Contrasting storylines on and offline

March 17, 2010

I’ve been conducting some research over the last week to compare an issue in traditional media and online. Three key observations as follows.

First, the traditional news-cycle is obviously shorter than the online story cycle, but it’s always surprising to see just by how much that is the case on most storylines. A story can have traction online over the space of months while it dies after a couple of days in the papers: testament to the word of mouth (and mouse.) Sometime it’s ongoing discussion of an issue but other times it’s someone “breaking” the story for the umpteenth time: in the online age, a risk-factor remains a risk-factor for far longer than you’d want.

Second, although the stories hitting the newsstands and the online space are usually aligned (albeit with timing disparities as described above,) some stories that are huge with the press hardly make headway online (and vice-versa). Confirmation that the media isn’t the sounding board of public opinion as much as one might expect (but also that online buzz doesn’t necessarily bother journalists that much – but more on this below.)

Third, the media always came first. Although we keep hearing about stories being broken on Twitter while the presscorps has been utterly oblivious – a trend which is definitely on the up – it’s fair to say traditional media is still likely to break a story first on the majority of issues. However, this does not detract from the importance of the web in the way stories come about or spread. Besides the actual breaking of news, I think the main trend (although I didn’t come across it in this case) will be dormant issues brought back to life by the press once they’ve spread like wildfire online.

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