I was reading up on the latest State of the News Media: 2010, published by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) each year, and I noticed the chapter regarding new media. PEJ has developed a new metric called the New Media Index used to track digital and social media. The index tracks the content found on blogs and social media sites focused on news, and compares these narratives to those of the mainstream press.
Digital and social media has become more prominent because, well, people like to share their ideas and reactions to the news stories that inspire or infuriate them. People are using sites like Twitter and Facebook to initiate debates and discussions about issues important to them, including a lot of topics that are in the news.
The topics that social media users gravitate toward, however, tend to differ in some respects from what news outlets focus on. PEJ states that, “Twitter users strayed the farthest from the mainstream press.” For example, most Twitter posts alerted people to something of interest, used primarily to share information, not to provide commentary to the subject. And, “of those Twitter feeds that contained news links, the vast majority tended to simply repeat the headline from a website.” Further, some of the biggest news stories such as debate over the healthcare bill ranked second among blogs, but only seventh on Twitter. Despite this disconnect from the mainstream, this trend is something news organizations can’t ignore if they want to be a part of the discussion; i.e. a part of news consumers’ daily lives.
Find out more about the New Media Index here.
Meredith Heard is the Data Analyst for Corporate Sponsorship and Development in NPR's Audience Insight & Research group.