The world according to newspapers

 

The cartograms below show the world through the eyes of editors-in-chief, in 2007. Countries swell as they receive more media attention; others shrink as we forget them[1].

australian

lacroix

l’huma

rue89

slate

daily mail

guardian

the sun

the economist

blogosphere

(We also have a nice, embeddable Flash version with hi-res maps)

These maps allow you to grasp several media trends at a glance. First, traditional newspapers are highly selective in their coverage of world news. Looking at the three British dailies, editors favour countries that are bigger and more populous, but also closer to home and better developed. They also give more room to the countries of origin of British immigrants, especially if they are white (look at the size of Australia and New-Zealand). Hardly surprising, but still disheartening, especially when you consider that the only brand that does not advocate objectivity, The Economist, covers the world more equally.

Second, we see that web-only outlets do not offer such a different view of the world. That makes sense, considering the narrowing of the news agenda on the web that was described in the Project for Excellence in Journalism’s latest report. Their lack of resources forces them to contract their scope. Smaller issues are better covered by the blogosphere, which seems unbeatable at providing niche news.

The world according to newspapers is a project that came up while writing a dissertation for school. I first published some maps on L’Observatoire des Médias, a French blog. Seeing the response, Gilles Bruno and I decided to go further and keep track of newspaper coverage. We want the maps above to be updated daily (or weekly) in order to pressure editors into covering more diverse issues.

We will build a scraper that will automatically retrieve the data for the 164 countries on several newspapers and a Java or Flash interface that will morph the maps. If you have any skill in cartograms, or data scraping, or if you have funds to buy these skills, you are more than welcome in the team!

[1] Colors indicate the same thing. However, a country can appear in red if it’s in the top 10% but still shrink, as the top 3 countries concentrate most of all media attention.

This article was written by Nicolas Kayser-Bril, one of the Online Journalism Blog’s Virtual Interns.

 

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71 thoughts on “The world according to newspapers

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  3. tomfromthepost

    News sources write about the things their readers are interested in. The vast majority of the people who pay for the Daily Mail live in Britain – they want to know what’s going on around them, they don’t care about the editor being pressured into ‘covering more diverse issues’.

    The comparison with ‘the blogosphere’ is pointless. People don’t read the blogosphere, they read the bits that interest them.

    Reply
  4. nicolaskb Post author

    @tom
    Thanks for your comment.

    If news sources wrote about what readers are interested in, their circulation figures would certainly plummet less rapidly than, say, The Economist’s.

    The comparison with the blogosphere shows that readers *are* interested in more diverse issues and that micro-brands are more able to serve them when it comes to non-mainstream reporting.

    @martin
    Great, thanks! Their GAP program is as great as it’s ugly, but I’ll look into it.

    Reply
  5. tomfromthepost

    @nicolas

    Sorry I just don’t buy it. The paper I write for, the Birmingham Post, publishes news mainly about Birmingham. I just don’t believe replacing that with articles about Manchester, France or Africa is going to drive up sales.

    I don’t think the success of the economist is a model for a local or national newspaper – the magazines sells in more than 200 countries and has its own niche, global, audience, which it caters for.

    And as we constantly hear, the blogosphere is a medium, not a publication. Comparing a newspaper to that is like comparing one website to ‘the printed word’.

    Reply
  6. nicolaskb Post author

    @tom
    Thanks for your reaction.

    The model I’ve used shows that a country is less covered as it’s further away from London. Each 100km lead to a country’s getting 1.9 less articles per year in the Daily Mail, 2.3 in the Guardian (provided you take SAfrica, ANZ out of the sample, they skew the data). The same could be true for a local brand, taking your locality as a reference point.

    Even if you take this into account, some countries get less coverage than others, thus distorting their representation in the minds of readers. Hence, the point of doing these maps.

