Ahh, blogs. Random chatter? News? A combination of the two? It's a question often posed by those who aim to study new media. In an attempt to monitor the blogosphere and compare it to the realms of traditional media, the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism has launched the New Media Index which aims to track over 100 million blogs and 250 million social media outlets.
Developed to supplement and complement Pew's existing News Coverage Index, the New Media Index aims to make sense of the impact ,if any, of online media and its growing role in the making and dissemination of today's news.
How the New Media Index Works
The sites are tracked by two monitoring sites -- Technorati and Icerocket. Both track the commentary online by identifying what news stories bloggers and other websites link to. Each weekday, Pew captures the top linked-to stories and analyzes their content. They then compare those findings with the results of their weekly analysis of more mainstream media, the weekly News Coverage Index. The objective is to track which national news stories these online media focused on, compared with traditional media.
The index had the good fortune to start January 19. With the President Obama's inauguration and related festivities hogging the spotlight, only the fifth most-covered online topic deviated from the top five topics in traditional media. Yet while traditional media offered more tailored perspectives of the momentous occasion, blogs tended to dive into specific details of the events from a wide spectrum of audiences.
New Media Index Analyzes Global News
While the News Coverage Index is comprised of primarily U.S.-based media outlets, the aggregators of blogs and other social media include both U.S. and non-U.S. blogs. In addition, stories that are linked to can be from non-U.S. sources. However, according to PEJ's research over the last two months, the only non-U.S. news stories included in the top lists for Technorati and Icerocket have been the BBC (whose website is part of the News Coverage Index) and the Guardian.
While blogs can influence traditional media, they have the luxury of being able to delve into niche subjects and areas more easily than news outlets. The New Media Index may confirm what we already know about the subculture of new media, but it will be nice to make it official.