|Global Attention Profiles|
Recent Research on Media Attention
Global Attention Profile FAQWhat's an attention profile?
An attention profile is a set of data that shows what a given news media outlet is paying attention to at a particular moment in time. If we wanted to know how a given media outlet, say Google, was paying attention to NFL football teams, we could search for stories on all 32 teams and compare results to see who received the most and fewest stories. We might call this Google's Football Attention Profile.
A Global Attention Profile looks at how a media outlet pays attention to 180 different nations. Instead of comparing how many stories Google has on the Green Bay Packers versus the Dallas Cowboys, we compare Google stories on Sudan versus Libya versus Lebanon. The resulting data gives us a picture of how an individual media source, at a given moment in time, pays attention to different nations.
What do you mean by "news media outlet"?
Why would I be interested in the information in a Global Attention Profile? Why should I care what a media outlet pays attention to?
Similarly, a GAP can tell you whether a media outlet is giving you information on Africa, or whether using this media source is going to lead to an Africa deficiency. While your gums won't bleed and your teeth won't fall out, an Africa deficiency will mean you're less likely to understand future media stories that involve Africa, less likely to understand Africa's role in global politics and more likely to be surprised by events triggered by events in Africa.
Immediately post 9/11, much of the world discovered that it was suffering from an information deficiency concerning Central Asia. For a brief interval, there was a great deal of media interest in Afghanistan and surrounding nations where Al Qaeda operated training camps. Now that US military involvement has wound down in Afghanistan and wound up in Iraq, Afghanistan still receives media attention, but media attention is radically reduced in the other countries in Central Asia. This raises the disturbing question: "Is our media paying enough attention to Central Asia?"
One of the goals of the GAP project is to help media consumers identify nations and regions they may be underinformed about. Armed with a news media outlet's GAP, one can urge an outlet to cover stories more thoroughly... or choose a better balanced media diet.
How do I read the GAP maps?
Correlation maps show a relationship between story counts and either population or national gross domestic product, a rough measure of the size of a nation's economy. GAP scripts ask the question: "How would we expect media attention to be distributed if it were directly correlated to population (or GDP)?" Then GAP scripts look at actual story counts and look for differences between the predictions and reality. Countries colored in red have more stories than GAP scripts estimated, while countries in blue have fewer. Countries in white have about as many stories as we'd expect.
For instance, in this map from the AP, Iraq and Liberia are colored dark red, suggesting that they're receiving more media attention than we would expect, given their population. We know, of course, that both are receiving a great deal of media attention because of military conflicts.
Much more information about the methodology behind GAP and GAP maps is available within a recent working paper.
Why do certain countries consistenly get a lot of media attention? Why are others consistently ignored?
Those are the types of questions the GAP project is most interested in answering. While research is incomplete, we're starting to have some theories. Early research suggests that nations with a large GDP get more attention than nations with small GDPs - in other words, if you live in a poor country, you're less likely to be newsworthy than someone in a large country, even if your nation is experiencing a war. But the GAP project also raises new questions: no single factor explains, for instance, why the Middle East commands so much attention and Eastern Europe commands so little. A thorough answer to the question of why some nations are ignored and others focused on would require a comprehensive anthropological analysis of newsrooms around the world. How do editors decide where to deploy reporters? How do reporters decide what is and isn't a story? The GAP project isn't asking those sorts of questions at this point - instead, it's trying to gather as much information as possible from raw story data and draw conclusions statistically.
Why these nine news media outlets? What about my favorite paper/TV station/website/blog?
I have a problem with your methodology. I think you should do it this way instead.
I have a question not answered here.
GAP project main page
Some thoughts on the importance of global media attention.