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Traditional News Media Lead Blogs By 2.5 Hours 186

Peace Corps Online writes "The NY Times reports that researchers at Cornell studying the news cycle by looking for repeated phrases and tracking some 90 million articles and blog posts which appeared from August through October 2008 on 1.6 million mainstream media sites and blogs, have discovered that for the most part, traditional news outlets lead and the blogs follow, typically by 2.5 hours. The researchers studied frequently repeated short phrases, the equivalent of 'genetic signatures' for ideas. The biggest text-snippet surge found in the study — 'lipstick on a pig' originated in Barack Obama's colorful put-down of the claim by Senator John McCain and Gov. Sarah Palin that they were the genuine voices for change in the campaign. The researchers' paper, 'Meme-tracking and the Dynamics of the News Cycle,' (PDF) shows that although most news flowed from the traditional media to the blogs, 3.5 percent of story lines originated in the blogs and later made their way to traditional media."
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Traditional News Media Lead Blogs By 2.5 Hours

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  • Re:Not surprising (Score:5, Informative)

    by Asdanf ( 1281936 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @02:24AM (#28673065)

    It would be more interesting to study the fastest of the blog posts, say 5%, and see whether they beat the media.

    Fortunately, the researchers agree with you and did just that []. And it turns out that some blogs do usually break stories before the MSM. I wonder why the NYTimes didn't lead with that finding...

  • by Norsefire ( 1494323 ) * on Monday July 13, 2009 @02:45AM (#28673155) Journal
    For the newspaper, it would be the time it took for the journalists to write/gather the stories, the sub-editors to layout the page in InDesign, and most importantly for the advertising department to sell some very expensive ad space.

    On the printing side, every 2 colour pages in a Broadsheet newspaper takes 4 printing plates (Black, Cyan, Magenta, Yellow), 4 plates take around 5-7 minutes to produce.

    It doesn't take anywhere near 2.5 hours to ink the press, more like 10 minutes.

    You're correct that it won't be anywhere near as fast as the Internet, but for a very big event they could have a special edition out in an hour or two (depending on pages, number of copies etc.)
  • Re:Well, duh? (Score:3, Informative)

    by dredwerker ( 757816 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @03:18AM (#28673273)
    Demotix [] is pretty cool.
    From the site

    'Demotix is a citizen-journalism website and photo agency. It takes user-generated content (UGC) and photographs from freelance journalists and amateurs, and markets them to the mainstream media. Demotix was founded with two principles at its heart - the freedom of speech and the freedom to know. Its objective is nothing if not ambitious - to rescue journalism and promote free expression by connecting independent journalists with the traditional media. Demotix now has over 5000 members, in 110 countries around the world from Afghanistan to Zambia. '

    It is a halfway house between the blogosphere and traditional media.

  • Re:Not surprising (Score:3, Informative)

    by Attila Dimedici ( 1036002 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @08:16AM (#28674653)
    One of the reasons that the MSM is dying is because of things like the story about Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. She recently did an interview published in the NYT. In the interview she said that she thought the Roe vs Wade decision was partially based on limiting "populations that we don't want have too many of." None of the MSM thought that quote was worth special note, not even the NYT that published the interview. Here is the exact quote:
    "Frankly, I had thought that at the time Roe was decided, there was concern about population growth and particularly growth in populations that we donâ(TM)t want to have too many of."
    Whatever she meant by that statement it is fairly interesting that a Supreme Court Justice felt that Roe vs Wade was about limiting "growth in populations we don't want to have too many of."
  • Re:Not surprising (Score:4, Informative)

    by superposed ( 308216 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @09:33AM (#28675277)
    I just downloaded the authors' data [] and compared the time of the first mention of each meme in blogs versus the mainstream media. Surprisingly, the media make the first mention only 51.3% of the time. The rest of the time, the blogs had the first mention.

    The blogs were ahead by 170 hours or more 25% percent of the time, trailed by 4 minutes or less 50% of the time, and trailed by 8 hours or less 75% of the time.

    These statistics suggest that these blogs break a story before these mainstream media outlets about half the time. Sometimes the blogs are way ahead, but they are rarely far behind. The blogs have to get their news from somewhere, so it is surprising that they are ahead of (these particular) media outlets so often. Maybe they are pulling news from less-mainstream outlets (not included in this study) and building "buzz" around it, which then gets picked up by the mainstream news outlets?
  • Re:So what's next? (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 13, 2009 @02:35PM (#28680441)

    What backwoods little town do you come from where you think you're being shorted in-depth local news?

