Do Celebrities Influence the News more than the Mass Media?

What’s that? Celebrities influence big news stories just as much – if not more – than reputable national news outlets? It’s a sign of the apocalypse! We’re all going to die! Ahhhhhhh!

Hold on now, calm down, it’s not as bad as it seems. The above statement is misleading, but it got you reading, didn’t it? Damn those sensational headlines and the mass media!

There’s a new way to use Twitter in an interesting and potentially informing way. Alok Choudhary from Northwestern’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science has developed a website that not only measures what trending topics are the most popular on Twitter, but which personalities are the most influential voices in the debate. Using data mining, social network analysis and sentiment analysis, the website Pulse of the Tweeters determines the top influencers and sentiment distribution of the topics tending on Twitter.

So not only can you see what topics are popular, you can see whether people have positive or negative feelings about them. For example, 75 percent of the tweets on Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber were positive while 65 percent of them on Mel Gibson were negative. No shocker, right? What about that 60 percent of statements on Michael Vick were positive? Hmmm, interesting.

What’s more, by analyzing which people have the most followers also tweeting about the same topic, the website determines the most influential accounts for a particular topic. That’s where the sensational headline came from. There are plenty of examples of topics where people like Justin Bieber or Conan O’Brian were more influence than outlets like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal. However, these topics were mostly things like donating money for Haiti. For hard news events and information, the New York Times, NPR News,, CNN and the Wall Street Journal were pretty much always in the top 10 influencers on topics related to politics and world events.

I am fascinated by this site. True, not a ton of people use Twitter and even less of them use the social media outlet to get their news for the day. However, as Twitter grows in popularity and the generation that uses it gets older, how much longer will it before these statistics actually become important?

Trending as I write this? That would be Huckleberry Finn because of a publisher’s decision to replace all of the words “nigger” with “slave” in a new edition. And it’s top influencers include OpieRadio and funnyordie, which seems odd. Where is NPR on this?

And I just have to throw in this amazing story about a homeless man in Columbus, Ohio with a golden radio voice. Someone from the Columbus Dispatch made a quick YouTube video of his talents and within 24 hours the man had a job with the Cleveland Cavaliers, among other offers. Naturally, the host with the most Ryan Seacrest is the top influencer on this one, but so are the soft core news outlets the Today Show, CBS news and People Magazine.

Okay I have to stop now. I could spend too much time on here in a flash!


About bigkingken

A science writer dedicated to proving that the Big Ten - or the Committee on Institutional Cooperation, if you will - is more than athletics.
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