    As for the blogosphere map, it would be better compared with a ‘print media’ map aggregating data from all national dailies in Britain (and/or the US). We could then see how a fragmented medium distributes coverage in a more diverse and possibly more efficient way.

    The point is that the constraints mass media operate under force them to narrow their agenda and focus on what they see as what’s important, whereas readers choose which blogger is relevant to them.

    (And the comparison with The Economist was pure sarcasm over MSM’s knowledge of readers tastes.)

    Reply
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  10. Matt @ Montage

    [...] OK so some media, such as the Daily Mail, are not too much of a surprise with its interest firmly placed on middle England. It also shows remarkable little interest in north and south America and the middle east.

    Interestingly the Sun does show more interest in international
    affairs, including Iraq, than the Daily Mail and has a lot more
    interest in Australia. I would put this down to being owned by
    Newscorp (international news company) and Rupert Murdoch
    (the owner) being an Aussie himself!

    The liberal and internationalist Guardian has one of the strongest world views.

    However, if you want a truly international feel to your news and a focus on where the real news is happening you must visit the blogosphere. [...]

    Great stuff and I would recommend the Digg swarm tool too if you like news visualization!

    http://labs.digg.com/swarm/?popular

    Reply
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  12. Bobbie Johnson

    Interesting. I’m not sure I agree with your conclusions – I tend to think Tom’s got it right with regards to comparing a handful of publications with the entire blogosphere. (Do you, or does anybody, read the entirety of blogs in the world? And don’t you find it disappointing that the blogosphere isn’t significantly better than that?)

    But I’m also interested in the projection you’ve used – looks like Robinson to me, but I’m no expect. Why not Peters-Gall, which would likely have shown an even more glaring difference between physical geography and the geography of news organisations.

    (disclosure: I work for the Guardian)

    Reply
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  25. Raj

    Newspaper is a regular published print product containing information, news and advertising. Newspapers are living textbooks and they are source of information and learning. It’s a source to find out whats happening in movies, books, concerts, games, jobs and events. Major advantage left to newsprint is that reading it does not require any sophisticated, cumbersome technical equipment. This offers the reader a high level of flexibility: newsprint can basically be read in any place at any time. The reader can absorb the information offered at his own pace. Even the fact that the reader can touch and feel the printed paper while turning the pages may be of some importance.

    Disadvantage of Printed edition of newspaper –
    Circulation of the newspaper is one of the principal factors, circulation is not the same as copies sold because many copies are read by more than one person this is a major offset as the number of copies distributed are not read.

    People away from their home place would always love to read their regional paper wherever they are in any part of the world. Take my case; I have been hunting for my favorite newspaper Times of India in the heart of New York City but in vain and the only solution I found at this time is e-paper.

    E-paper and its advantage –
    Will e-paper is going to replace the printed edition in future is the question to be asked? ePaper is the replication of newspaper pages which allows one to get the same experience as reading the hard-copy edition and e-paper has the advantages of being interactive, multimedia, of providing internal and external networks and offering selection functions, the possibility of regular updates, access to archives, rapid access to a large number of newspapers, and being paperless, thus creating no problems of waste disposal.
    Not even that it’s more convenient from the customer’s point of view while reading the e-paper, I came across Nokia new model cell phone, and by clicking on it; I was taken directly to the website, where I could compare the prices.

    So this has led to some predictions that is newspapers will shrink or even disappear?
    All the recent surveys both in USA and abroad indicate that print newspaper readership is going down; there has been a dramatic drop in the circulation of papers.
    Full time professional employment at daily newspapers is falling. In a desperate attempt to offset the falling revenues, more newspaper groups are setting them up online.
    All of the major news publishers have adopted e-paper technology in order to increase their readers and revenue.

    Looking at the enormous growth in the Digital News Publishing Industry, many new media companies are offering ePapers and eMagazines at affordable costing with low or no upfront investment. Pressmart Media Limited, a leading new media services company based out of India and USA provides an excellent Multi channel distribution on Web, Mobile, Podcast, Search Engines, Social Networks, Web2.0 sites and RSS.

