Sunday, September 14, 2008

Silobreaker "Truthiness" - The Sarah Palin Effect

Whether your loyalties lie with the Democrats or the Republicans in the US Presidential race, very few of us can pretend to have been unaffected by the media frenzy following Sarah Palin’s surprise appearance as John McCain’s running-mate.

There has been much discussion about the “Palin-effect” in media and Silobreaker is the perfect news search service to use for examining it a bit closer.

In the weeks and months leading up to the Republicans' surprise announcement, Silobreaker averaged around five articles per day about Sarah Palin (hardly noticeable on the graph below). Ever since the announcement, the equivalent number of articles is about 1,000 per day (with peaks over 2,000). That is a 200 times increase.

So how has this increase in absolute terms affected Palin’s relative share of press coverage compared to the other candidates? Silobreaker’s Trends Search provides media attention trends based on mentions in the news. Essentially, it enables users to gauge trends from what the aggregate press corps is writing about. The chart below suggests clear evidence of the “Palin-effect”. Quite sensationally actually, for the first time since the campaigns begun, Barack Obama is not the obvious leader in terms of press coverage. And in terms of the vice-presidential media attention race, there is simply no match at the moment. Joe Biden gets around 6-7% of the overall coverage of the four candidates compared to Palin’s 30%.

The chart shows the relative share of mentions in the news between Palin, McCain, Obama and Biden. Click here to go to the chart.

So is it all good news for the Republicans?

Well, for believers in “all PR is good PR” the answer might be yes. The networks below, however, analyze the media attention through another lens and show the 10 keyphrases that have been found in the overall press coverage to have the strongest association with
Barack Obama and Sarah Palin respectively (filtered out in both networks are obvious terms like White House, US Election, etc).

The networks show what keyphrases in the news flow that have the strongest association to Obama and Palin respectively. Such keyphrases, and their connections to the candidates, are extracted from the overall reporting about Obama and Palin, which during the last few weeks amount to some 40,000 articles in Silobreaker (blogs are not included in this analysis).

These pictures seem to support those who believe that a large part of the press coverage around Palin is based primarily on sensationalism and controversy rather than policy. Can this ultimately hurt the Republicans, and might it be difficult for the McCain camp to maintain media’s interest to the same degree or for the right reasons as their campaign races on towards the November election date?

So is Barack Obama's apparent silence about Sarah Palin evidence of grave concern over the "Palin-effect", or is he just silently confident that the controversial topics surrounding Palin will eventually be the sword on to which the Republicans will fall themselves?

By using Silobreaker regularly, it will be easy for anyone to follow these twists and turns - up to the election and beyond.

Finally, the purpose of this blog is not to provide political commentary, for which I am clearly not qualified, but to promote the easy use and benefits of Silobreaker. The above analysis took no more than a few minutes to complete.

Kristofer Mansson, CEO

The connections and trends that Silobreaker extracts and visualizes are not pre-determined or manually edited in any way. All Silobreaker’s search results are deduced by algorithms performing semantic and statistical analyses of tens of thousands of articles every day. Sounds complicated? Well, the equivalent manual research effort would be more or less impossible. Silobreaker's search results offer auto-generated insight “live” and the graphical results are updated dynamically as new articles are being published and the search is re-run.

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