Posts about stats

Google is God

For something I’m working on, I compiled a bunch of stats on Google (sorry, I didn’t intend to blog it and so I didn’t capture all the links, but I found the collection so compelling I thought I’d share it):

• Google is the “fastest growing company in the history of the world.” – Times of London, 1/29/06
• Google controls 65.1% of all searches in the U.S. at the end of 2007 and 86% of all searches in the UK, according to measurement company Hitwise.
• Google was searched 4.4 billion times in the U.S. alone in October, 2007 (three times Yahoo), says Nielsen. Average searches per searcher: 40.7.
• Google’s sites had 112 million U.S. visitors in November, 2007, says Nielsen.
• Google’s traffic was up 22.4% in 2007 over 2006, according to Comscore.
• Google earned $15 billion revenue and $6.4 billion profit in 2007, a profit margin of 26.9%. Its revenue was up 57% in the last quarter of 2007 over 2006, says Yahoo Finance. As of late 2007, its stock was up 53% in a year. The company has a market capitalization of $207.6 billion.
• Google controls 79% of the pay-per-click ad market, according to RimmKaufman. It controls 40% of all online advertising, according to web site HipMojo.
• Google employed almost 16,000 people at the end of 2007, a 50% increase over the year before.
• Google became the No. 1 brand in the world in 2007, according to Millward Brown Brandz Top 100.

Not that we didn’t know this already. But the stats still amaze me.

The emergence of media tribes

The latest Pew Research Center study on Americans’ views of their news media show falling trust, growing divides, and the emergence of media tribes. There’s much to chew and choke on in this. Here are some of their findings and my musings:

News media continue to lose respect

That’s not surprising news but it’s still quite sobering. Though the majority of Americans still have generally favorable views about news media (from 60% favorable about national newspapers — specifically the New York Times and Washington Post — to, inexplicably, 79% favorable about local TV news), those numbers have fallen since 1985 (when 81% spoke favorably of national newspapers and cable news topped the list at 91%). For comparison: Favorable opinions of the Supreme Court are down 12 points and Congress 20 points since 1985; for the Democratic Party 8 points and the Republicans 12 points (to only 42%) since 1992. Only the military’s rating has risen. So the nation is getting more critical of everyone. I’ll get to a theory on that in a minute (hint: Fox).

But drill down to the specifics and MSM’s grades get worse. Today a majority of Americans says stories are often innacurate (53% now vs. 34% in 1985). I’ll get to why I think there’s a bit of a turn there in a minute (hint: Bush).

A majority say that the media are biased (55% today vs. 45% in 1985). But a plurality has always thought news media are biased. I say it’s time for news media to admit it and I also say that will improve their trust.

A plurality no longer thinks news media are moral (moral?): 46% today vs. 54% in 1985.

Yet 66% today think the news media are highly professional and — take this as good news — 44% think they protect democracy (36% disagree and 20% don’t know).


That’s the foundation. Now we’ll see some intriguing trends and divisons Pew finds. . . .

The emergence of media tribes

Pew was most struck by the growing difference in opinions about media among people who use different media. Bottom line: People who use the internet as their primary source for news — who are also younger and better educated than the rest of the country — are the most critical of mainstream media (and probably the most likely to sneer at it as “MSM”). TV viewers are older and also less critical.

I see the emergence of media tribes.

Different groups use different media and have different views of that media. Perhaps that’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, the internet is used to criticize MSM and it attracts people who are critical of MSM and thus it is more critical of MSM. Or not. It could be that younger, better-educated people are already inclined to be critical of MSM and that is why they gravitate to a medium that gives them more choice, comparison, and control. Chicken, meet egg.

This is an inevitable outcome of the end of monolithic media: the death of The Press. Now that we have the means of comparison, we compare — and the old controllers do not compare well. I have long decried the allegedly grand shared experience of media that really lasted only three decades — from the 50s, when network TV killed second and third newspapers locally, to the 80s, when the cable box, VCR, and remote control gave us more choice, to the mid 90s when the internet gave us more control. I say it is a good thing to have more voices, more perspectives, more means to compare.

But I’ll also note that this division of the media tribes means that we are each seeing different Americas. That will have ever greater implications for not only news media but also for politics and public policy as well as any consumer business. Of course, this means you can’t just buy network TV to sell soap or ideas anymore. But it also means you’re never talking to one nation.

