Wednesday, 12 September 2007

The public gets what the public wants

Vis a vis Internet news, there is yet another report out saying that people pay more attention to the news agenda of other users than editors. Well, of course they do. And then again they don't.

The research by the Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) is reported on Editor and Publisher and picked up by The Editors Weblog.

Among the findings:

• "Many of the stories users selected did not appear anywhere among the top stories in the mainstream media coverage studied. And there was often little in the way of follow-up. Most stories on the user-news sites appeared only once, never to be repeated again in the week we studied."

• "Seven in ten stories on the user sites come either from blogs or Web sites such as YouTube and WebMd that do not focus mostly on news.

• "The three user news sites differed from one another in subtle ways. Reddit was the most likely to focus on political events from Washington, such as coverage of Vice President Cheney; Digg was particularly focused on the release of Apple’s new iPhone; had the most fragmented mix of stories and the least overlap with the News Index."

• "On Yahoo News, even when picking from a limited list of stories Yahoo editors had already pared down, users’ top stories only rarely matched those of the news professionals."

There are lots of issues here - not least what "news" is - but it's pretty irrelevant really. People use different sites for different things and different parts of the same sites for different things. BBC News, for example, is great for telling me what the most "important" thing happening is (Foot and Mouth as I write this), but I know I can usually rely on the Most Emailed section containing something "interesting".

For the record, according to the behaviour of the visitors to Editor & Publisher today it is:

  • the fourth Most Printed article
  • the fifth Most emailed
  • but it fails to make it into the Top 10 Most Saved articles
So that settles that.

1 comment:

Simon Robinson said...

Well it does, but the sample was made up largely of people who eat breathe and sleep technology, this is partly because they are the early adapters. What would be really interesting, in about 5 years time or so will be to look at how the Sun's readership's entermational needs mesh with the newspaper's offering, and compare that with the Times Educational Supplement and its readers. My guess is that people want more of what they know they like, and the Sun seems to give them that by the bucketful.