And the Winner Is…

By Chris Mooney | November 19, 2010 9:58 am

Okay: I tabulated the data for our two guest posts arising out of the NSF “Science: Becoming the Messenger” workshop, with a cutoff time for traffic of last night at midnight. For traffic and referral sources, I used Google Analytics, for which Discover has provided us a subscription.

Here’s what I found for the two posts:

Alice Popejoy, “Genetic Discrimination: The Best Argument for Universal Healthcare You’ve Never Heard Of“: 6 stumbles, 9 diggs, 33 comments, 1294 pageviews, 994 unique visitors. Top off-site referrals: Facebook (224), Twitter (89), StumbleUpon (65).

Laurel Bacque, “The Universe on Ice“: 3 stumbles, 5 diggs, 28 comments, 590 pageviews, 485 unique visitors. Top off-site referrals: Facebook (102), Stumbleupon (77), Reddit (15).

Comments are where the two posts come closest, but overall–and especially when it comes to traffic–Alice Popejoy wins unambiguously. She had a slight advantage in that her post went up about an hour and a half earlier in time…but that itself cannot explain the gap between the two items. And Laurel Bacque had a different advantage–going second in this case meant being the top post on the blog for longer.

It is worth nothing that Alice had referrals coming in from 49 total sources, as opposed to 36 for Laurel. That made much of the difference, as did her stronger Facebook and Twitter showing.

Finally, I think the content of the posts made a difference: Alice’s is probably a type of post that works better in the blogosphere. It makes a strong argument that people are likely to have a reaction to. Laurel’s unpacks a fascinating scientific experiment at the South Pole–but her post wasn’t likely to…make anybody disagree.

That in itself is instructive. In the blogosphere, for better or worse, controversy and strong opinions often fare the best.

This whole exercise turned out far better than I could have hoped for, and will definitely be repeated in subsequent NSF workshops (although perhaps with some slight modifications). The post authors, and their workshop peers who contributed to helping draft these two items and get the word out about them through social media, worked very hard on this. In the process, I’m confident they gained a lot of insight into how the dissemination of online information works.

I want to congratulate and thank our two guest bloggers, Alice and Laurel, both of whom were very brave to do this. They both produced great posts in a very short period of time, all the while being edited by committee–only to then have to turn around and try anything they could think of to get the word out. (Now they know how we bloggers do it.)

If this exercise has demonstrated anything, it’s that social media make a dramatic difference in determining how much attention a blog post gets. Perhaps that’s no surprise, but it’s clear that for online communication, they simply can’t be neglected. They’re becoming king.

Comments (4)

  1. Did Laurel have no twitter referrals? I’d say that could be the reason for the difference right there. Its interesting there wasnt much between the comments, maybe social media drives people there, but doesnt have any real effect on interaction, it could just be people who dont know what they’re looking for?

  2. Chris Mooney

    It’s not that Laurel had zero Twitter referrals, just that Alice did much better on Twitter….

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About Chris Mooney

Chris is a science and political journalist and commentator and the author of three books, including the New York Times bestselling The Republican War on Science--dubbed "a landmark in contemporary political reporting" by Salon.com and a "well-researched, closely argued and amply referenced indictment of the right wing's assault on science and scientists" by Scientific American--Storm World, and Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future, co-authored by Sheril Kirshenbaum. They also write "The Intersection" blog together for Discover blogs. For a longer bio and contact information, see here.

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