Note again that the ratings are generally favorable. But there are clear differences. Some numbers from Pew: 60% of Internet users (that is, and I’ll say this once, those who use the internet as their primary source of news) rate national papers — again, the Times and Post — favorably; that’s the same for the population as a whole. But 68% of internetters rate local TV favorably vs. 78% of the nation; that’s 62% of the internet vs. 75% of the nation favorable of cable news, 61% vs. 71% for network news, and 71% vs. 78% for local daily papers. In every case, TV viewers give these media higher favorable ratings.

Now to get more specific: 64% of internet users say that news organizations are politically biased (vs. 55% for the nation as a whole and 46% for TV viewers). 59% say that the stories are often inaccurate (vs. 53% for the nation). 68% of internet users say media don’t care about the people they report on (vs. 53%, still a majority, of the nation). And — get this — 53% of internauts say the media are too critical of America (vs 43% for the nation). I think we’ll see why that is next. . .

The growing political divide over the media

Pew found a growing partisanship in views of media. In 1985, we were unified with strong favorable opinions of network news: 88% of Republicans and independents and 92% of Democrats rated TV news favorably. Today, that’s only 56% favorable for Republicans, 70% for independents, and 84% for Democrats. Same story for the national papers: Democrats’ favorable ratings fell from 85% to 79%, independents from 80% to 60%, Republicans’ from 79% to a very grumpy 41%.

This pattern — the growing divide — holds, of course, in specific views of media behavior. Is the press too critical of America? 63% of Republicans say yes vs. only 23% of Democrats. Does the press hurt democracy? 48% of Republicans say yes vs. 28% of Democrats. Are media politically biased in their reporting? 70% of Republicans vote yes vs. 39% of Democrats (and, for comparison, 61% of independents… to me this indicates that “bias” means “disagrees with me”). Is the press liberal? Guess what: 75% of Republican say yes vs. 37% of Democrats. This divide also shows in the parties’ view of press performance. Are stories often inaccurate? 63% of Republicans say yes vs. 43% of Democrats. Note that in all these cases, the split is much greater than in 1985. The Republican-Democrat gap, as Pew calls it, grew from 9 to 40% in their views of whether the press is critical of America, from 6% to 20% over whether the press hurts America, from 6% to 31% over the question of political bias. These tribes are growing farther apart.

Why? Read on. . . .

Fox News, the great negativity machine

The Fox News tribe is markedly more critical of media and I don’t think that’s just because media are criticizing Bush and because Republicans — who, not surprisingly, outnumber Democrats 2-to-1 among Fox viewers — have long thought media to be biased and liberal. I think it’s because Fox News is inherently negative and is effective at spreading that negativity. You’ll find some justification for that view in the Pew numbers.

63% of the Fox tribe — that is, viewers who count Fox as their main source of news — believe that news media’s stories are often inaccurate vs 46% of CNN viewers and 41% of network news viewers. Foxers say that the news media are too critical of America: 52% of Fox viewers say that vs. 36% for CNN viewers and only 29% for network news viewers. Are media unfair to George Bush? 49% of Foxers say yes vs. only 19% of CNNers and 22% of network people. Are media politically biased? 54% of Foxers vote yes vs. 46% of CNNers and 42% of network viewers (note again that this is a widely held view). Now getting to views of specific media, only 39% of Fox viewers think favorably of the national papers vs. 69% of network viewers. That’s 72% vs. 83% for local daily papers, 59% vs. 87% for network TV news, 81% vs. 86% for local TV news.

More evidence for this Fox-negativity theory: CNN viewers are more favorable to Fox than Fox viewers are to CNN. That tells me that CNN viewers are nicer or at least less grumbly. They see the world through rose-colored TV lenses. The numbers: 79% of CNN viewers rate Fox favorably while 55% of Fox viewers say the same thing about CNN.

The divide over cable news carries into other media tribes. Says Pew: “Dislike of both major cable news networks runs notably high among Americans who count newspapers and the internet as tehir main sources of national and international news. One-third of people who count on the internet for most of their news express an unfavorable view of Fox, and roughly the same number (31%) feel negatively toward CNN.” Pew adds that the polarized views of Fox and CNN, not surprisingly, “are most prevalent at the ideological extremes — conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats.”

pewfoxified0809.gifNow here’s the interesting bit: Pew looked at “Fox-ified Republicans” — that is, data show that “being a Republican and a Fox viewer are related to negative opinions of the mainstream media. . . . Republicans who count Fox as their main news source are considerably more critical than Republicans who rely on other sources.” Specifically, 71% of Fox-ified Republicans hold unfavorable views of the n national papers vs. 52% of Republicans in other media tribes and 33% of nonRepublicans. Note, by the way, that only 28% of Republicans are Fox-ified. That’s an important political stat. That may be how the Democrats justified snubbing the Fox presidential debates, but I still say that was short-sighted.

