October 13, 2009

Reaching the Center of the Network

In his critique of research on the impact of Twitter on movies, Henry Copeland, the founder of Blogads, makes an excellent point that in looking at how ideas move through networks one needs to focus on “the influence on the people in the center of the network, the hub.”

Coincidentally, I was reading Henry’s post after I had been looking at the distribution of blogs that are part of the Blogads advertising network on the health and energy policy network maps that we released last week.

With concentrations in the center of the attentive clusters focused on energy and health policy, many of the blogs utilizing Blogads are well positioned to move the discussion on these issues.

Targeting advertising on blogs in the center of these networks is a clear path to impact the related discussions.



October 08, 2009

Health Care and Energy Policy – A Tale of Two Networks

As with most public policy issues, the online discussions around health care and energy reform are dominated by core groups of opposing political views. However, a closer look at the structure of the network of bloggers writing on these two issues presents a very different story.

Over the next few weeks, we will be presenting some of the key findings of Morningside Analytics comparative look at the structure of the networks of bloggers that are the center of the policy debates on these two issues.

The network maps below were created through identifying the English language blogs that were the most focused on each of these issues. Each dot represents a single blog, which is then plotted on the map based on its interlinking behavior with the other blogs. The larger the dot the more blogs are linking to it. The labels and colors identify the Attentive Clusters - groups of blogs that link to similar things.

As anyone who witnessed a town hall meeting on health care might have guessed, the center of the health care map is relatively weak with concentrations on the left and right and with medical/science bloggers far from the political ones.

The energy map extends deeper beyond the political bloggers to include not just clusters of environmental and green tech blogs, but also includes bloggers who are focused on pop culture.



August 12, 2009

Conservatives Winning The YouTube Video Debate on Health Care

A snapshot of the movement of YouTube videos shows that conservative bloggers are far outpacing liberal bloggers in getting their messages on health care beyond the political blogosphere.

812 How?  Conservative bloggers are:

  1. Staying on a single message. Each of the top 10 YouTube videos being linked to by conservative bloggers is on health care.  Only six of the top 10 videos being linked to by liberal bloggers is on health care.

  2. Using Democrats' words against themselves.  The top video being linked to by political bloggers is "Shock Uncovered: Obama In His Own Words Saying His Health Care Plan Will Eliminate Private Insurance."  This video has been linked to from 151 conservative bloggers and 128 non-political bloggers in the last two weeks.  Other top videos being linked to from conservative bloggers include "Obama: I Don't Want The Folks Who Created The Mess To Do A Lot Of Talking" and "Barbara Boxer Objects To Health Care Protesters' 'Attire.'"

  3. Not letting charges go answered.  The top video on health care being linked to liberal bloggers is "Enough of the Mob" with links from 79 liberal bloggers, but conservatives are using it as a rebuttal and 81 conservative bloggers have linked to the very same video.

  4. Focusing on YouTube.  While liberal bloggers continue to post videos to YouTube they have also been shifting some of their video traffic to their own video hosting services such as https://www.dailykostv.com.   Through focusing their video traffic to YouTube, conservative bloggers are leveraging the multiplier effect on YouTube – each view they drive through a link increases the odds that video will be found by searches and discovered by people browsing through YouTube.

Want to keep up on how the video debate on health care is evolving?  Morningside Analytics Political Video Barometer, updated four times a day, tracks how videos are moving across the blogs.

July 06, 2009

Whitehouse.gov – Reaching Beyond the Echo Chamber

In preparing for last week’s Personal Democracy Forum, which focused this year primarily on the role of new media in government, we (Morningside Analytics) took a look at the blog footprint of Whitehouse.gov now and one year ago.

The results?  The White House has successfully expanded their online reach beyond political bloggers and is now part of the discussion within blogs who are normally attentive to health/science, technology and culture.