    I hope you do agree that digital versions of news publications will be an added advantage for publishers in increasing their brand value, customer reach and revenues.

    Reply
  26. Jay

    Very interesting concept. The issue is that one of the main observations is trivial (newspapers tend to write most often about the country in which they reside…surprise!). To get around that issue, you need to
    1a) pull from most all newspapers or
    1b) pull from a sample that is representative according to country population (or geographic size or GDP)
    2) Remove outliers so that a few oddball papers don’t overly skew your results

    Then you could tell which countries receive the most overall press coverage and help people hypothesize why. My guess is that countries with the most wealth and influence, along with nations of special interest to them, would get the bulk of attention.

    Neat site, interesting work.
    Jay

    Reply
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  30. Fool

    cartograms like this aren’t actually that useful for abstract stuff like this, since the geographical shape or size of a country is pretty independent from population size, or economy, etc. So Russia, the USA, Canada, Australia, all get squashed since they have lower population vs. geographical area. Proximity is probably the main geographic factor connected to news coverage.

    Reply
  31. RJ

    Are a lot of these references to other countries not incidental to stories about the newspaper’s own country? For example – there must be lots of stories in the British press about Madelain McCann (mentioning Portugal), immigration issues (mentioning France), conflict with the EU (mentioning other European countries), Commonwealth issues (mentioning former British colonies), etc. Moreover, there are a number of big issues of interest to readers (such as stories about banking trends) which are somewhat more likely to involve developed countries than non-developed countries.

    On top of that, few newspapers make anything much more than a perfunctory nod towards objectivity. Newspapers support political ideologies, even where they don’t support a particular party all the time, and their newspaper is bound to reflect the interests of these ideologies.

    Moreover, communication (ie, ripping stories off foreign newspapers) is much easier between countries which speak the same language. And it is far easier for a British person to understand Australian issues than Namibian issues, because the UK is much more similair to Australia than Namibia.

    On top of this, some countries have sentimental attachments or enmities with each other – for example, the UK has a sentimental attachment to the old Dominions (where many British expats live, which is another issue), and a traditional enmity with the French – hence, lots of stories in the UK press relating to France or the old Dominions.

    It is difficult to understand a story about Indonesian politics without first having the Indonesian political system explained to one. People in the UK are more familiar with the political systems, the culture, and the history of, say, the Irish Republic, than with those of a typical south-east Asian country.

    I could certainly go on at greater length. There are myriad obvious and sensible reasons for these results. All that these results expose, in my opinion, are potential niche markets for publications specialising in either general foreign or are-specific foreign news and current affairs. People often seem to know little enough about their own countries without having to try to take in reams of knowledge about west-African politics or the latest criminal trials in Santiago.

    Reply
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  33. Tom Davis

    By what means does a country get awarded points. Does a story that mentions George Bush get tagged as being US related? What about a story about Tokyo?

    I would be willing to bet that most stories about George Bush in UK papers don’t mention his association with the US, just as most papers in the US didn’t mention Tony Blair’s or Margaret Thatcher’s connection with the UK (though poor John Major and Gordon Brown often get the additional label). Probably every paper outside of Canada mentions that Stephen Harper is Prime Minister of Canada, when they mention him at all (poor Mr. Harper).

    Paul Rudd is meeting (or has just met) with Queen Elizabeth. Does that story get tagged as being related to the UK? After all, from Mr. Rudd’s perspective, he is meeting with the Queen of Australia. If Number 10 is maintaining troop levels to satisfy George Bush, is that a US story, a UK one, or is it an Iraq thing?

    Reply
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  41. David K

    The size of Israel in every map shows the West’s maniacal obsession with the Jews. THe West doesn’t care about the plight of Arabs anywhere, except those whose suffering can somehow be blamed on the Jews.

    Reply
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