September 12, 2007

The Latest News Headlines—Your Vote Counts

Sources and Topics

Sources

One reason the line up of stories on the user-news sites may be different from the mainstream media is where they are drawn from. About seven in ten (71%) stories on Del.icio.us, Reddit and Digg, originally appeared on blogs and sites that generally offer very little news.

Overall, four in ten (40%) stories originated on blogs.Another sizable share (31%) originated on sites that offer information but were not news, such as YouTube, WebMd or Technorati. A quarter (25%) of stories originated from mainstream news outlets such as the BBC News and Slate. Only a fraction (5%) came from wire stories from Associated Press or Reuters, which make up so much of the content on many of the news aggregators on the Web. About 1% appeared as an original report.

There were some differences during the week in which of these non-traditional forms users drew from on each site. Del.icio.us drew more from blogs and non-news information sites. Digg users dug blogs more than any other source. Reddit relied more evenly on blogs, mainstream news outlets (other than wire services) and non-news sites.

Yahoo News, in contrast, was much more likely to draw on mainstream news sources, particularly the news wires, during our study.On Yahoo News’s main page, 100% were wire stories. Similarly, nine in ten stories (91%) stories on Yahoo News’s three most popular pages also came from the wires, with no less than 85% on each of these pages originating as wire content.The remaining stories (9%), meanwhile, initially appeared on now-wire, news Web sites.

Broad Topic

The best way to get a sense of trend among these sites is to look not at specific news events, but at broad topic areas such as politics, crime, and foreign affairs. Here, some consistency emerges day-to-day, and reveals again a focus quite different from editor-selected news.

Across Del.icio.us, Digg and to a lesser extent Reddit, technology and science stories drove coverage, with technology accounting for most of the coverage in this category.

On both Digg and Del.icio.us, roughly 40% of the stories were devoted to technology and science. They were only about half as common on Reddit (22%), but that was still more than ten times the coverage in the Index that week. There, technology and science stories accounted for just 2% of the stories. On Digg and Del.icio.us, that 40% was made up of different stories. On Digg, the release of Apple’s iPhone, released June 29, accounted for more than four in ten (41%) of all technology-related news. That story was completely absent on Del.icio.us, whose users pushed more stories about the latest high-tech moves by social networking sites.

A greater emphasis on technology may come naturally to this group of Internet users, found by the Pew Internet & American Life Project to be among those first to embrace sophisticated Web activities.[1]

Coverage about everyday lifestyle activities and concerns was the second most popular topic area on user-driven sites. Roughly two-in-ten stories (20%) on Del.icio.us fit this bill, more than what was found on both Reddit (15%) and Digg (11%).In the mainstream media, by contrast, lifestyle stories amounted to about 3%.

As an example, Del.icio.us and Reddit both linked to a story about fruit and vegetables eating each other told through Photo-Shopped pictures. And both Digg and Reddit both linked to an amateur Web site in which the author showed photos he took by attaching a camera to a kite.

One topic area that both users and professional editors gave similar treatment to the week of June 24 was crime. In a week when the story of the murder suicide of wrestler Chris Benoit was breaking, crime accounted for 7% of the stories both in the mainstream news media and on Reddit, followed closely by Digg (5%). On Del.icio.us, however, just one crime story appeared in the downloads.

Coverage from Washington, a traditionally popular topic area among the mainstream media, was of much interest to Reddit users but considerably less so to users on the other two user-news sites.On Reddit, coverage of the federal government accounted for 13%.On Digg, it fell to 6% and readers of Del.icio.us–at least in the top-ten stories of each download–would find themselves completely freed of the subject.

The Washington-based story that carried most of the interest on these sties was Dick Cheney’s use of executive supremacy, largely fueled by reaction to the Washington Post’s exposé on the Vice President that week.Four percent of all stories on Reddit and 2% on Digg were devoted to coverage—often very critical—of Cheney.

Readers across the three user-news sites were also more inclined to focus on events within the U.S. borders. Looking at the geographic focus, coverage on the three user-news sites this week was even more U.S.-centric than the mainstream media as measured by the Index.Digg led the way, with 89% of stories falling in this category, with Reddit (83%) and Del.icio.us (81%) close behind.In the mainstream media, 71% of stories were focused on events from home.

Meanwhile, coverage on Yahoo News’ most popular pages was more international than what we found in both the mainstream press and the three user-driven sites. Nearly three in ten stories (28%) covered topics from abroad. In comparison, the percentage of foreign news (non-U.S.) was 15% in the Index and 10% on the three user-driven sites.


[1] “28% of Online Americans Have Used the Internet to Tag Content,” Pew Internet and American Life Project, January 31, 2007.http://www.pewinternet.org/pdfs/PIP_Tagging.pdf