Click the image above to visit the Forbes interactive media map
Oregonians love NPR; Wisconsinites adore the Onion; the Huffington Post is widely read in Appalachia. These are a few of the favorites that the data team at Bitly uncovered when they parsed data from millions of clicks on their shortened links. We’ve turned their data into an interactive map and an illustration in the April 9, 2012 issue of Forbes.
Bitly’s dataset, wrangled by data scientists Hilary Mason and Anna Smith, consists of every click on every Bitly link on the Web. Bitly makes its data available publicly—just add ‘+’ to the end of any Bitly link to see how many clicks it’s gotten. For Bitly’s collaboration with Forbes, Smith and Mason looked for news sources and individual articles that were unusually popular in certain states compared to national averages. The interactive map starts by showing which news source dominates in each state by this measure: the Washington Post in Virginia and Maryland, the Chicago Tribune in Illinois, and so on. Click on a source to see a heat map that shows where its links are particularly popular, then click on a headline to see where that story did well.
Bitly’s research reveals some obvious interest in local issues—a Forbes story about Wisconsin’s pensions was widely read in Wisconsin and an Onion article about President Obama was popular in Washington, D.C.—and it confirms some dearly-held stereotypes about media consumption: NPR is popular in Oregon and Minnesota; Fox News is popular in Mississippi.
But the same data points to a sharp division between fully national news publishers that are widely read across the country, like the New York Times, and the largest regional papers—some of which, like the Washington Post, have national aspirations that they’ve had trouble realizing. The latter remain sharply contained to their traditional markets.
Our friends at Bitly write:
When you share or click a link on a social network like Facebook or Twitter, you’re most likely using a Bitly link. Bitly provides the infrastructure for social sharing across networks and, in the middle, collects a huge amount of data on how real people share ideas. Given the right tools, and by asking the right questions, this mass of clicks can be transformed into useful knowledge about the social web, helping us understand how people use the Internet.
For Forbes, Bitly has investigated how people consume news by looking at how people in different states differ in their preference for news sites. Through the clicks of millions of people in each state visiting different news sources, Bitly is able to uncover relationships between geography and media.
This map will become a regular feature: we’ll update it at the beginning of every month to include the previous month’s hits.