Social Bookmarking: A Pulse on Society?

February 26, 2009sparxoo_admin

By Ethan Lyon, Senior Writer

Mainstream media should have a pulse on what’s most important in society. The front page of the New York Times  (NYT) should be a slice of general society’s interest for that day.  What about social bookmarking sites? Since readers pick their favorites to make their own front page, social bookmarking sites should reflect the interests of the community.

Does mainstream media, like the NYT, parallel those interests of social media? Yes and no. Madoff making away with $50 billion makes the front page of Digg and the NYT. True, there’s a lot of parallels with social media  and mainstream media, but you will never see, “Identifying yourself as a lesbian gets you banned on Xbox Live” on the front page of the New York Times.

In a world where the news cycle is shorter than your drive to work, the NYT does a surprisingly good job keeping up. Social bookmarking sites are constantly updated by millions of users every day. It’s like strapping news to a rocket and blasting off every 30 minutes. While the NYT is a top source for bookmarking sites, we can see the emergence of an entirely different, new, alternative media. YouTube, The Huffington Post, Artstechnica are some of the alternative media ahead of the curve–receiving the torch passed on from traditional media.

Back to the post title question: Are social bookmarking sites a pulse on societal trends? Our hypothesis was, yes. Let’s focus on one of Web 2.0’s most popular social bookmarking sites, Digg.  To test this theory, we took the top dugg topics on Digg and plugged the top NYT topics into Google Trends. Were we right? Yes and no. The top dugg topics were shifted versus the NYT.  Here is what we found found:

Top Dugg Topics in the Past 365 Days



These top four topics give us a snapshot of general interests of Digg users–insight into their personality as a whole.

Top New York Times Topics on the Web

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Source: Google Trends

Looking at general Internet trends, we considered the main topics on the New York times and found there to be much more of an interest in sports and business, which didn’t hit the radar on Digg.

If you believe that social media is a forerunner on trends, then we would be bullish on science, technology, and politics as key interests of the rising generation.  And while sports and business have a lower profile on Digg, we would have to extend our analysis before declaring a Bear call.  Our research is promising for alternative media sources, like the Huffington Post, Artstechnica etc. The question is, how quickly are we migrating towards the heirarchy of the new Digg world?

Where Do We Go From Here?

As print fades more into the background, online media is taking its place in the limelight. Readers will still need the expertise of journalists, but the media distribution will be done by Internet users. Right now, social bookmarking sites still have the coveted “alternative” image. But that’s quickly dissolving, as it is adopted by a more mainstream audience. Though you will never see “Inside the inboxes of 15 fictional villains” on the front page of the LA Times, mainstream media clings to an authoritative presence in social media.  Will a time come when alternative media is the earpiece for Internet users and traditional media is a memento from the era of ink and paper?

Check in for an update in 2015.