The latest fortnightly instalment of our Australian Twitter News Index arrives at the end of a tumultuous week in Australian politics, but of course whatever resonance the Labor leadership shenanigans have found on Twitter during the current week will only be revealed in the next ATNIX update. For now, we may – if anything – see some of the build-up to whatever actually happened in Canberra over the past few days.
ATNIX Weeks 10-11/2013: 4-17 Mar. 2013
As this is another two-week update, I’ll begin with the week-to-week figures on link sharing for our basket of Australian sites. For the most part, sharing activity for the news sites has been steady – but this also means that the ABC’s historically unusual lead over the Sydney Morning Herald continues for a sixth and seventh straight week, for no real reason that I can identify. It’s not that the SMH is doing so poorly – since we started ATNIX in mid-2012, it’s usually tracked in the 25,000-30,000 tweeted links/week band, much as it is now. But so had ABC News – and that site has now surged ahead to remain steadily above 30,000 tweets, usually by some margin.
As we move to the opinion and commentary sites and sections, I need to make a correction first: in my last ATNIX update, I didn’t pick up on the fact that since 24 February, the Fairfax sites have now bifurcated their opinion sections into ‘opinion’ (by staff writers) and ‘comment’ (by members of the public). These exist under different site paths (e.g. smh.com.au/opinion vs. smh.com.au/comment). From now on, we’ll count tweeted links to articles under both these paths to the opinion and commentary link sharing total for Fairfax publications.
Even with the ‘comment’ links now added to the total, though, the two Fairfax flagships are faring comparatively poorly in this count, too. There’s a notable drop for the SMH and Age opinion sections over the past couple of weeks, allowing The Conversation to regain its traditional place as the second most linked to opinion site in the Australian media landscape, and to even put up a credible challenge for first place. It will be fascinating to see whether and how the gradual roll-out of Fairfax’s paywall access system (which comes online for overseas readers next week, as Mumbrella reports) will further affect these trends. (We did see a marked effect of The Australian’s paywall when it was switched on for opinion articles in October 2011.)
The day-to-day link sharing patterns bear out these differences in the relative performance of our news sites in even greater detail. Except for the weekends (when the newspapers’ specially targetted weekend reading features boost their numbers), the ABC outperforms its competitors by some margin; on an average day, it is usually linked to in tweets at least 1,000 times more than its nearest competitor, the Sydney Morning Herald.
Over the course of week 10, some of its most widely tweeted articles referred to the gunman in Brisbane’s Queen St Mall (370 tweets), Ted Baillieu’s resignation as Premier of Victoria (260 tweets), Julia Baird’s piece on International Women’s Day (220 tweets), and claims of policy brutality at the Sydney Mardi Gras parade (220 tweets) – a useful reminder, perhaps, that breaking news and controversial topics appear to have especially strong resonance on Twitter.
During week 11, the ABC’s three most tweeted news stories covered the attempts to de-extinct the gastric brooding frog, a story so strange that I’m willing to bet it also received plenty of tweets from outside of Australia (360 tweets in total), the subpoena of a Fairfax journalist as part of Gina Rinehart’s ongoing court battle with her children (interestingly, here it’s a news video sans accompanying text which received some 300 tweets), and the passing of the federal government’s National Disability Insurance Scheme by the House of Representatives (280 tweets). (As there weren’t any particularly major spikes in news activity during these two weeks, I won’t go into further detail for the other leading sites.)
As usual, opinion and commentary sharing is somewhat more fluid across the two weeks: here, it’s the Sydney Morning Herald and The Conversation which are battling for supremacy, while in week 11 Crikey also puts in a good showing.
The SMH’s spike on 6 March is largely due to a piece by economics editor Ross Gittins, who takes federal Labor to task over its criticism of the Coalition’s election promises (250 tweets). Two days later, The Conversation takes the lead, but without a major story of its own – several of its articles gain between 40 and 100 tweets that day. And in between, even the Brisbane Times’ usually sedate opinion section rises to temporary prominence, thanks to a strongly worded opinion piece from author John Birmingham which encourages Tony Abbott to rein in immigration spokesman Scott Morrison, if not quite in such civilised language (400 tweets).
Over the course of the following week, the Sydney Morning Herald records a strong result on 13 March, led again by Ross Gittins who warns us that “we worship materialism at our own peril” (130 tweets), while that same day it’s Crikey’s resident cartoonist First Dog on the Moon who raises that site’s profile with a cartoon that lampoons News Ltd.’s hysterical reaction to the proposed new media regulation regime (160 tweets). The Conversation’s strong performance two days later is once again due to a range of factors, on the other hand: star recruit Michelle Grattan’s article about the lessons Tony Abbott should learn from John Hewson’s defeat in the unloseable 1993 election gains her some 80 tweets, but several other stories also come close to that mark.
Given what we know has transpired in the meantime, however, do these two weeks simply constitute a period of treading water as Australia’s Twitterati waited for the supposedly inevitable Labor spill – or have they stopped caring altogether? Hopefully, the next ATNIX update will be able to provide an answer to those questions.
Standard background information: this analysis is based on tracking all tweets which contain links pointing to the URLs of a large selection of leading Australian news and opinion sites (even if those links have been shortened at some point). Datasets for those sites which cover more than just news and opinion (abc.net.au, sbs.com.au, ninemsn.com.au) are filtered to exclude irrelevant sections of those sites (e.g. abc.net.au/tv, catchup.ninemsn.com.au). For our analysis of ‘opinion’ link sharing, we include only those sub-sections of mainstream sites which contain opinion and commentary (e.g. abc.net.au/unleashed, articles on theaustralian.com.au which include ‘/opinion’ in the URL), and compare them with dedicated opinion and commentary sites.
See the posts tagged ‘ATNIX’ at Mapping Online Publics for a full collection of previous results.