Top news vs. top chatter

The Pew Research Center’s New Media Index for the last week of January shows the blogosphere was more interested in a film shot by chimpanzees than President Obama’s State of the Union Address. On the flip side, it shows the State of the Union Address as the top story covered by the mainstream media. The report also shows that the iPad announcement was the number one news topic discussed on Twitter.

Unfortunately, mainstream media sources are likely to use this kind of report without any kind of analysis or context, and folks who blog and tweet are going to get painted as some kind of out-of-touch geeks again.

While I respect the Pew Center’s Excellence in Journalism project and I often find their research valuable, I can’t always agree with the evaluations of their data.

To run an apples-to-apples comparison of top subjects between mainstream media, blogs and Twitter doesn’t make sense. Those of us involved heavily in social media and blogs often think the world is running alongside us, keeping up with the latest in this new form of communication. The reality is very different though. Sure, Facebook’s numbers are through the roof and Twitter is still growing exponentially — but in the grand scheme of things, those involved in social media are still the minority in this world. Meanwhile, the mainstream press is just that: mainstream. That means folks who have never used social media or who are clueless to its power and attraction are still getting the bulk of their information from newspapers and TV. And, the news industry still adheres to keeping the masses informed with the most basic of information with the widest appeal. The State of the Union address certainly fits that bill more than Apple’s latest gadget or the next blockbuster from a band of chimps.

The blogosphere and Twittersphere are sharing news but they aren’t the primary sources of news. That’s because the users often are commenting on things both serious and sublime, important and insignificant. That means that comparing leading topics is difficult. There’s a difference between top news and top chatter.

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2 comments on “Top news vs. top chatter

  1. I am glad I found this. It is very interesting. I have found that even with facebook, chatter has signigicantly decreased and is being overtaken by games. Since I blocked two of the more favorite apps on facebook, the number of status updates has dropped significantly. I almost feel as if that portion is taking over. What I also find, and you may too, is that chatter on social sites often happens more when social events are happening. I often find myself tweeting or giving a status update that will solicit a response. ‘I am watching Obama’s State of the State address” is not going to solicit as many responses as “hey, have you seen that new product apple’s launching?” Twitter and the internet are still my number one sources to find information. I thought facebook could be a great source for what peeps are interested in talking about, but that has gone faster downhill than I imagined. Twitter has become a nice surprising source.

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    • My morning routine has changed to the point where I check email after I check Twitter and Facebook in the morning. It used to be the complete opposite. Those who say Twitter is a waste of time obviously aren’t using the same Twitter I am. Thanks for reading and commenting — it’s the comments from readers that make blogs really come alive!

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