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Forget Newspapers Focus on News Sources

Written by on October 20, 2010

Jeremy Porter, over at Journalistic, recently compared the top 25 newspapers in the US with their Google PageRank, followers on Twitter, and how many likes they have on Facebook. It's a very interesting idea, but we need to redefine the word "newspaper".

Stacking up the competition by measuring each site's PageRank is something that bloggers have been doing for years. It's interesting because the PageRank algorithm is a measurement based on influence rather than traffic.

It's not perfect, mostly because it's not designed to be a stand alone indicator, but rather something Google use in relation to a search query. Also, the PageRank algorithm is logarithmic in nature. A PageRank of five isn't one-up of four; it's twice the influence of four. As a result, it is very hard to judge the real influence when we get into higher numbers. A PageRank It's not only twice as big as the last number, it is also twice as widely defined.

Still, PageRank is an interesting way to compare influence between sites, and when you look at the newspapers the result is this:

  • 9/10 - The New York Times
  • 8/10 - The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, NY Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, San Francisco Chronicle
  • 7/10 - The Dallas Morning News, The Chicago Sun-Times, Detroit Free Press, Houston Chronicle, The Arizona Republic, The Oregonian, The Star-Ledger, The San Diego Union-Tribune and Newsday
  • 6/10 - The Seattle Times, The St. Petersburg Times and The Plain Dealer
  • 5/10 - The New York Post, The Oakland Tribune and The San Jose Mercury News
  • 4/10 - The Denver Post and Contra Costa Times

Measure news sources, not old newspaper

The thing that bugs me, though, is that they are not measuring the present. They are measuring the kings of the past. The world has changed; it did so years ago. We now live in a world where the old print newspapers are only a part of the total news industry. It is like measuring "The Top 25 Companies of the 1960s" (who are still in business today).

If you want to compare newspapers, just looking at print doesn't make much sense. If you are a newspaper, your competition isn't other newspapers. The real competition is the news industry.

When you look at the real news industry, you get something like this:

  • 10/10 - CNN
  • 9/10 - The New York Times, GameSpot, Reuters Online
  • 8/10 - The Wall Street Journal, The Daily Beast, Huffington Post, Jalopnik, ReadWriteWeb, Los Angeles Times, Yahoo News, Engadget, Washington Post, Techcrunch, GigaOm, USA Today, MSNBC News, Chicago Tribune, Gizmodo, Gawker Media, TMZ, NY Daily News, Philadelphia Inquirer, Lifehacker, San Francisco Chronicle
  • 7/10 - The Dallas Morning News, Mashable, Business Insider, Luxist, The Chicago Sun-Times, Tuaw, Mac Rumors, Detroit Free Press, Jezebel, Houston Chronicle, The Arizona Republic, The Oregonian, The Star-Ledger, The San Diego Union-Tribune and Newsday
  • 6/10 - Mediaite, Deadline, The Seattle Times, The St. Petersburg Times, AOL News and The Plain Dealer
  • 5/10 - The New York Post, The Oakland Tribune and The San Jose Mercury News
  • 4/10 - The Denver Post and Contra Costa Times

It doesn't matter if they came from the print, TV, or the blogging world, they are all "newspapers". They are just not printed newspapers or periodicals.

It is time that we stopped looking at the news industry as "only the newspapers who are doing print" - that's the old world. It's irrelevant. If you want to compare digital media companies, look at the real news industry.

BTW: There is also a trend here. Sure CNN, Reuters, and The New York Times are massive media companies. But just in their wake you have many niche online sites. mass-market news isn't the only winning strategy. Especially not when you also compare their sizes.

The real news industry is doing very well. It has never been more exciting, and it is much bigger than the old world.

Update: @noodlepie (Graham Holliday) asks: "Isn't the competition more international than that summary suggests?" Very good point, the digital news industry is no longer limited to a geographic area (like a country or a city). There is still a language barrier, though. E.g. Norwegian newspapers tend to stay in Norway.

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Thomas Baekdal

Thomas Baekdal

Founder of Baekdal, author, writer, strategic consultant, and new media advocate.

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