Nielsen: Iran Election 'Watershed Moment' For News, Media

Iran Protest

Underscoring criticism that CNN initially received for its light coverage of the Iran election, the cable news network rarely ranked in the top five search results for terms related to the event.

That's among the findings from a pair of "Internet snapshots" Nielsen took June 18 and June 24 to learn more about the interplay of news and social media in what some termed the "Twitter revolution" because of the key role the micro-blogging service played in relaying news about the protests that erupted after the disputed election.

"The Iranian election is yet another watershed moment in the ongoing evolution of news and media, further blurring the lines between being, reporting, and following the story," according to the Nielsen report. In contrast to CNN, Wikipedia on June 18 featured within the top two Google search results in four of five of the leading election-related terms spanning "Iran," "Iran protest," "Iran election," "Mousavi," and "Ahmadinejad." Yahoo or Yahoo News was also in the top five for four of the five terms.

At least one social media source shows up within the top 10 search results for each term, usually directly above a traditional, major news source such as WSJ.com, Nielsen found. For "Ahmadinejad," YouTube, Yahoo, Boing Boing and Politico.com all ranked higher than CNN. The best showing for a traditional news outlet was MSNBC --grabbing the top two slots for "Iran protest," suggesting that it was a more popular source for breaking news rather than background information about Iran or key players in the election.

In the second search snapshot on June 24, social media had another strong showing, with Wikipedia in the top three search results in four of the five keywords or phrases, and YouTube rising up to make the top 10 for all terms. In the second week, Twitter emerged in the top 20 results, in connection with results for the two candidates. Traditional news sources including CNN and the BBC also rose up to the top more.

AOL, which has taken steps to expand its news and political coverage recently, doesn't seem to appear among any of the top search results on June 18 or June 24. CIA.gov got on board in the second week as the second-highest-ranking result after Wikipedia in searches for "Iran."

"What this means is that general human curiosity is driving people to look to all available sources for information -- the conflict in Iran presenting the latest and perhaps most sophisticated example of how the world has changed for journalists, the media and increasingly active media consumers alike," concluded Nielsen.

With Michael Jackson's death last week abruptly pushing aside the Iran election story -- and temporarily taking down sites like Google News and Twitter -- Nielsen may have to pursue a separate study on the go-to sources for celebrity news. Wikipedia would probably still rank high.

Tags: research, search
Recommend (3)
2 comments about "Nielsen: Iran Election 'Watershed Moment' For News, Media".
  1. Warren Lee from WHL Consulting , June 29, 2009 at 2:34 p.m.

    Mark, it is truly amazing to watch the ongoing evolution of media. As you mentioned in your article the Nielson Report that points to the "further blurring the lines between being, reporting, and following the story." The increase in the velocity of breaking news stories and the outlets being used to get them out, is truly a media revolution being unveiled before our eyes. In the very near future leaders, world, political or just thought leaders, need to understand that they are instantaneously accountable for their actions, or non actions, because, as we have seen with the events in Iran, it is becoming increasingly impossible to keep the horse in the barn when everyone can see the the issues and people's responses to them even in closed societies.

  2. Patricia Williams from Contractor , June 29, 2009 at 4:32 p.m.

    Mark, one issue will invariably move into the forefront that moves beyond the numbers - credibility. Also note CNN and other "traditional mass media" was broadcasting and posting "unsubstantiated" video, Facebook and Twitter postings - particularly once western journalists were expelled and the Iranian government limited and ultimately severely shut down most interactive media in the country.
    As news organizations presented these unsubstantiated reports as 'presumed fact" it raises issues about responsibility and accountability - and potentially fraud and propaganda. The role of mass media in the U.S. is to give both sides - and allow the viewer, reader, social networker draw their own conclusions. As traditional mass media strays from these core values - the greater the clutter on the web - making fact and fiction one and the same - and traditional mass media increasingly insignificant.