Meme-tracking and News-breaking: visualizing the news cycle

By Linkfluence - July 31, 2009

(cross-posted on A couple of weeks ago, the New York Times dedicated a very clear and concise article to the ambitious research spearheaded by Jon Kleinberg of Cornell University on “Meme-tracking and the Dynamics of the News Cycle”. The research team “studied the news cycle by looking for repeated phrases and tracking their appearances on 1.6 million mainstream media sites and blogs. Some 90 million articles and blog posts, which appeared from August through October, were scrutinized with their phrase-finding software”.

The research concluded that blogs typically trail behind “MSM”, except in rare instances (3.5% of story lines to be precise) where a handful of blogs picked up on the news first. Unsurprisingly, these are not just any blogs but professional and quasi-professional political blogs with the connections, competence and credibility that in effect puts them on par with traditional news organizations.

We recently had the opportunity to look up close at one such instance where an influential political blog “broke the news”, initiating a new news cycle as national media followed suit. The following video is a visualization of the propagation of the story as it moves across the online political landscape.

Blogs breaking news – firedoglake case study from linkfluence on Vimeo.

note: this visualization was created afterwards, based on a sample of articles covering the story, to dynamically represent the speed at which this particular piece of information spread from a well-identified source to many other blogs and media sites. It is not “real-time” propagation and does not represent every article and every site referencing the story. For methodology questions regarding the map itself, please refer to the “Keys” section on this page .

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