The growth of demographic tribes

We know well that media usage varies by age. Some Pew numbers: Comparing 1995 (note the different year) with 2007, it’s clear again how much the internet is affecting other media. Asked how they get their news about national and international newspapers (note that they could give two answers), 26 percent today use the internet vs 6% in 1999; it wasn’t asked in 1995 (which was barely after the creation of the browser). Compare that with TV — 65% now vs. 82% in 1995, newspapers — 63% then vs. 27% now (OUCH), radio — 20% then vs. 15% now, and magazines — 10% then vs. 2% now (and one wonders why the newsmagazines are sputtering).

Now look at the impact age has on opinions of media. Favorable opinions of local TV can cable news rise with age but fall for network news and national and local papers. College education generally lowers opinions of news media. Note also that women and blacks are generally more favorable.

And now for some good news?

Pew finds encouragement in the enduring positive view of the press’ watchdog role. Well, yes, except that view is declining and it is now a minority view among Republicans. In 1985, during the Reagan years, 67% of Americans — 65% of Republicans, 71% of Democrats — supported the watchdog view. Today that’s 58% for the nation, 71% still for Democrats, but only 44% for Republicans (who fell below the majority line in 2003).

What is it about local TV news?

Finally, I remain befuddled by the continued high ratings for local TV news, which comes out only slightly behind local newspapers. Local TV news sucks. It’s all fires, press releases, weather teases, and time-shifting (‘Police this morning are searching for the criminals who allegedly performed a crime right here where I’m standing last night but in fact no one who’s involved in the story is here right now and I could read this same script to you from the studio after I cadge it from the newspaper but standing here it seem so real and current, doesn’t it? Back to the you, Sally Ann…’). There’s no reporting. The faces we see are all transient as they head from market to market; they don’t know our towns. They’re often not too bright. But yet, they seem friendly. And I fear that the reason people like them is because they don’t report. What’s not to like about pap and predictability?

: RELATED (somewhat): Stowe Boyd writes about social networks and tribalism, inspired by Blonde2.0 on a survey of tribe members.

Media evolution

The latest Veronis Suhler report on the state of media says that online advertising will be bigger than newspaper advertisting in the U.S. — $62 billion — by 2011; this already happened in the UK. An inexorable path.

The report also says that our total media usage is declining, though what’s interesting to me is that part of this, they say, comes from efficiency and that’s an important concept in the morphing of media: The internet exposes the inefficiencies of old media for both “consumers” and advertisers. The internet makes direct connections. Note also in the report that we are taking in less ad-supported media because there is more media without ads and also, again, because we can connect directly to information around advertising.

For the first time since 1997, consumers spent less time with media in 2006 than they did the previous year, as media usage per person declined 0.5% to 3,530 hours, due to changing consumer behaviors and digital media efficiencies, according to the VSS Forecast. The drop in consumer media usage was driven by the continued migration of consumers to digital alternatives for news, information and entertainment, which require less time investment than their traditional media counterparts. For example, consumers typically watch broadcast or cable television at least 30 minutes per session while they spend as little as five to seven minutes viewing consumer-generated video clips online. . . .

In addition to shifting their attention to alternative media, consumers are also migrating away from advertising-supported media, such as broadcast TV and newspapers, to consumer-supported platforms, such as cable TV and videogames. Time spent with consumer-supported media grew at a CAGR of 19.8 percent from 2001 to 2006, while time spent with ad-supported media declined 6.3 percent in the period.

Who the hell are we, anyway?

Last week, after Pew’s survey of bloggers was released, someone you’d know plopped down in a chair in front of me and said: ‘So explain to me why most bloggers don’t consider themselves journalists.’

Easy, I said. I’ve long argued that we shouldn’t assume that bloggers want to be reporters. Sometimes some of them do. But mostly, blogs are just people talking. That’s my essential definition of the form: people in conversation. And when you see blogs through that light, you have to relate to them differently: Your customers, voters, neighbors, students, audience are talking and only a fool wouldn’t want to listen. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore the journalism in them.

