The Numbers Crunch: Talkbackers talk about talkbacks

Also, Murdoch and Google+ still dominating the news, Norway videos flood YouTube, Israelis pitch tents and rally to lower cost of living.

Numbers Crunch 311 (photo credit: Mrkay Design)
Numbers Crunch 311
(photo credit: Mrkay Design)
News traditionally calms down in the summer months, and this year has been no exception. However, in recent weeks a few major stories have made waves online, both locally and globally, and The Jerusalem Post launched a new talkback system to make user interaction simpler on the big stories. Here in Israel, the youth took to both the streets and the Web in their campaign to lower the cost of living across the country, and internationally, the terror attacks in Norway, the News of the World scandal and Google+ dominated news mentions.’s new talkback system has now been online for two weeks, and user trends are beginning to emerge. The new system allows registered users to comment on stories and share comments on social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, and features a centralized profile page. This week, The Numbers Crunch delves into the subculture of online commenting, as well as the usual wrap-up of the news online.
First, some demographics: JPost talkbackers are predominately male (78 percent), and the average number of talkbacks posted per user goes up over the weekend.
Danish Internet usability consultant Jakob Nielson has theorized on the 90-9-1 rule for reader participation online. In a 2006 column , he explained that 90% of users are “lurkers,” who read but don’t participate in online discussions, 9% contribute irregularly, and 1% “participate a lot and account for most contributions.” Nielson noted that blogs have an even lower participation ratio, which he said is closer to 95-5-0.1. On Wikipedia the ratio is even more extreme, where more than 99% of users are “lurkers.”
So, does his theory hold for Let’s crunch the numbers.
On an average day on the site in the past few weeks, more than 150,000 unique users visited, and 1,200 comments were posted by some 500 users. This means one in 300 users posted a comment somewhere on the site - far closer to Nielson’s blogs rule than to his general Web rule.
And how do JPost talkbackers prefer to post? Well, despite the added benefits of registering for the new system, 52% of posters are doing so as guests. In a recent quick vote, 30% of respondents opined that talkback systems shouldn’t have profile pages, though some 28% responded positively to the new platform.
A significant number of users, however, have started posting comments from their individualized profiles. In just two weeks, the most active user had already posted 222 comments and received 586 likes from other talkbackers. The most liked user received 1135 likes, out of a total of 46,000 likes on the JPost system.
This week, stories on Norway’s terror attacks took three spots on both the Top 5 Most Read articles and the Top 5 Most Active Threads for the week. Check out these two lists:
Top 5 Most Read articles:
1. 'Norway attack suspect had anti-Muslim, pro-Israel views'2. Editorial: Norway’s challenge3. Norway judge: Terror suspect mentioned 'two more cells'4. Beck likens Norway victims to Hitler Youth5. IDF in buying spree in anticipation of September
Top 5 Most Active Threads
1.Editorial: Norway’s challenge2. 'Norway attack suspect had anti-Muslim, pro-Israel views'3. At least 17 dead in Oslo bombing, youth camp shooting4. Abbas: UN approval will allow us to treat Israel as equals5. 'US paying salaries for jailed Palestinian terrorists'
The previous week, however, when summer news was slower and less focused, the two lists told a different story:
Top 5 Most Read Stories (previous week)1. Ex-CIA officer: Israel likely to attack Iran in September2. Iran says it shot down US plane over nuclear site3. Navy intercepts Gaza-bound French ship ‘Dignity’4. Saudi Arabia’s ‘Anti-Witchcraft Unit’ breaks another spell5. At least 17 dead in Oslo bombing, youth camp shooting
Top 5 Most Active Threats (previous week)
1. At least 17 dead in Oslo bombing, youth camp shooting2. Our World: Israel’s only two options3. Beck likens Norway victims to Hitler Youth4. Erekat: ‘Despite Hamas opposition, PA to go to UN in September’5. Navy intercepts Gaza-bound French ship ‘Dignity’
In the previous week then, though the Oslo bombing and the Israel’s overtaking of the French ship featured on both lists, the remaining stories spanned various topics, and there seemed to be little correlation between what users chose to read, and what moved them to comment.
Zooming out, it’s not hard to guess which story dominated news posted on social media in recent weeks. On both Twitter and YouTube, according to the Pew Research Center’s New Media Index, the phone-hacking scandal enveloping Rupert Murdoch’s media empire topped mentions for the second and third weeks running. On Twitter, 19% of news links tweeted related to the story - a high figure but a significant drop from the 53% of news links on the issue the previous week. The scandal took up 17% of news coverage in the US, and Murdoch’s name was mentioned in news headlines 42 times, according to the PEJ’s News Coverage Index the same week.
Also holding steady in tweet mentions was Google+, with 16% of mentions, down from 35% the previous week. In its first month online, Google’s new social networking tool claimed 20 million members, raising the company’s value by $45 billion, according to ABC News. Facebook, in comparison, back in April 2007, after launching in February 2004 from a Harvard dorm room. While Google+ could one day compete with Facebook, it is still trailing far behind the premier platform’s 750 million active users today.
In videos, a clip of British comedian Steve Coogan taking a shot at News of the World was the second most watched news-related video, according to the PEJ index.
On the YouTube newsroom, however, the top videos were related to the biggest news story of the week, the tragic terror attacks in Norway which left at least 76 people dead. YouTube featured a playlist of amateur videos showing the aftermaths of the Oslo blast.
Here in Israel, demonstrators across the country protesting for affordable housing specifically and a lower cost of living in general pulled major traffic on Facebook, and across the Web. The issue was the #1 online trend in Israel, according to global popularity website Likester, up from last week, when it was the second most popular topic online locally. The campaign’s main Facebook page has 13,000 Likes, and more than 10,000 responded as “attending” to a rally last week, though tens of thousands actually showed up for the demonstration. Most recently, on Saturday night, hundreds of thousands joined “social justice” rallies across the country, and 21,100 people on Facebook said they would take part in a nation-wide strike on Monday.
From news sites to blogs, tweets to videos, The Numbers Crunch is a bi-weekly column which zooms out and brings you the big picture online, from Israel, the Middle East and around the world, and poll results from If you have stats to share, e-mail [email protected]
The writer is the Internet desk manager at The Jerusalem Post