There is much potential in the newly announced MediaCloud project from ThomsonReuters and Harvard's Berkman Center for Media and Society. It will track the flow of online media.
Among other things, the tool will examine which stories are created by whom, what attracts attention, how user comments affect coverage, and how mainstream and blogosphere coverage differs and resembles. It will produce visual results that identify patterns in coverage and their origins.
Among its driving questions in the early going:
Do bloggers introduce storylines into mainstream media or the other way around?
What parts of the world are being covered or ignored by different media sources?
Where do stories begin?
How are competing terms for the same event used in different publications?
Can we characterize the overall mix of coverage for a given source?
How do patterns differ between local and national news coverage?
Can we track news cycles for specific issues?
Do online comments shape the news?
MediaCloud is still in a formative stage at the moment but is soliciting research ideas as it develops.