

Please let me know what you think....