Traditional media and what is collectively called “new media” continue to flow in opposite directions. Blogs and social media sites are approaching news far differently than the way newspapers and traditional broadcasters make their reports, according to a recently study released from Pew Research’s Project in Excellence in Journalism.
That report, “New Media, Old Media,” revealed what social media enthusiasts understand: they get their news from people around them instead of relying on the 6 o’clock news, newspapers or even cable news.
Indeed, the Pew study reveals that 44 percent of Internet users get their news from social media sites, via email or through automatic updates such as Twitter. Pew noted Twitter’s continuing rapid growth, recognizing that in 2009 its audience increased by 200 percent.
One year of data was gathered by Pew for their study. That data included uncovering what news people discussed and shared the most, what issues were of least interest to them, the interplay between various social media platforms and how the agendas of each site help to shape the news and people’s opinions.
Pew discovered that news favored on one social media site may not be the same on others. Recently, one story–the Iranian elections in 2009–managed to get top billing on a number of sites including YouTube, Twitter and on many blogs.
Of course, that also meant that highly partisan sites strongly supported their particular people with conservatives talking about Sarah Palin while liberals lauded Barack Obama.
The Pew study discovered that politics is a relatively minor area of discussion on Twitter, with technology conversations playing a significant role including discussions of, you guessed it, Twitter.
On occasion, a story popularized in the blogosphere gets picked up by the mainstream press. The “climategate” issue of 2009 was first exposed by bloggers, but one week later became headline news. That story exposed the phony statistic keeping of UK scientists, details which drove a black hole through the whole theory of global warming.
Three news topics get a lot of press through new media, far more than what mainstream media covers: science, technology and celebrities are given far greater coverage via blogs and Internet sites. Traditional media pays much more attention to disasters, the economy and health and medicine issues.
As many of us suspect, stories of strong interest get picked up and disseminated quickly via social media. However, the Pew study also shows that interest drops almost as quickly.
Perhaps the most encouraging note for traditional media types is that when news does break, they’ll often find that information has been referenced (linked) by blogs.
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