San Francisco Bay Area news network study


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  • The first thing you should know about this presentation is that the work is very preliminary. I’m excited to be hear what quesitons all of you smart people might have about this data and what you would suggest as we move forward.
  • Then came the economic crisis on top of a slowing shrinking circulation base and the news environment suddenly looks very different.
  • At the same time, as you all know the Bay area became one of the hottest tech spots in the country, (outside of Austin, of course).
  • We looked at the rapid shrinking of the reporting base. a very tech saavy and educated population and the emergence of new news institutions, such as Bay Citizen and SF Public Press. We thought this would be a rich environment for tracking a news network. Rich Gordon has done a network analysis in Chicago and some work has been done in Seattle, but we’re not familiar with any other geographically based network studies of news.We wanted to give our work a focus and we decided to examine how the agenda setting function of the press might be changing in this new environment. One of the common arguments one hears about agenda setting is that in a network the agenda becomes fractured and nichified. The previously documented power of the press to set or build the public agenda is presiumably weakened simply by the proliferation and diversity of news creators and producers today. Given the proliferation of news outlets, there is an assumption that the structure of a network, as opposed to mass media, means that agenda setting is fracturing among many different sources. This is an argument that says the structure of the media is such that news media has lost much of its power in terms of setting or building agendas.
  • We identified sites by going to traditional media sites, looking at other sites they linked to, then looking at their blogrolls and following a snowball method. We identified more than 150 sites that updated at least weekly and were focused primarily on issues of public interest. This was a year ago; since then about 25 of those sites have disappeared. We added more sites but not all of them are crawlable. Some sites block crawlers or for various reasons our software program we are using to crawl the sites – the WebSPHINX was not able to crawl them. So we ended up with 114 seed sites.
  • As you know, networks are naturally occurring structures that exhibit a variety of predictable properties. We were interested in seeing what network properties we could identify in the news network in the SF Bay area. This graph shows our first pass through. Each of our 114 news networks is a node. The software records all of the links that come to and from each node. The width of the line indicates the number of links between two nodes. The color of the node indicates the overall number of inbound and outbound links. We decided to focus just on the links between the seed sites. Our idea was that if a site is serving an agenda setting function, we would see a lot of links to that node. Important to note that the links do not distinguish between editorial content links and advertising links.
  • So we examined the sites that had the most links TO them. And not surprisingly, out of the top 10 sites, seven are newspapers. Three are online only sites. You can see the number of links drops off sharply with the last two sites. These sites are all candidates to be considered authorities in the network, since they are attracting the most links. SF curbed and Sf Eater are food and real estate sites started by a national company called that has sites in 16 major metros in the US.
  • We then examined the sites that link OUT the most to our other seed sites. These sites could be considered hubs – they would be useful for moving out through the network. You’ll see some of the same sites in this list. Five on the list are newspapers. SF.eater and SF.curbed show up again. These are food and real estate sites established just X years ago by a national company that is building these sites in XX metro areas throughout the US. Look also at what has been the dominant news organization in the Bay area – we only measure 26 links from the San Francisco Chronicle to other news sites. This is a characteristic that has been noted by others – online newspaper sites have sometimes been reluctant to provide many outbound links, particularly to other news organizations. The independent, competitive mindset of traditional media seems to be evident in these numbers. We are seeing radically different behavior between the new online sites and the established newspaper site.
  • Be able to explain the Eigenvector centrality.
  • One of the characteristics we quickly noticed was that newspapers owned by the Media News Group dominated these top 10 lists. So this cluster is the result of ownership patterns and of links between essentially the same company of sites. SO this cluster of links has nothing really to do with popularity or potential agenda setting. It is an artifact of ownership patterns. (MOVE THIS SLIDE TO AFTER THE LIST OF IN AND OUT LINKS) Now (transition to next slide) we wanted to understand what forces might be at work in the network.
  • preferential attachment theory says that as a network grows, there is a tendency for new nodes to attach themselves to the most central nodes in the network, thereby making those nodes even more popular and central. Since the newspaper sites are generally the oldest news sites in the network, some of what we could be observing is a result of this phenomenon.
  • We were also interested in seeing if the network exhibits power law characteristics, which it does
  • So even though there are probably 200 news sites being published in the San Francisco Bay area, the traditional sites still dominate the activity in the network.
