Forbes visualizes America’s most influential news outlets

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Forbes The Media Map

In an effort to catch up after my much-needed vacation in Brazil and some other priorities that took precedence over blogging last month, I recently came across Forbes’ “interactive media map” showing media outlet’s popularity across the U.S. I was intrigued to learn that they scraped data to determine whether or not a site was “influential” so I began digging around to learn more.

In a Forbes post about the site, programmer and ‘datanaut’ Jon Bruner wrote: “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.”

I wanted to learn how Jon conceptualized and built the site so I pinged him for details:

“The inspiration for the map came from a series of conversations with Hilary and Anna at Bitly. They’ve got a terrific data science team that works with Bitly’s huge data set, which basically consists of every Bitly link and the clicks that go through them. We had a few phone calls and collaboratively developed the general map concept.

I built the map with JavaScript. The state outlines are an SVG file, which I manipulate with jQuery. That technique is fast, easy to implement, and very flexible. The drawback is that the map won’t render on browsers that can’t handle SVGs, and that includes every Internet Explorer version through 8. So this map isn’t a model of cross-browser compatibility, which is mostly a result of the short timeline on which I developed it. A better solution is to use a cross-browser library like Raphael, which I’ve used elsewhere.”

Jon said it took roughly three days to build the map and that he is aiming to publish an updated map in the near future to “expose more data and be clearer about what Bitly’s data measures” are, as well as add another dimension to the map where a user can click on a state to see the media landscape rather than solely being able to click on the news source.

I’ve read a couple of comments across several sites regarding the map, and while I agree that The Onion is a bit odd amongst the rest, I don’t have a problem with them tagging the map as “most influential” despite it only being links since it clearly states that in the byline. Yes, influential could have nothing to do with popularity of bitly clicks, but it’s better than all of those “most powerful people” lists that we never have any idea who put it together or what indicators were used to determine rank. What are your thoughts on the map?

HT: FlowingData

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