The sources of the political blogosphere

There are fundamental differences in how traditional news media bloggers and unaffiliated bloggers (you might call them the original bloggers) operate. In a recent study on the sourcing of political blogs in the United States, I found that newspapers use their blogs more for original reporting, but are less interactive as unaffiliated blogs. Newspaper blogs are also used as a vehicle to promote print content.

The study sampled 26 political blogs of newspapers and unaffiliated political blogs based on circulation and popularity rankings. Overall, the sample included more than 3,5oo sources.

Newspaper blogs lack interactivity

The newspaper blogs mainly used direct quotes from political and governmental officials and other traditional news publications that were presented as factual sources. 52.1% of the newspaper blog sources were direct quotes and 28% indirect quotes. Furthermore, they used hyperlinks with 26.5% of their sources, meaning an estimated three out of every four sources they cited lacked interactivity. 81.5% of the sources were factual, 13.9% opinion. The sources cited by the traditional media blogs were 44.7% political or government officials and 39.2% traditional news organizations, which included sourcing of their own coverage provided by their own print reporters. Other types of sources were rarely used.

Unaffiliated blogs rely mainly on other media

The unaffiliated blogs, on the other hand, were more likely to use hyperlinks as their sources. 60.1% of the sources were hyperlinks only. 84.9% of all sources had a hyperlink. The unaffiliated blogs also used more opinion sources. 49.2% of the sources were factual and 44.7% in a context of opinion. There was also a difference in the type of source used. 36.1% were unaffiliated bloggers, 28.4% traditional media, 12.6 % Internet-only media, and 11.6% political or government officials.

I believe that these findings show a heavy reliance of unaffiliated bloggers on other types of media as their sources. 77.1% of the sources were other media, indicating that these bloggers do very little original reporting. In addition, almost half of their sources are used as opinions within their posts. The newspaper blogs, on the other hand, use the majority of their sources for the presentation of facts. In addition they heavily rely on authoritative government and political sources, which indicates original reporting. However, they also heavily rely on other traditional media sources, which is due to the fact that many newspaper blogs promote stories of their print counterparts.

Different kinds of journalism

These are the consequences of the study’s results: On the one hand, they establish that there are two kinds of journalism practiced in the political blogosphere. Traditional media blogs transfer traditional media standards to the blogosphere. Many of the blogs are used for breaking news purposes. In contrast, unaffiliated blogs do very little of their own reporting and rather editorialize on other media content. On the other hand, these findings have implications for political campaigns and public relations practitioners. It seems as if they have a much better chance to position their candidates and customers as sources with traditional media blogs, especially in the political realm. Unaffiliated bloggers have more influence in the formulation of opinions and the creation of buzz in the political blogosphere based on the facts presented by other media.

The study “Die Quellen der politischen Blogosphäre in den USA“ (English: The Sources of the Political Blogosphere in the USA) was published in German in the book “Politik 2.0?” by Nomos.

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