  • The next measure we looked at was “closeness centrality.” This calculation measures how close sites are to each other. This is partly a function of reciprocity – how many sites are linking to and from each other directly, rather than through a hub or authority. You could say these show strong ties, whereas just counting the number of links is a measure of both strong and weak ties. This measure shows us something completely different. Here we have two newspapers owned by a community newspaper publishers, Embaracadero Publishing, which publishes XX newspapers in the Bay area. We also see two patch sites, a site published by a black newspaper, a blog published by the former mayor of a city in the easy bay. The SF Gate had a closeness centrality measure of 2.4.
  • We wanted to see what sites were linking to SFGate, to get some idea of which sites it might be close to. When you look at just the seed sites that link to SFGate, you see a lot of nodes have a small number of links. The two sites that really dominate are the food and real estate online only sites. When we look at this, we don’t see that SFGate is establishing much of a relationship with any of these sites – not linking out to them, not being linked very much from them. They are relatively isolated despite the high number of sites that link to them. When sites do link to them, such as Berkeleyside, it’s often short daily news – a crime in Berkeley that gets a short piece in the Chronicle, for example. Our initial pass is that many of the links are not to substantial news pieces but daily news stories.
  • We then looked did an analysis looking for other clusters of links and identified these sites: the Center for Investigative Reporting and California Watch are the same organization. But Oakland Local is a hyperlocal site started with a J-Lab grant. Baycitizen is a site that started out as a collaboration between KALW is a public radio site. Richmond Confidential and Albany Today are sites produced by graduate students at UC Berkeley. What struck us about many of the sites in this cluster is that they are explicitly non-commercial. They have civic missions. They are seeking a role as agenda setters in the news network. California Watch has 1/3 the pages but links to twice as man seed sites and SFGate. The
  • Decouple the popularity, as measured by quantity of links, with an assumption of influence.
  • San Francisco Bay Area news network study

    1. 1. Popularity is not the same as influence:A network study of theSan Francisco Bay Area News SystemDavid Ryfe, Donica Mensing, Hayreddin Ceker, Mehmet GunesUniversity of Nevada, Reno
    2. 2. “Nearly half of the reporters in the [San Francisco]Bay Area over the last decade have lost their jobs,”says Neil Henry, dean of the Graduate School ofJournalism at the University of California,Berkeley. “This is a crisis of epic proportions. It’salso a tragedy. It’s also a very, very exciting time.” Plugging the Holes American Journalism Review Dec/Jan 2010
    3. 3.  What are the dynamics of the emerging news network in the SF Bay area? Who is setting the news agenda?
    4. 4.  Identified 114 news sites -- traditional news outlets to one-person neighborhood blogs Updated at least weekly and focused primarily on issues of public interest To record hyperlinks, we used crawler software to catalog each hyperlink on every page of a site. These data compose the corpus for our study.
    5. 5. Cluster of seed sitesSeed sites network
    6. 6. Number of links from other news sites in the Bay Area Site Inbound links 57,944 32,765 28,299 25,699 22,480 16,600 14,316 12,971 2,885 2,763
    7. 7. Number of links to other news sites in the Bay Area Site Outbound links 39,180 37,178 34,270 31,840 30,140 27,806 14,319 4,916 3,936 2,619 …… 26
    8. 8. The top five sites according to the Eigenvector centrality,which measures the degree to which a node is connected toother nodes that are central to a network: = 1.0 = .76 = .63 = .62 = .58
    9. 9. Media News Group links in and out
    10. 10.
    11. 11.  Nine of the 114 sites attracted 85% of all in-bound links. Seven of the 114 sites account for 87% of all out-bound links. Seven of the nine most linked-to sites are owned by traditional media companies.
    12. 12. Measures of “closeness centrality” in the Bay area news systemSite Closeness 3.32
    13. 13. Links to
    14. 14. Major nonprofitsIn and out links to other seed sites
    15. 15. A Links can represent popularity but not necessarily influence. Sites that attract the most links are not necessarily the most influential.
    16. 16.  The linking practices of traditional news sites in the Bay area reveal an emphasis on commercialism and a voluntary weakening of agenda setting authority.
    17. 17.  An emerging network of nonprofit news sites has the potential for agenda setting influence that could fill the void left by mainstream media.
    18. 18. Interested in collaboration?Email me: