Pew Claims Over 99% of Social Media News Links are to MSM

See below for response from Tom Rosenstiel, Director of the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism

“More than 99% of the stories linked to in blogs came from legacy outlets such as newspapers and broadcast networks. And just four – the BBC, CNN, the New York Times and the Washington Post accounted for fully 80% of all links.”

This is one of the assertions in the latest report from the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “New Media, Old Media.”

The data the report is based comes from the New Media Index and the News Coverage Index. Pew describes the former as “a weekly report that captures the leading commentary of blogs and social media sites focused on news and compares those subjects to coverage in the mainstream press.”

This figure seems wildly out of sync with the admittedly non-statistical experience of the editorial staff at ReadWriteWeb.

No Original News on Twitter?

Another surprising finding was about original news on Twitter. According to the study, there was no original news at all on Twitter.

“Here half (50%) of the links were to legacy outlets; 40% went to web-only news sources such as Mashable and CNET. The remaining 10% went to wire stories or non-news sources…”

Pew used the term “links” here, though earlier in the report they ask, “What types of news stories do consumers share and discuss the most?” Have they limited their discussion of Twitter solely to Tweets with links? It is a common way of sharing news on Twitter, but not the only way. ReadWriteWeb has reportedseveral times on not just news reporting but breaking news on Twitter.

Questions to Pew about these figures and their sources were not returned by posting time. We will add an update when and if they are.

A Difference in Emphasis

Which stories were deemed most important differed between mainstream media and social media and between types of social media.

“Blogs shared the same lead story with traditional media in just 13 of the 49 weeks studied. Twitter was even less likely to share the traditional media agenda – the lead story matched that of the mainstream press in just four weeks of the 29 weeks studied. On YouTube, the top stories overlapped with traditional media eight out of 49 weeks. “

Of all the social media covered in the study, YouTube had the most international focus. The report states that 26% of the news videos watched were of non-U.S. events. But the most-watched videos were not of “the most important or pressing topic of the week, but rather what image or video was the most interesting to view.”

Examples included Susan Boyle on “Britain’s Got Talent” (the most popular video during one week in June and viewed 100 million times in less than a month) and a drunk bus driver endangering students.

Update

We received this email response from Pew’s Tom Rosenstiel.

The blogs looked at are the ones that are tracked by the prominent blog-tracking sites Icerocket and Technorati. They follow millions of blogs each day, so no complete list would be possible.

As we described in our methodology, we collected the articles that were most linked to on blogs that made the top five lists on Icerocket and Technorati each weekday. Of those, 99% were from legacy outlets as you noted.

Also, as we noted in the report, we relied on the “news” categorization that Icerocket and Technorati used. We made no judgment as to whether a story was considered news versus some other type of story.

It also made no difference what the type of blog was making the link. It only mattered what the story was that they linked to – so if a knitting blog, for example, linked to a Washington Post story about the deficit, that would have been included.

Your own experience may be different depending on the blogs or social media you follow, of course. This is a quantitative statistical analysis over far more material than one person would encounter.

Some have argued that Technorati has been a less than robust source for social media information for some time. Icerocket has recently show signs of substantial re-invigoration but was on the fade for a while.

The relationship between social media and traditional media is a strong one, a reality that should be pretty clear for anyone involved in both. The way that the study was done, however, focusing on a slice of a slice of a slice, may make it less indicative of the state of that relationship as a whole than it might seem at first blush.

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