[Clickworthy] Catering to the middle works, at least for Politico

Partisan news websites tend to attract similarly partisan audiences, according to a report released today by comScore (as reported by Poynter). Selective exposure is nothing new. However, one website in the study aims for the middle of the ideological continuum and hits it, with great traffic to boot.

The audience sample for Politico in February was 29% Democrat, 29% Republican, and 42% independent. The share of minutes spent on the site overwhelmingly belonged to independents (66%), while Democrats and Republicans again were evenly split (17% each).

The other sites in the study – a selection of left and right-leaning sources – failed to match Politico’s balance, and in most cases, its traffic.

The ones that did attract more visitors were two ideologically opposed news aggregators – The Huffington Post (the study measured only it’s Politics page) and Drudge Report – sites with a long lineage of selective linking to other people’s work. HuffPo produces at least some original content (they even nabbed a Pulitzer last month), but the vast majority of their work remains rewrites and reposts. Even moreso for Drudge.

The study is interesting because claiming the middle has recently been viewed as a losing fight. As American politics continue through a phase of increased division, partisan news organizations have seen the gains, while traditional institutions have seen audience share wilt away. When Fox News and its conservative slant captured a mammoth market share, MSNBC responded by acting as a liberal counterweight. CNN, on the other hand, determined that more success would be found in presenting a balanced look at the day’s events. CNN was dead wrong, and has gone from a close second to a distant third.

So it’s nice to see Politico performing well, particularly in the partisan pig slop that is the Internet. Perhaps it is a small sign that the tide is turning back to a desire for information over self-satisfying infotainment.

[Clickworthy] The Media Primary

We are still over a year from the 2012 presidential election, but, as the New York Times reported today, even primary debates are delivering large audiences to cable news networks. People are hungry for politics, and it seems like the Republican pool of candidates face off three times a week in an attempt to gain a few extra points before the Iowa Caucuses.

So how does the media coverage of the 2011 phase of the 2012 election look so far? The Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a study this morning detailing tone and extent of coverage across multiple media from May 2 to October 9.

Look at the study and you will find all sorts of interesting nuggets. The central findings are as follows:

– The GOP candidates seem to be getting a pretty fair shake from the media in terms of tone of coverage. Newt Gingrich looks like the only current candidate who can claim he is being treated unfairly by the media [which he already does, with every other breath (Look at your watch. Now back at the screen. Newt just blamed the media for his poor poll numbers again.)].

– The candidates may be receiving similar coverage tone, but they are not receiving similar coverage. Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, and Michelle Bachmann have dominated the news cycle, leaving scraps for the remaining candidates (I’ve already discussed this phenomenon, and Ron Paul in particular, in an earlier post). The most striking part of this finding is that Perry, who has been covered more than any Republican candidate, didn’t even enter the race until August, which means he was absent for 3 of the 5+ months measured in the study. That’s some serious agenda-setting coverage.

– And finally, the finding that jumped out to me:

One man running for president has suffered the most unrelentingly negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1. Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during these five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone.

 

Clearly, the positive coverage Candidate Obama received in 2008 has dissolved over almost three years in office. If the media reflects public opinion (which is my interpretation of this relationship) and voters feel the same way, things don’t look good for a second term.

Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?

The media go to humorous extents seemingly to pretend that Ron Paul doesn’t exist, Daily Show host Jon Stewart observed on Monday night, following Paul’s second-place finish in the Ames, Iowa Straw Poll last weekend. The clip has been buzzworthy in circles of political junkies, media observers, and young citizenry looking for the next revolution. As a member of all three, it has appeared on my Facebook feed constantly for the past three days.

 

Vodpod videos no longer available.

 

Thanks to the number crunchers at the PEW Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, we can put the claim to the test.

Continue reading “Why Is the Media Ignoring Ron Paul?”

Perceived Media Bias and Cable News Branding: The Effects of Diversification in the Marketplace of Information

This presentation was given Saturday at the AEJMC Annual Conference as part of a refereed paper research session on “Bias and Branding” sponsored by the Radio-Television Journalism Division. This is a rudimentary script to an oral presentation with visual aids, so it will leave a bit to be desired for the blog reader.

For the PowerPoint accompanying this presentation, email Dylan.

For more on the conference as a whole, view my main post on AEJMC ’11.

Claims of media bias are nothing new. And despite plentiful content analyses that show little to no evidence of some collective attempt to mislead the public, perceptions of bias not only remain, but have increased dramatically over the past decade, a time frame that correlates with the rise of Fox News and MSNBC – cable news networks to compete with CNN and create a competitive marketplace.

Researchers like Sutter or Anand, DiTella, and Galetovic have looked at news coverage economically, and cable news as just what it is – a for-profit industry. That means, like any differentiated product market, the news outlets must seek a place along a continuum of potential audiences. With radio stations, it would be genres of music; with news it could be the types of stories covered (intl/domestic; hard news/entertainment), but we often think of it in terms of political ideology.

The suggestion is that our oft-idealized paradise of objectivity doesn’t make good business sense, because wide-open market segments are left untapped while everyone battles for the middle. If every station in town is playing country music, why don’t you try reaching out to the hip-hop fans? (Ideology isn’t quite so drastic, but you get the idea.)

So instead, content analyses (or a casual channel surf during primetime) have suggested that the cable news environment looks something like this. Each network has differentiated, targeting its own particular audience. Which begs the question… How do these differentiation attempts influence the audience’s perceptions of bias in those networks?

Continue reading “Perceived Media Bias and Cable News Branding: The Effects of Diversification in the Marketplace of Information”

Wallace/Stewart interview fallout good for media discourse

Many months ago, in November 2010, Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace visited the set of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart to talk with Stewart, inevitably, about the perception of bias in Fox News programming. Wallace continually asked Stewart to come on his Fox program.

Last Sunday, Stewart finally obliged. Again the talks took a turn toward bias in the media, and at Fox in particular – this time, on Wallace’s home turf.

(Click on the annotation for part 2)

Continue reading “Wallace/Stewart interview fallout good for media discourse”