In recent weeks much has been discussed of the speed with which social media provide information relative to mainstream media. In the case of the plane landing on the Hudson River, the incessant stream of eyewitness accounts of turmoil in Iran, and the sudden death of Michael Jackson, it has been evident social media speedily dispatch data while mainstream outlets are still processing gathered information.
But it's not as clear-cut as social-media-fast, mainstream-slow --- nor of social-media-breaks, mainstream-follows.
A new study from Cornell University, based not on anecdotal support but a computer analysis of information flow, indicates mainstream media were ahead of the bloggers in the recent U.S. presidential campaign's final months.
The gap: About 2.5 hours.
As for the notion that the blogosphere originates stories that mainstream then adopts, the study found that only 3.5 per cent of stories started in social media.
Now, a fair amount has changed with the rampant growth of Twitter. But the study is a good step toward a greater understanding of the news cycle. The researchers have opened their work at memetracker.org.