    Here's the formula I see in pretty much every town, big or small. And I travel around the US quite a bit so I've seen a LOT of outlets.

    1. Start with a sensational headline. If there's nothing particularly gruesome or controversial locally, que a national or world story straight off the AP or the "big bogy" services like Fox, CNN, etc.

    2. Fill in some local events, maybe a few political blurbs. Highlight local highschool sports accomplishments and work of local civic organizations.

    3. Saturate with commercial breaks.

    4. Fill out most of the remaining 80% of air time with some local "human interest" stories. Ducks in a drain, a dog that fetches the paper, etc.

    5. Finish off with national/local sports and local weather.

    6. If time allows, add some actual local in-depth reporting.

    This really isn't much better than the national services. Sometimes it's fun to monitor CNN, Fox, NBC, etc. You'll see one of them report a story, then within the the 15 or 30 minute cycle the others will pick it up. The phrase "The Question We've ALL Been Asking" will be heard, especially on the channels that have not, in fact, been asking the question, or even covering the story.

    Wash, Rinse, Repeat.

    Are you SURE you don't have a Foo Chronicle, Bar Tribune, Qux Times, or Gonad Weekly where you're from? Not even a monthly newsletter? Do you have any news to report?

    In my small town (under 100,000) yes we do have a local weekly paper of that type. The reporting is quite well done, in-depth, well written and edited. It frequently has much more detail and background than the major paper, and is all around much more informative.
    Oh, and it's free- 100% supported by advertising for the 20 years it's been around. Unlike the major Lee Enterprises paper that constantly whines about dropping revenue, etc. and reprints AP stories for most of the material.

  • Re:So what's next? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Red Flayer ( 890720 ) on Monday July 13, 2009 @03:08PM (#28680873) Journal

    You're saying you'd pay for in-depth local news where you currently have none, and I'm calling you a liar.

    Before you call him a liar... you might want to check out the facts.

    Local papers are closing their doors all the time. Local reporters are being laid off constantly. Circulation of local papers is in freefall.

    Larger, regional papers are cutting their local reporting staff.

    Just because you don't want it to be true doesn't mean that it isn't true.

    Go ahead, look at your regional paper. How many stories are credited to the AP? How does this compare to three years ago?

    Go ahead, call you local paper. Ask how many reporters they have on staff. Ask how many stringers they use. Compare this to three years ago.

    The FACT is that local reporting is disappearing. Hell, even major state papers are reducing local coverage. The Star-Ledger in NJ used to have three full-time reporters in Trenton, which meant we'd get a decent amount of in-depth, researched, coverage into state politics. Now, they have one part-time reporter... the rest of the Trenton stories come through the AP. The quality is a tenth what it used to be. And that's for the state capital! Local news is even worse.

    My local paper used to employ 11 people at the local office, and retain the services of about 10 or 15 stringers. Now they have 4 employees at the local office, and 8 stringers (plus a couple more during HS football season). Both the quantity and quality of local news has dropped enormously.

    This is not a local trend. This is a national trend. The ASNE (American Society of Newspaper Editors) can barely talk about anything else -- they are fighting for survival. The ASME (Amer. Soc. of Magazine Editors) recognizes the problem for regional and local magazines as well.

    But go ahead, lambast someone for lying when you yourself don't know the state of affairs. I suggest you read up on it a bit, you might be surprised how quickly local news is dying. Do you even read your local paper? Have you noticed how it has changed over the past few years? You might be lucky to have a local paper that bucks the trend... but it's only a matter of time before your paper suffers the same fate.

    Personally, I think we need to figure out a way local news can be monetized on the web, because I see a value in professional local news -- and print media is going buh-bye in the long run. But I'm not sure it can be done without a huge (and largely unwelcome) change in how we feel about web content. Most people feel it should be free, and they are used to it being free. But that doesn't jibe with the fact that it costs money to produce quality reporting... so we have some painful adjustments (either no good local reporting, or having to pay for online content).

Make it myself? But I'm a physical organic chemist!