Monday, October 15, 2007

2008 PRESIDENTIAL MEDIA SHOWDOWN: HOW THE CANDIDATES STACK UP IN THE BLOGOSPHERE AND THE MSM... or... RON PAUL IS FOR REAL

Let me start by saying that I have not been paying much attention to this extended presidential election cycle at all. It all feels a bit too staged and made to look like there really is a race going on, when, in fact, the outcome is all but already decided. In any event, I've been getting really curious about the so-called "Ron Paul phenomenon" and wanted to somehow see if there was some quantifiable data behind his candidacy and this web-roots internet outreach. I wanted to see if I could find out if there was a disconnect between the MSM coverage of this guy and what is happening with him on the internet (and quantify it!). To accomplish this, I decided to compare MSM mentions of the candidates vs. blogosphere mentions of the candidates vs. web visits to the candidates web sites.


My hypothesis: The percentage of MSM mentions, blogosphere mentions, and candidate web site visits should roughly correlate over an extended period (for my purpose, I chose 1 month). The reasoning is as follows: MSM coverage should reflect the peoples general interest in various candidates which should be reflected in the blogosphere at a comparable rate, which, in turn, should be able to be measured by individual visitors to each respective candidates web site. I knew going in that the numbers would not exactly align (they never do), but again, I wanted to see the difference between how the internet was treating Ron Paul versus how he was being perceived by the media.... and, while I was at it, see if there were any other discernible differences among how other candidates were being treated.


My methodology: Let me say at the outset, that this is not a scientific way to do this sort of comparison at all. However, I used the same sources for each number, so there should at least be consistency among the numbers, even though they may not be exactly correct. This was fine for me as all I really cared about was percentage. So, for MSM mentions, I did a 30 day GoogleNews search of each candidates full name (ie: "Hillary Clinton") WITHOUT duplicates. My timeframe for the search was 12-Sept through 12-Oct. I know, I know. GoogleNews includes some blogs and therefore would skew the numbers. Thats OK... At least all the numbers would be skewed to the same degree. Again, I wasn't going for completely scientific.. I just wanted to get a rough idea of the number of mentions. OK. Moving on. Next, I did a Google Blog Search for each candidates full name over the same time period (12-Sep through 12-Oct). For web site visits (individual visits, that is... not page views), I used Compete.com and got a total number of visits to each candidates main page over the entire month of September.


The Results: After plugging in all the numbers, I was able to come up with an excel chart detailing the numbers (see below). I then plotted overall MSM mentions / blogosphere mentions / visits per candidate on a graph. Needless to say, the numbers produced some interesting results...

Here is the chart for Democratic Candidates:



When I first saw this, I was pretty impressed. My hypothesis was actually fairly correct. Candidate MSM coverage, blogosphere coverage, and web visits fairly well lined up. The real exception here is Clinton, where her numbers in the blogosphere are really outshining Obama, who is still getting more MSM press coverage as a percentage of total democratic coverage. Also, it is pretty clear from this chart that it's a 2-3 dog race here between Hillary, Obama, and Edwards. However, Edwards support in the blogosphere and his web site seem to be trailing behind Obama and Clinton, which leads me to believe that Edwards is not a so-called 'top-tier' contender.

Ok.. that was interesting. Now for the Republicans.



A vastly different picture, isn't it. For the purpose of this analysis, let's toss Huckabee, Brownback, Hunter, and Tancredo from the discussion. Their numbers are all sub 6% in MSM mentions, blogosphere mentions, and web visits. Also, their numbers actually line up. However, the numbers for Giuliani, McCain, Romney, Thompson, and Ron Paul are all over the map. Giuliani is getting the most MSM mentions by far and is 2nd in blogosphere mentions. However, his web visit numbers are dismal (he comes in 5th place!). Romney and McCain are both just about even in terms of MSM mentions as well as blogosphere mentions and their web numbers are fairly well aligned. The anomaly in web visits during this period appears to be Fred Thompson (whose recently announced candidacy has no doubt attracted lots of visitors to his site - I would expect this to drop off significantly over the next few months). However, both his MSM and blogosphere mentions come in at about 17% of total republican candidate mentions. Pretty consistent. Then we have Ron Paul. He gets a paltry 3905 MSM mentions (on par with Huckabee, Brownback, etc.), but his web visit numbers and blogosphere mentions are through the roof! He beats out even the MSM darling Giuliani in terms of blogosphere mentions and comes in a close second to Thompson in web visits. Talk about a disconnect. Let this sink in: Ron Paul is the most talked about Republican candidate in the blogosphere. Yet, the MSM hardly mentions him. His web visits are through the roof, easily outstripping the top tier candidates Giuliani, Romney, and McCain; yet you wouldn't know he existed at all if you listened to the MSM.


Conclusions: It's interesting to see how aligned the MSM, the blogosphere, and individual web visitors are with respect to the Democratic Candidates. I do get the feeling, though, that the MSM is really going into Obama-Overdrive to force-feed this guy to democrat voters as a real candidate (similar to the Dean debacle in '04). I have a hunch that Hillary will win this thing in a landslide, but the MSM wants to keep up the appearance that Obama is for-real. I could be wrong... but that's the feeling I get. On the republican side, the MSM and blogosphere really seem to be pushing Giuliani (or at least discussing him / mentioning him). It appears he is the early pack leader here. It will be interesting to see how Fred Thompson affects the race as time goes by and the novelty of his candidacy wears off (I predict interest in Fred will fall like a stone from internet savvy voters). The republican race does seem to be a bit more wide open than the democrat race. Based on MSM mentions, there are four top tier candidates: Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, and Romney. However, according to web stats and the blogosphere, Ron Paul must be included here as well. He is definitely a quantifiable force on the web. Whether the interest in him comes from disgruntled republicans or libertarians (or others) can be debated, but the fact that he is a force among interested, internet-savvy voters cannot be. His message is getting out there on the web. By all accounts, the fact that his blogosphere mentions and web visits exceed all top tier candidates in the field should be a MAJOR story for the MSM... but they haven't even noticed (or have chosen not to notice). Let's see if this changes as Paul's donations continue to roll in as they did in the 3rd quarter. Last point: Media bias. I fully expected to see a huge skew in the overall numbers between republican candidates and democratic candidates in the MSM. This was patently false. Overall mentions for democratic candidates and republican candidates in the MSM turned out about even. The blogosphere: also, almost identical! Even overall web traffic between republican and democratic candidates.... almost identical. Very interesting to me considering I came in having the impression that either the MSM or the blogosphere would be skewed a bit to one side or the other.




Here is my full excel chart with all the numbers. I hope to keep this reporting up over the next few months as we move into the primary season to get some trend analysis going. Please let me know your thoughts. I would love to hear some other opinions here!




Update: Patrick Ruffini has just published an amazing analysis of where Ron Paul's donations are coming from thanks to some great stats work by the guys at RonPaulGraphs.com (Sullivan has some analysis). It is truly amazing to see the explosion of support that Paul has seen over the past quarter, not only in terms of donations, but also in terms of Blogosphere and web activity (as detailed above). It will be interesting to see if this momentum continues and how Ron Paul's funds stack up against the other top tier republican candidates going into primary season...

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