PEJ New Media Index: Beyond Stimulus, Bloggers Focus on Pupils, Penance and Puppets

Feb 20, 2009

For the second straight week, the ongoing economic crisis dominated the social media, just as it did the more traditional press.

The stimulus package that made it through Congress on Feb. 13 was the subject of half of all the links (50%) last week found in the New Media Index of Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism, which analyzes millions of blogs and other social media sites each week. Many of posts either evaluated specifics in the bill or debated the Republicans' strategy in opposing President Obama-discussions that mirrored some traditional media commentary, but spent less time anointing political winners and losers.

The similarities between old and new media platforms, however, ended there. The next four biggest stories in the blogosphere and other new media revealed an online discussion that diverged dramatically from traditional media news agenda. In the mainstream media, big stories are often evaluated for the breadth of their appeal; in social media, hot topics often tend to energize specific online communities built around narrower interests.

The second story in the new media last week (accounting for 15% of the links) was a New York Times personal finance article on how to save money on glasses and contact lenses. The third story (7%) revolved around the return of plenary indulgences to moderate the punishment for sin within many Catholic churches. That was followed (at 6%) by a trip down memory lane with some popular Muppet and Sesame Street characters. Next on the list (6%) was the possibility that the satellite radio company Sirius XM is headed toward bankruptcy.

None of these stories received much attention in the traditional press (save for the Sirius XM case). The mainstream press, instead, featured coverage of the new Obama administration, the commuter plane crash near Buffalo, the Israeli elections and the Australian wildfires in its roster of top five stories.

These are some of the findings of the fourth edition of the Project for Excellence in Journalism's New Media Index.

Read the full report Beyond Stimulus, Bloggers Focus on Pupils, Penance and Puppets on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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