A little over a week ago, I introduced the Australian Twitter News Index (ATNIX), our new measure of how links to Australian news and opinion sites circulate on Twitter. This is a work in progress, obviously, and I’m thankful for a few helpful comments about additional sites to track and further details to extract from the data. I think we’re now in a good position to step this up a notch and turn this into what will hopefully be a regular feature on this site. This also means moving to a standard Monday-to-Sunday schedule for our data circulation reports – and for that reason, I’ve re-done last week’s analysis in the post below, too. So, this time you get two for the price of one: an ATNIX for calendar week 25/2012 as well as 26/2012.
Standard background information: this analysis is based on tracking all tweets which contain links pointing to the URLs of a large selection of leading Australian news and opinion sites. For technical reasons, it does not contain ‘button’ retweets, but manual retweets (“RT @user …”) are included. Datasets for those sites which cover more than just news and opinion (abc.net.au, sbs.com.au, ninemsn.com.au) are filtered to exclude irrelevant sections of those sites (e.g. abc.net.au/tv, catchup.ninemsn.com.au). For our analysis of ‘opinion’ link sharing, we include only those sub-sections of mainstream sites which contain opinion and commentary (e.g. abc.net.au/unleashed, articles on theaustralian.com.au which include ‘/opinion’ in the URL), and compare them with dedicated opinion and commentary sites.
With that out of the way, let’s begin by revisiting the results for the previous week. The main changes from my introductory post stem from our shift to a Monday-to-Sunday rhythm, and from an increase in the sites and mainstream site sub-sections we’re including in the opinion graph.
ATNIX Week 25: 18-24 June 2012
In total, during this week we captured over 150,000 tweets containing URLs to the sites we tracked. Here’s how the mainstream news sites performed:
As I said in my previous post: a very strong result for the two major Fairfax sites, the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age – but it’s important to keep in mind precisely that this was a week of bad news for Fairfax, which may well have artificially boosted the number of links to those sites. It will be interesting to see whether this dominance continues into the coming weeks. The marketshare of News Ltd. sites is also interesting: individually, these sites don’t command positions as prominent as those of the two leading Fairfax papers, but in combination, the four top News Ltd. sites (news.com.au, The Australian, Herald Sun, Daily Telegraph) still account for over one quarter of the news links shared. Finally, I’m also somewhat surprised that Fairfax’s online-only news site Brisbane Times outperformed its local News Ltd. rival, the print-and-online Courier-Mail, by some 900 tweets – again, it remains to be seen how much of this is due to the news about Fairfax itself this past week.
Now for the opinion and commentary sites. This graph is much changed from the previous version, as it now also includes the opinion and commentary sections of the mainstream news sites:
While the addition of the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age opinion pages makes a significant impact here (and again, their position during week 25 may well be driven by the extent to which Fairfax itself was a talking point during that time), the academic op-ed site The Conversation puts in a remarkable performance that week. This, too, is due in good part to the Fairfax upheavals – stories addressing the job cuts at Fairfax and their impact on the Australian media (including one by former Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser) accounted for a very significant chunk of the Conversation links being shared on Twitter that week. Crikey and the ABC site The Drum round out the leading sites, which together account for more than three quarters of the opinion and commentary links in our dataset. (Note, though, that URLs for The Drum are difficult to detect comprehensively: guest articles are posted under the abc.net.au/unleashed sub-section, but commentary by ABC staff mostly sits under abc.net.au/news, and isn’t included here since we can’t tell those article URLs from actual news. We may well be undercounting The Drum, therefore.)
We didn’t track The Global Mail and Independent Australia during week 25, by the way – they’ll join the fray in the next week:
ATNIX Week 26: 25 June – 1 July 2012
Week 26 was a slightly slower news week – we tracked some 140,000 tweets containing URLs, compared to over 150,000 the previous week. Here’s now the mainstream news sites compared:
No great changes from the previous week, then, in spite of the fact that the immediate heat around Fairfax’s job cuts had dissipated somewhat. The Australian overtakes the Herald Sun, and there is some reshuffling of the minor places, but at the top of the leaderboard, placings and proportions of marketshare remain remarkably stable. Could this be a sign that – for all the talk that social media (and aggregators like Google News) are ‘cannibalising’ masthead sites – there still is considerable brand loyalty amongst those who read (and share) the news? We’ll keep an eye on this.
On to the opinion and commentary sites, now also including The Global Mail and Independent Australia:
Here, too, the top of the leaderboard remains relatively stable, with one major exception: The Conversation falls back from second to fourth place, losing five percentage points in marketshare amongst the opinion sites. Note that the percentages of the other leading sites don’t vary much at all from the past week – it really is the dissipation of the Fairfax factor which accounts for The Conversation’s slide. My guess would be that – barring any other major story wins for The Conversation (I’m looking at you, Higgs Boson) – what we’re seeing is more reflective of the performance of that site during ‘normal’ weeks.
ATNIX Day Tracker: Weeks 25-26
With two weeks of data under our belt, it’s also starting to make sense to look at day-by-day patterns. Here they are for our leading opinion sites:
It’s obvious from this just how much the Sydney Morning Herald and the ABC’s news sections are in a league of their own. Interestingly, they’re both also most affected by the weekend lull; the ABC’s marketshare drops down especially strongly on the weekends. My guess is that this is probably because it neither has any special weekend features (unlike newspapers), nor broadcast rights to major weekend sports. Beyond this, my sense that news sharing on Twitter drops is strong at the start of the week, and drops off towards the weekend, also seems to be borne out by these figures – we’ll track this further in coming weeks.
And the opinion and commentary sites:
Here, the weekend dropoff is even more stark – except for the Sydney Morning Herald opinion section, and (in week 26) that of The Age. It’s also noteworthy just how erratic the sharing of links to opinion and commentary sites is, even in spite of the very stable leaderboard when we examine the weekly stats only: during these fourteen days, four different sites move into the top rank at least for one day. The Conversation’s Fairfax coverage rules the roost at the start of week 25, but the Sydney Morning Herald takes over by mid-week (largely due to its commentary on Julian Assange’s flight to the Ecuadorian embassy in London); Crikey also briefly pops up in the top spot on 22 June, with more Assange commentary.
The following week, the SMH is back in the lead at the start of the week (with various stories on Assange, carbon pricing, the Slipper/Ashby affair, and asylum seekers), but The Conversation briefly regains the top spot on Thursday when it publishes a widely shared article on the asylum seeker debate. We end the week with The Age taking the lead over the weekend, though – with a mix of stories ranging from Gina Rinehart through a Google+ hangout with the Prime Minister to policy on asylum seekers and carbon pricing.
Perhaps, just perhaps, we’re seeing a real distinction between news and commentary sharing emerge here. While the contribution of individual sites to news circulation on Twitter is really quite stable on a day-by-day basis (which may reflect established reader preferences and loyalties), there’s much more movement in the sourcing of opinion and commentary – here, it seems, it’s not the site that matters, but the article itself (and perhaps the author, as we’ve seen with Malcolm Fraser’s article for The Conversation). Let’s see if future weeks bear this out!