PEJ New Media Index: Global Warming and a Balloon Drama Drive the Online Conversation

Oct 22, 2009

Two stories gripped the social media last week unlike any other in the past few months. An article questioning the theory of global warming dominated the conversation on blogs while the saga of the six-year-old who came to be known as "balloon boy" did the same for Twitter users.

For the week of October 12-16, 50% of the links to news-related stories from blogs were to one BBC report about global warming, according to the New Media Index from the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism. That equaled the fourth-largest total for any story this year, and represented the most attention to a subject since the political unrest in Iran made up 63% of the links the week of June 15-19.

The October 9 BBC story, headlined "What Happened to Global Warming?" noted that global temperatures had not increased over the last 11 years and quoted several scientists who claimed that man-made climate change is not occurring. The blogosphere was dominated by those who cited the story as evidence to support their skepticism about global warming and criticized those warning of the dangers of rising temperatures.

The second-largest story in blogs was the same story that led among Twitter users and was also among the top subjects in the mainstream press as well. The tale of the free-floating balloon thought to be carrying six-year-old Falcon Heene—an event carried live on cable news the afternoon of October 15—made up 10% of the news links on blogs.

Read the full report Global Warming and a Balloon Drama Drive the Online Conversation on the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism Web site.

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