Tuesday, July 14, 2009

So Much for Lipstick on a Pig

A Cornell study shows that traditional media still beats social media to the news. In the study, reported by Steve Lohr of The New York Times only 3.5% of the time did news storylines originate in blogs and then find their way online. For the main, traditional news outlets have a 2.5 hour jump on the blogs according to this analysis of the last three months of the 2008 presidential campaign. The researchers used extensive web analytics, and while there may be some flaws in the methodology (e.g., it focused on soundbites that could be ‘fingerprinted’ and tracked across media), it’s considered a breakthrough piece of analysis. There were just a handful of blogs that were responsible for breaking news in this study.

In my view, using the presidential campaign may not have been the most relevant tactic for tracking the path of stories between traditional and social media. Most campaign rallies are closed to the general population and covered mainly by correspondents (for the most part from the mainstream media) – so it’s only natural coverage will originate most of the time from correspondents who travel with the candidates. That said, in our public relations campaigns for business-to-business companies, we find that getting a piece of coverage in the traditional media is often an important factor in seeing information spread through the social media, although the lag time for social media pick-up is longer, from days to weeks.

However, the study’s authors point out that even since this study was conducted last fall, the social media universe continues to morph quickly. The implication that if the study were done today, the results might be a little different.

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