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New Media and Tech Winning the Viral News War

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Some new research sheds light on how social media is currently being used to share news articles from traditional publishers. Newswhip has looked at the number of news stories during January 2012 that received more than 100 mentions on Twitter and Facebook and ranked the publishers that produced them (sites with paywalls were excluded).

On Twitter, the BBC led the way with 2,621 stories that received more than 100 mentions. The Beeb was followed by the Guardian (1,149), Mashable (1,098) and The Huffington Post (895).

On Facebook, the same familiar suspects jostled for position, with the Huffington Post taking the top spot (2,267 likes), followed by the BBC (1,361), the Guardian (1,130) and the Daily Mail (977).

Across both networks, the BBC comes out on top with 4,252 likes and mentions, followed by the Huffington Post (3,162) and the Guardian (2,279). It is great to see two British publishers doing so well here, but the analysis does bring up some other interesting trends.

We just can't get enough tech
There is no doubt that a quick glance across the top sites shared on both networks brings up a large proportion of sites that were digital first (i.e. don't come from a traditional or newspaper background) with sites like HuffPo, Techcrunch, Mashable, Gizmodo and Engadget faring well.

This list also hints at another predictable trend; the large number of technology-focused publications. A look at the top five Twitter stories in January confirms this last point:
  1. Anonymous government website takedown -- RT
  2. Apple child labour issues -- Business Insider
  3. Startup tips off crime boss -- Gizmodo
  4. Homeless woman becomes Twitter celebrity -- Mashable
  5. Tim Tebow is the man -- ESPN
Only the last story (about NFL footballer Tim Tebow) is totally unrelated to technology.

Quantity over quality
It is also interesting that smaller, niche sites are doing well, especially considering the fact that the likes of the BBC and the Guardian will churn out a lot more content than many of the blog sites on the list. This picks up on the quality v quantity argument that I blogged about recently.

It would seem that there are two key things at play here: understanding the audience that are using social networks and creating content that will appeal to them. But it is perhaps not quite as straightforward as that. While Twitter certainly has a strong technology bias, Facebook is much more representative of the population. And it's therefore interesting to note that the sharing of news isn't quite as widespread as some might imagine.

It's hard to deduce from the research why this might be. It could be that this just isn't a behavior that is commonly used by the masses. Or it could be that sharing mechanisms aren't easy to understand.

Identifying the reasons behind the figures will hopefully become easier as more powerful analytics comes to the fore. Facebook's new real-time insights, for example, should make it easier than ever for brands and publishers (and tech PR) to identify popular topics and create content that is of interest to social users. But encouraging them to share this content is, it seems, a little harder.

Newswhip has created a very pretty infographic with the full rankings that you can see here.