Much has been said about the national and global response to Julia Gillard’s extraordinary attack on Tony Abbott, which dominated the Australian Twitter News Index for week 41/2012 – but sooner or later, we had to return to the day-to-day business of ‘normal’ news. That time is now – so let’s see what made news on Twitter this week.
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.
ATNIX Week 42: 15-21 Oct. 2012
To begin with, while week 42 wasn’t dominated by any single story in the way previous weeks had been (before the Abbott/Gillard stoush, we also had the Alan Jones saga, after all), it nonetheless registered as the week with the greatest overall number of links to Australian news sites being tweeted – at 162,000, week 42 narrowly surpassed the previous record set in week 33. Coming off a respectable 145,000 tweets last week, this reverses the pronounced slump in link sharing which we saw during weeks 36 to 40, when numbers dropped to less than 110,000.
It’s also obvious that the ABC Website’s news section had a particularly strong week: at more than 30,000 tweeted links, it came within a few hundred tweets of surpassing the Sydney Morning Herald in audience attention for a second week running – but this time, without benefitting from the added boost of thousands of tweets linking to its full-length posting of the Gillard speech. The rest of the leaderboard remains relatively steady.
There’s more movement amongst the opinion and commentary sites and sections, however. The total number of such links being shared on Twitter is down to 26,000 from last week’s record of over 29,000, unsurprisingly – but even this is still the second best result for this category since we started ATNIX in week 25/2012. Week 42 sees the Sydney Morning Herald continue to dominate opinion shares, while Fairfax stablemate The Age advances to second position. In sixth, The Australian also has an unusually strong week, while The Global Mail continues its post-redesign honeymoon. For the second week in a row, more than 1,000 tweets linked to the site – the weekly average before the site design was revised was less than 500.
A look at the weekly news sharing patterns reveals that we’re largely back to business as usual this week: ABC News and Sydney Morning Herald are neck-and-neck, at least on weekdays, and while the overall volume of tweets is unusually high, there are no particularly pronounced spikes in activity on any one day:
An exploratory look at the sharing patterns for the ABC site demonstrates this: attention is split across a range of stories, with no particular frontrunner. On Monday, a Four Corners story about Lance Armstrong leads the way with 300 tweets; on Tuesday, that piece adds 500 more. But even such numbers account for only a small part of the total of over 5,000 tweets which linked to ABC news content on each of these days.
Wednesday sees more than 300 links to a report that the Macquarie Dictionary will revise its definition of ‘misogyny’ following the Gillard speech; on Thursday, the leading story is that Alan Jones will be made to take basic journalism training (but even that piece gets fewer than 200 tweets); on Friday, Australia’s win of a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council leads with over 300 tweets. I highlight these numbers only to show how thoroughly mixed and unexceptional week 42 turned out to be – but perhaps it’s precisely this ‘something for everyone’ nature which resulted in such a high level of audience engagement?
There’s slightly more to be said about the sharing of opinion and commentary articles: here, as on many weeks, we do see a much more pronounced fluctuation in attention to specific sites. And once again, some of these spikes are driven by the overseas take-up of domestic stories: the SMH opinion section’s strong performance during 17 and 18 October is due to over 520 links to a piece which reveals how Australia and the US shared intelligence on Julian Assange.
The more purely domestic story about Jones’s remedial journalism training gains another 230 tweets for the site, while political editor Michelle Grattan’s article about how the Prime Minister lost her shoe during a visit to India was cited in 170 tweets linking to the Sydney Morning Herald, and in as many tweets which linked to the same piece at The Age – quite a few of which, it has to be said, questioned the wisdom of having a seasoned political journalist report about footwear malfunctions.