Apple, Google Darlings of Tech Press: Pew Study

New report from Pew Research Center scours technology news coverage for prevailing trends, finds disproportionate coverage of a select few companies, while identifying a mixed message of exuberance for the promise of technology and worry over its unintended consequences.
Posted September 27, 2010
By

Kenneth Corbin


Media coverage of the technology sector appears to be a two-horse race, according to a new study by the Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism.

In a 13-month period ending June 30, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) was the subject of 15.1 percent of technology stories, followed by Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), which found itself at the center of 11.4 percent of the coverage of the tech-sector.

The two most buzzed-about social companies of the past year -- Twitter and Facebook -- took the Nos. 3 and 4 spots, respectively, garnering 7.1 percent and 4.8 percent of the mainstream media attention among technology companies.

"Apple, with its flashy press events and often drawn out releases of new products, narrowly outpaced Google in total coverage," the authors wrote in their report.

"Microsoft, on the other hand, once the feared technology behemoth, fell far behind -- attracting just a fifth of the coverage of Apple and less than half that of Twitter."

The software giant was at the center of 3 percent of the 437 stories the Pew researchers analyzed. In compiling their study, the researchers looked at items from 52 general-interest news outlets across different media channels, including print, broadcast and online.

In contrast to the heavy interest that Pew identified on blogs and in conversations on Twitter, technology was only a sidelight in the mainstream media's reportage, accounting for just 1.6 percent of the overall coverage in the past year. That earned technology a ranking of 20 out of 26 topics the researchers identified.

The Pew study also unearthed what the authors described as a "double vision" in the themes of the mainstream media's coverage. On one hand, reporters spilled no shortage of ink extolling the virtues of technology, particularly the latest gadgets, for its promise to simplify life and save their users time. Pew identified 23 percent of the news stories it considered that ran along this line.

Then again, 18 percent of the stories the researchers analyzed focused on the perils of technology, ranging from coverage of security risks to the risks of distracted driving.

"Over the past year, messages about the promise of technology making life easier and awe about new gadgets have vied in the news with worries about privacy, child predators, shrinking attention spans and danger behind the wheel," the authors wrote.

Texting while driving, which has become the subject of a nationwide education campaign orchestrated by the Department of Transportation, generated more news coverage than any other single issue, accounting for nearly 10 percent of the technology stories in the publications Pew evaluated.

That's more than five times the coverage devoted to what were perhaps the two dominant technology policy stories of the past year: the Federal Communications Commission's national broadband plan and the raging debate over network neutrality.

Apple's launch of the iPhone 4, and the subsequent uproar over the device's antenna problems, was the second-most covered technology event in the mainstream media over the course of the study, followed closely by the unveiling of the iPad.

Kenneth Corbin is an associate editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.




Tags: Google, iPhone, iphone apps, Apple, technology


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