June 11, 2009

Obama and the Iranian Election

We've been watching the Farsi blogosphere in the lead up to this very exciting Iranian election.  Iran's blogosphere, always one of the most interesting and dynamic in the world, has been buzzing with political activity, and a number of new blogs have come online to support the candidates.  The Berkman Center's Internet and Democracy blog has a post with some maps showing who is linking to campaign sites for the two top contenders, Mahmood Ahmadinejad and Mir-Hussein Mousavi.  The main contrast is between the concentration of Ahmadinejad's supporters within the "conservative politics" region, and the wide spread of links to Mousavi across the map, including within groups of bloggers who normally shy away from politics.  This probably bodes well for Mousavi, if it indicates he has energized voters outside the politicized Reformist base.

A similar pattern of reaching beyond the politicized blogs was clear before last year's American election, when non-political American blogs were linking to pro-Obama videos.  The efforts of the Iranian candidates to learn from the Obama campaign have been widely reported (see Four Obama Copycats Aim to Get Iran's Presidential Crown and Inspired by Obama, Iran's Presidential Candidates Go Online to Campaign).

Something else very striking is how many bloggers are talking about President Obama.  The Map below shows bloggers who have mentioned "Obama" in the last month.  It is not only Reformist or secular bloggers who are talking about the US president, but a swath of conservative and religious bloggers as well.  In fact the only Iranian bloggers not talking about him appear to be the poets, who are usually focused on verses about love and loss anyway.


May 07, 2009

Looking Beyond Numbers - The Curious Case of Representative Barton

In the early years of mass Internet use, clients used to ask vendors how many hits their web page got. The inside joke among web developers was that hits actually stood for "how idiots track success" (Note to my old clients: I am referring to other vendors - I would never think that about you). 

With the rapid growth of social media and organizations' content (i.e. - YouTube videos, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, etc.) no longer residing solely on their own sites, it would be easy, it seems, to measure success by looking at nothing more then volume (hits, views, followers, friends, subscribers, etc.).

What's wrong with looking only at volume for your own or others' online success?  Let's look at the curious case of Representative Joe Barton's (R- TX) recent "success" with YouTube.

Representative Barton is one of many members of Congress who now post videos on YouTube.  Until two weeks ago, just a few hundred people each viewed each of Barton's videos with one video having just fewer than 2,000 views. 

Then on April 22, he posted the video "Energy Secretary puzzled by simple question" which has since had 185,792 views

Success?  It all depends on how you measure it. 

By posting the video, Barton is attempting to ridicule the scientific knowledge of Energy Secretary Steven Chu.

While there is no way to know the political views and/or opinions of the thousands of people who watched the video, we can make some important assumptions by analyzing the way that different groups of bloggers promoted it to their audiences.

By looking at the data in Morningside's Political Video Barometer, we found the video is being linked to more often in clusters of liberal blogs (33 posts in last 14 days) and non-political blogs (31 posts) then conservative blogs (1 post)  -- ostensibly, Barton's target audience.   As the actual posts in the liberal blogs (see TPM or Huffington Post) are clearly disparaging towards Rep. Barton's views, it is hard to imagine that he and his staff would consider this a success.

While all press might be good press, all social media exposure is not good social media exposure.

February 04, 2009

Expanding the Base

As reported on TechPresident, yesterday’s Fem 2.0 conference included a presentation on mapping the Feminist Blogosphere along with a discussion that touched on “how to reach out and get more traction on issues on other sites not necessarily considered ‘feminist’ by their statistics.”

It’s great to see online activists moving beyond mobilizing the base to focus on expanding it.

The conference reminded us that exploring the relationships between bloggers provides ample data to expand the reach of, and better target, issue activism.

The Morningside Analytics map below, created for Green Media Toolshed, captures bloggers discussing issues related to women's health and the environment (yes, we can target networks around specific issue).  As this example demonstrates, bloggers who cluster around feminism are not just embedded within the progressive/liberal blogosphere, but also share strong links with other important groups such as parent bloggers, of which there are different types.  They all care about the relevant issues, but will respond to very different language and message frames.  It's important to know who is who!


The data behind this map can be used not just to identify and target specific groups, but to develop effective viral messages and identify of the best messengers to carry them.

