May 26, 2010

The Science Gap

Science Technology
Blogs % of Stories 10 8
Traditional Press % of Newshole 1 1

9:1 – Ratio of science and technology coverage on blogs compared to the traditional press

When it came to interest in topics such as government and foreign events, a new study by the Project for Excellence in Journalism found that there were not large differences between the blogosphere and traditional press.

But one area of wide divergence in the new media’s and mainstream media’s news agendas occurred in the fields of science and technology.

According to an examination of PEJ’s New Media Index from January 19, 2009-January 15, 2010, 18% of the most linked-to stories on blogs in a given week were about science and technology news. In that same time frame, only 2% of the mainstream press newshole focused on these topics, as measured by the News Coverage Index.

Given their use of new media platforms, the subject of technology and its role in communication seems to be a natural fit for many bloggers.  And when it came to science, bloggers seemed to enjoy sharing and commenting on unusual findings or events that were virtually ignored in traditional news media

In the year-long period examined by the PEJ, science topics accounted for 10% of the most linked-to stories in the blogosphere. The discovery of a new kind of large rat in Papa New Guinea, news that a chemical found in blue M&Ms might have therapeutic qualities, and the discovery of a meat-eating plant were some of the unique science news that blogs have featured and discussed.

In technology news, blogs spent significant time spreading the word about possible problems online, such as an email phishing scam that compromised at least 30,000 email passwords around the world. Other technology stories garnering interest included the new version of the Kindle, and an interview with the founders of Twitter. Technology stories such as these accounted for 8% of the most linked-to blogosphere subjects.

In the traditional press, science accounted for just 1% of overall newshole in the year-long period studied. Among the stories covered were President Obama lifting Bush Administration restrictions on stem cell research and NASA’s November mission to the International Space Station.

Technology news—often focused on internet security—also accounted for 1% media coverage. The switch from analog to digital television and stories about such issues as texting while driving also contributed to the technology news.