How much does the Social Web care about Traditional Media Online?

That could be a question worth investigating, we thought. Not that we are the first ones to do so, but we decided to dig into that by using our new kid on the block, Channels.

As you know, Channels are now in open beta and free to play with. If you haven’t checked it out yet, then put this onto your list of fun tasks for your lunch breaks to come.

Anyway, we also had a play with it. We set up a news channel for each of a selected country, mainly based on the RSS of the biggest national newspapers. Then we took a look at which articles ended up in “top stories” of each Channel.

Which article or item gets listed as “top story” in a Channel depends on
– how many blog entries link to them
– how many mentions in microblogs like Twitter
– how old they are (publishing date)
– how many “likes” they get from Channel users
– how many comments they get from Channel users

Since Channels is quite new, there are clearly not many “likes” or comments from users yet. Which is nice for this little analysis right now. We will however launch more features quite soon, which will make Channels quite a powerful tool, and a very flexible one to use, too. So bear with us, please.

Now, these are our “candidates”:
UK Germany France Netherlands Spain Portugal Poland Sweden Norway and Italy.

What we wanted to see, was how blogs and tweets respond to news articles, thus pushing news into “top stories” and that way making them the headlines of the day in the social media sphere.

Comparing all these, there are quite some striking scenarios to look at. The strongest Channels in terms of linking blogs and tweets are without a doubt UK and Sweden. Taking a closer look at both, one notices that all top stories on the Swedish Channel usually have far more blog posts referring to them than tweets! In Norway it looks largely the same – almost all top stories get discussed more on blogs than on Twitter.

In the UK and Germany, news, it seems are increasingly more discussed on Twitter rather than on blogs. The majority of top stories in these Channels get partly a massive amount of tweets, but only a few blog posts refer to them.

That raises the question – is there a stronger blogging culture in Scandinavia? Here at the moment represented by Norway and Sweden? Do 14 million people (almost 5 million in Norway, about 9 million in Sweden) have more bloggers or better saying more active bloggers that link to news sites than a nation with over 60 million people like the UK? Or is it the “Twingly Effect” on our home grounds Sweden and Norway, as we sometimes secretly call it? In both countries almost all major newspapers show blog posts that link to them, most of them using our Blogstream solution, or, like Aftonbladet, their own solution.

It could also be simply a difference in culture. It is much easier and faster to share opinions via tweets in fast paced countries like i. e. UK and Germany, rather than typing up a blog post. From my own experience I know that life here in Sweden is much calmer, means one has the peace of mind to write up some more complex thoughts that need more than 140 characters. If you ask me, I think it is a good mixture of both.

What about the rest?

The Dutch and Spanish are tweeting and blogging quite a bit, too, articles being more quoted in tweets than blogged about. Same scenario with the Portuguese and French, just with a slightly lower intensity. In Italy and Poland we see few to no links, regardless whether they come from tweets or from blog posts. This scenario corresponds pretty much to what we know from friends in these two countries. Italy being more of a TV-country due to known reasons (watch i.e. Videocracy if you haven’t done so yet), and in Poland it seems the development simply isn’t that far yet. However, the Polish social media development will be really interesting to follow over the next year or two.

According to Channels, these newspapers are the celebrities in terms of who gets quoted most on blogs and on Twitter:

UK: The Guardian and The Daily Telegraph
Germany: Der Spiegel and Focus
Well mixed scenario with Le Monde Le Figaro Le Point and 20minutes leading
Spain: Another good mix with El Mundo and El País leading
Publíco (a customer of ours for Blogstream, we’d like to point out proudly)
De Telegraaf (another news site with Blogstream) and NRC Handelsblad
Norway: Verdens Gang (uses Blogstream)
Sweden: Dagens Nyheter Expressen (both with Blogstream) and Aftonbladet (running their own solution resembling Blogstream) lead.

It could be interesting to see if the described scenarios would shift in any direction, if some newspapers online would start using a trackback solution, start showing and promoting links from blogs linking to them. Could there be another increase of links from blogs for sites like Guardian or Spiegel? Or could other, even smaller newspapers become equally popular?

Would you like to share any thoughts or experiences on this? Go ahead. Especially when you think, we may have missed something important, be it a source in one of the Channels or anything else. On that note, we could unfortunately not take into account because of their pay-wall.

//Anja Rauch

5 thoughts on “How much does the Social Web care about Traditional Media Online?

  1. Massimo Moruzzi August 17, 2010 / 10:12 am

    Hi Anja, and good job! The situation in the UK and in Sweden is truly impressive, to the point that I think that these numbers should be taken into consideration by Freedom House or Reporters Sans Frontières or the United Nations when they talk about Freedom of the Press and a mature Public Opinion as the basis for Democracy and an Open Society.

    Italy is not exactly scoring high, neither on this report, nor on those from Freedom House, Reporters Sans Frontières, the United Nations etc. I’m not surprised. As a complement to Videocracy, I recommend this other video on the “role” of women on TV in Italy. As an Italian man, I find this truly beyond embarrassing.

    What is worse, the sad truth is that it’s not just Berlusconi’s fault. Unfortunately, by and large Berlusconi is what the country deserves.

    Take Italian bloggers, for example. While they do complain about the Government trying to “regulate” and impose restrictions on the web, they seem all too happy to sell the freedom and independence of “their own little presses” to the highest bidder – and not necessarily one that will bid high. Fake product reviews – with sampling companies strongly suggesting bloggers what to write about the products they are “testing” for 30-50 Euros a post – are all the rage.

    On a larger scale, Telecom Italia is the main sponsor of the so-called BlogFest, a 3-day extravaganza that will be held in Riva del Garda on the Gardasee this September for the 3rd year running. In 2008, Telecom Italia’s CEO “complained” that bloggers were not as terrible as newspapers sometimes made them to be, as no-one dared ask tough questions to the main sponsor.

    The “cream of the crop” (ironic) of the Italian blogosphere gets routinely invited to the “Venice Sessions”, a series of talks held in Venice on the topics of technology and the future of the Internet, oddly enough hosted – and paid for, hotels, meals etc – by a company that does not seem to be exactly leading the way on innovation.

    As a result of all these nice and smart efforts at making friends, my very strong feeling is that nobody is criticizing Telecom Italia anymore, no matter what they do, whether they fail miserably at their new ventures or fire employees by the thousands. But it’s sunny, and the food is good, and all is well with the Beautiful Country! 😉

  2. Anja August 17, 2010 / 1:50 pm

    What an insight! Thank you so much for sharing this, Massimo! Really a great addition to this post since a lot of readers might not be aware of the situation in Italy. It is great to get some “first hand” feedback from someone who is actually there.

    I am also very glad to hear that the Channel’s result really seems to match the reality.

    If anyone of you wants to add anything to any of the scenarios, please do so. It is great to have feedback on this topic which again and again keeps our minds busy.

    Thank you!

  3. Massimo Moruzzi August 21, 2010 / 6:11 am

    Hi Anja, I wrote to you Please tell me if that account is not working anymore. I saw Videocracy last night. It’s a sad movie. And the saddest part is that it’s a fair account of what Italy has become.

  4. Anja August 23, 2010 / 1:14 pm

    Yep, that one is still valid, and I managed to answer you now… So you’ve got mail 🙂 – Yeah, Videocracy is sad indeed. But it is more sad to get confirmed by you and probably loads more Italian people that the movie reflects the current situation in media there. Let’s hope it changes in the future.

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