We can also look at viral messages to spread specific ideas, and analyze the use of language among targeted clusters to improve message effectiveness, and boost speed and reach.


Notes on Methodology

The process begins with analyzing the relationships (linking behavior) between bloggers in the entire blogosphere. The map below is of the English language blogosphere, and uses a physics model algorithm to cluster blogs (dots).  The size of the dot is the number of other blogs which link to it, and blogs are positioned in the 'network neighborhoods' formed by dense connections among bloggers who care about similar things.

We then identify "Attentive Clusters," represented by different colors, which are groups of blogs that (statistically speaking) link to similar things.


To assist organizations looking for new ways to spread their messages, we filter the global map to find bloggers discussing specific issues.  This targeted filtering uses a variety of semantic criteria, from specific ranked terms/phrases to links to web sites on the issue being explored.  The issue map in the post above was created for as part of research on women’s health and the environment.  Research on other issues of concern to feminists would position feminist bloggers in relation to others concerned with the same issue, allowing a better focus on the relationships that matter most to an issue campaign.

January 20, 2009

Online Honeymoon or Shift in the Shape of Debate?

In the weeks building up to the inauguration of Barack Obama, liberal and conservative bloggers shifted their behavior – often linking to the same YouTube videos.

As illustrated by the Political Video Barometer, this represents a notable difference from their pre-election behavior, when they rarely promoted the same videos.

However, with the exception of videos on the conflict between Israel and Hamas, the videos currently being promoted by political bloggers lack a focus on specific public policy positions.

Only time will tell if this shift will vanish once President Obama seeks to implement his agenda.

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December 08, 2008

Most Impactful Videos of the 2008 Campaign

Which YouTube video had the greatest impact on the outcome of the 2008 election?

In his kickoff to a series of guest posts on Boing Boing, Clay Shirky weighs in with his vote for "Dear Mr. Obama" as the  "the single most affecting video of the election."

While Shirky may be correct about this video's impact on "mobilizing the base," data generated for the Political Video Barometer shows that "Dear Mr. Obama," a pro-McCain video, had little reach to "swing the undecided."  Of the 639 blog posts that referenced the video, 364 of the posts (57%) were from conservative bloggers - reinforcing the beliefs of the right-wing base.

The top five political videos (those that were clearly focused on the election AND had at least 90 links from political bloggers) that had the largest reach outside of either candidate's base were all pro-Obama videos with strong popular culture themes.

  1. Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video 
    14,379,890 views, 404 blog posts, 293 non-liberal/conservative blog posts (73%)

  2. Wassup 2008
    5,300,606 views, 665 blog posts, 424 non-liberal/conservative blog posts (64%)

  3. I Got a Crush...On Obama  By Obama Girl
    12,278,288 views, 259 blog posts, 164 non-liberal/conservative blog posts (63%)

  4. Barack Roll
    2,858,259 views, 263 blog posts, 163 non-liberal/conservative blog posts (62%)

  5. American Stories, American Solutions: 30 Minute Special
    1,932,787 views, 547 blog posts, 314 non-liberal/conservative blog posts (57%)

Clearly, there are many different ways to measure success, but the data seems to suggest that if you want to make a video to reach an audience outside of your base then lead with music, borrow from pop culture and include a positive message.

My vote for the single most impactful video goes to  "Yes We Can - Barack Obama Music Video."  Why?  It had the most views, the highest percentage of blog links that represented neither the liberal nor conservative usual suspects and mobilized the base and beyond.

November 23, 2008

Influence of Bloggers in the Obama Transition

Still wondering if bloggers are influential in public policy debates?  The seemingly casual lead in this morning’s headline post on DailyKos, is actually indicative a seismic shift in the role of blogs in this new world.

 “A few days ago some of us science-y bloggers were invited on a conference call with the Obama energy and environmental transition team. It was hopeful -- and freaking weird to be taken seriously by a White House team of any kind!”

Time will tell if the Obama Administration will use bloggers to carry their message, listen to their input or engage in a real dialogue.