I also said that what confuses the pros is that acts of journalism are mixed in with moments of life. One minute, I may report some news or comment on it, but the next moment, I’ll complain about Dell. To bloggers, this makes sense. Journalists have trouble figuring it out; they think that something journalistic must be purely journalistic.

The Pew survey supports that view, finding that 34 percent of bloggers consider their work journalism but 65 percent do not. Instead, most bloggers blog about life. Asked the reason they blog, 52 percent said that expressing yourself creatively was a major reason, 50 percent said documenting and sharing personal experiences, 37 percent said staying in touch with family and friends. Those top three reasons are about blogging as life. The next major reason hits journalism (34 percent want to share practical knowledge or skills) and the next one advocacy (29 percent want to motivate people to action); no. 8 on the list combines the two (27 percent want to influence how people think). Rounding out this top 10: entertaining people (28 percent), storing information (28 percent), meeting people (16 percent), and making money (7 percent). The blogs that get attention in the news are those about news — and news organizations — but that ignores the great silent majority of bloggers.

In short: Blogs are different keystrokes for different folks. There is no monolithic motive for blogging. And what that really means is that we are approaching the point where measuring what bloggers as bloggers do is pointless, like measuring why typists type or phoners phone or talkers talk. That, to me, is the most valuable insight from the Pew study.

I spent some time with Pew’s report this weekend trying to suss out the narrative the numbers tell about blogging. Some of the themes I saw:

* Blogs are just people talking. See above. Note that most just do this for themselves. That is, traffic and money are not motivators for most. Nearly half of the bloggers don’t even know their traffic. Only 8 percent have earned income from their blogs. That clearly separates them from media moguls.

* Blogs enable new voices to be heard. 54 percent of bloggers have never published before. As I said above, most do it first to be creative. That natural human desire has been constrained by scarce media in the past. No longer.

77 percenet of bloggeers have shared something they created — artwork, photos, videos, stories — vs. 26 percent of internet users. 44 percent of bloggers have taken content they found online and remixed it, versus 18 percent of internet users.

* Bloggers are informed. 95 percent of bloggers get news from the internet, vs. 73 percent for the internet population. 71 percent of bloggers get news from the internet on a typical day. Compare this with a recent Belden survey that says that only 27 percent of newspaper online users come to their sites daily.

* Bloggers are engaged. 64 percent go online several times a day from home, vs. 27 percent for the internet.

* But bloggers are not obsessive. 44 percent of bloggers see it as “something I do, but not something I spend a lot of time on.” 13 percent update daily. 40 percent call it a hobby. Only 13 percent describe their blogs as big parts of their lives.

* Bloggers are diverse. Bloggers are less likely than internet users to be white, contrary to the popular and often stated assumption. 60 percent are white (vs. 74 percent for the internet), 11 are African-American (vs. 9 percent), 19 percent are English-speaking Hispanic (vs. 6 percent). More demos: Bloggers are evenly divided between men and women and most live in the ‘burbs. Oh, yes, and they’re not all old farts like me; blogs skew young.

* Blogs are not an echo chamber. 45 percent of bloggers say they’d rather get news “from sources that do not have a particular point of view,” equivalent to the internet population. 24 percent prefer political news “from sources that challenge their viewpoint” — more than the 18 percent who “choose to use sources that share their political viewpoint.”

The survey doesn’t delve into attitudes about mainstream media except consider this: 55 percent of bloggers say they are inspired to post something by media. “Bloggers frequently inspired by the news media tend to identify politically as Democrats or independents. Republicans are also inspired to blog by the news, but less often than the other two groups.”

The Pew study also continues to show that blog authorship and readership are growing. It finds that 8 percent of internet users (12 million American adults) blog and 39 per (57 million Americans) read blogs, an increase of 39 percent since February 2004.

: At the same time, MSN just released a study of bloggers in Britain. Shane Richmond of The Telegraph points out that the numbers are suspiciously high next to another study by Universal McCann, where the numbers seemed low. So take your pick. The Guardian’s summary of the MSN study:

One in four British internet users keeps a blog and more than half of that number share their online musings with the public, according to a report released today. The research suggests that, with 27 million internet users across the UK, the country now holds nearly 7 million bloggers – equivalent to nearly one in nine of the population.