I’m afraid our Australian Twitter News Index still hasn’t quite returned to its normal weekly rhythm – so here is another multi-week round-up of how Twitter users shared links to Australian news sites. By now, we’ve moved well clear of the slow news period of the summer holidays, and with the September election already hanging over us, we should see plenty of news-sharing activity.
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 (even if those links have been shortened at some point). 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 Weeks 5-7/2013: 28 Jan. to 17 Feb. 2012
Given the multi-week nature of this ATNIX update, let’s dispense with the marketshare graphs once again and jump straight into the day-to-day activity. As I’ve said, the holidays are certainly over: over these past three weeks, the total number of links to Australian news Websites being shared has hovered around a very solid 160,000: week 5 saw 165,000 tweets, week 6 matched that figure to within 200 tweets, and week 7 came in at 158,000 (but we missed some tweets due to a brief server outage on 13 Feb.). Most remarkable in any of this is the performance of ABC News, however: while the long-term market leader, the Sydney Morning Herald, maintained a weekly average of around 28,000 tweets linking to its site, ABC News rose from 28,000 in week 4 to a remarkable 36,000 in week 6 – its highest weekly total since we started ATNIX in mid-2012. (The 33,000 tweets it received in week 7 are the second highest result.)
The daily graph shows this clearly – while earlier in the year, ABC News and SMH shadow one another closely, the ABC detaches notably from its closest rival during week 6. A substantial element in this result is the widespread sharing of ABC newsreader Jeremy Fernandez’s article on his reaction to being subjected to a deeply racist tirade on a Sydney bus. Posted on 8 Feb., that piece alone received more than 1,500 shares during the rest of the week, while additional reporting about the incident picked up another 280 tweets. A second major story during the week concerned the earthquake and tsunami in the Solomon Islands, articles about which were linked to in nearly 1,000 tweets on 6 Feb. alone.
But while this explains substantial spikes on the Wednesday and Friday, the significant lead of the ABC over the SMH throughout the rest of the week is less obviously explicable. The Monday of week 6, for example, features no such standout pieces, but is marked rather by a range of stories which receive between 100 and 300 shares – ranging from the discovery of Richard III’s skeleton to police errors in the arrest of controversial MP Craig Thomson. There’s nothing here which would inherently explain a difference of almost 2,000 tweets between both sites during that day. Curious.
Links to opinion and commentary sites and sections fluctuate considerably more from day to day, as usual – and at much lower levels of activity. Here, the two Fairfax flagships continue to rule the roost, if not without challenge from some more minor sites. Overall, opinion and commentary sharing has been down over the past few weeks, in fact: while weeks 5 and 6 nearly reached 27,000 tweets linking to such sites, week 7 struggled to reach 23,000. It should be noted that these numbers remain above the long-term average of 20,000 tweets per week, though – perhaps election speculation is making its presence felt already.
Opinion and commentary sharing in week 5 is necessarily dominated by the Prime Minister’s announcement of the federal election date as 14 September – but at The Age, this is somewhat overshadowed by Julian Assange’s own announcement that he will run for the Senate (some 350 shares for this article, as well as another 90 for a 12 Dec. article which flagged this possibility). Another complication arises the following day, in the form of Craig Thomson’s arrest, with a related article netting the SMH some 260 tweets – our figures for this week can almost be read as a day-to-day breakdown of the various issues which emerged this week to undermine the PM’s make-or-break attempt to change the political conversation by announcing the election so early. Also notable in this context is another big day for Independent Australia, whose article on the Craig Thomson saga receives some 200 tweets on 31 Jan., boosting its numbers for the day to double its long-term average; the site continues this comparatively strong performance in week 6.
In week 6, at least one of the major spikes at the Sydney Morning Herald is related (and this almost seems a rarity these days) to actual policy matters: economics editor Ross Gittins’s piece on “the four industries that rule Australia” receives some 210 tweets on the Wednesday. The following day we’re back to Julian Assange: Elizabeth Farrelly’s piece on the conditions of Assange’s exile in the Ecuadorian embassy in London picks up some 250 tweets. Meanwhile, Independent Australia’s strong run – by its standards – continues: its examination of Tony Abbott’s new look receives some 300 tweets during the week, closely matched by a further update on the Craig Thomson saga. New Matilda, too, receives a boost: its criticism of Tony Abbott’s taxation plans accounts for some 260 tweets on the Monday of week 4 – that’s more than 70% of all tweets to the site that day. As we (slowly) move closer towards election day, perhaps these smaller, independent opinion sites will gradually take on a more important role in the national conversation?
Finally, while week 7 is less remarkable overall, two spikes amongst the minor sites are also worthy of attention (the Age spike on 13 Feb. is due to another update about Julian Assange’s senate run, and accounts for some 450 tweets). The ABC’s The Drum tends not to feature very strongly in our index, also due to the fact that Drum articles by ABC staff are published under a different URL path and cannot reliably be included in the total. On 14 Feb., though, it manages to cut through nonetheless, boosted by a well-timed piece on the reasons for why women would not want to change their name after marriage (150 tweets). On the Saturday, finally, it is The Global Mail which briefly becomes the most-linked opinion and commentary site in the country: its confronting piece about ‘witch’-hunts and other acts of extreme violence against women in Papua New Guinea received some 360 tweets that day.