By: Joe O’Hern, Ben Richardson and Jacob Rosenberg
Twenty-four seven cable news has become a staple of the American Political scene. Americans no longer have to wait for the morning paper or the evening news. Americans are able to tune into these twenty four hour news stations and get up to date information on the world around them. Many of these cable news networks, such as FOX, CNN and MSNBC, have gone beyond just providing news coverage but also special programming where listeners can tune into their favorite commentator. Many of these networks most popular shows are their commentator’s daily segments. These segments are given prime time and bring in huge numbers of listeners. One of these very popular commentators is Glenn Beck on the Fox News network. Glenn Beck is a leading voice for right-wing conservative talk shows both on TV and on the radio. It seems sometimes that Glenn Beck is in the news more than he is commenting on it. His antics and sometimes controversial statements have earned him notoriety and a very large viewership. With more than 6 and half million radio listeners and more viewers than all the viewers for the other competing news networks similar time slot, Glenn Beck has become one of the most popular and talked about news pundits to date (Bythenumbers.com-see below). Posted below is a video clip of a typical Glenn Beck episode on Fox News.
Given Glenn Beck’s popularity and almost constant presence in the news, we wanted to see what the Twitter community had to say about Glenn Beck over the course of a week. We were more specifically interested in what people were ‘retweeting’ about Mr. Beck and what kind of URLs or links they were putting in their messages. We began recording twitter messages about Glenn Beck on October 5th. We used the program Archivist to record our messages off of Twitter, which was provided to us by the University of Iowa Library. We used the search parameters, ‘Glenn Beck,’ which tells archivist only to record messages with that phrase in them. On our first search we recorded the maximum 1500 messages, with the first message dating back to October the 4th. We stopped recording twitter messages on October 9th because we had already recorded 9,852 messages. There seems to be a pretty constant stream of messages about Glenn Beck that will spike based on the events of the day. An example of this that we observed was when the music group ‘Muse’ stated publicly that they did not want Glenn Beck playing or supporting their music on his show, which he had done previously. This caused the twitter messages about Glenn Beck to spike above there normal levels on the 4th and 5th of October.
Out of our 9,852 recorded twitter messages; 4,285 or 43% of them had URLs, 3,639 or 37% of them refered to other users with an at sign, 3,378 or 34% of them were retweets and 1,764 or 18% of them had hash tags sending the message to a particular twitter user, most likely a news source. The graph below displays this break down. The primary focus of our research was the content and any disernable patterns of the retweets and URLs.
Out of the 9,852 messages we recorded about Glenn Beck 39 percent of them were ‘retweets.’ Since we had such a large number of retweets we took a sample of the retweeted messages. We sampled 337 of them by looking at every ten retweeted messages. Among the retweets, however, there were no consistently retweeted messages. No single message broke 2 percent of the messages retweeted. The retweeting seemed to be focused more on the posting of random messages the individual users thought were amusing or informative. There did not appear to be any one single message that was trying to be conveyed by a large number of twitter users. The most common retweet we discovered, at 77 retweets, was the message,” Glenn Beck: "I love Muse!" Muse: "Please stop loving us." This message was started by twitter user ‘hproscksoff’ and was generally seen as amusing by the twitter users that reposted it. While we did not discover any discernable pattern from the retweeted messages, it is most likely that had their been a bigger incident during the week, more than a music group having a quarrel with Glenn Beck, there would have been more consistently retweeted messages either in support or protest of the incident.
We also wanted to look at the types of URLs or links users were putting in their messages. Out of our recorded tweets, 43 percent of them had links sending readers off to other websites. We were able to discern a better pattern from the URLs then the retweets. While there was a slightly better consistency to the URLs then the retweets, it was still relatively inconsistent. This was most likely due to the fact again that there was no single major incident involving Glenn Beck during the week we were recording, but several small incidents.Posted below is a graph showing the break down of the most consistently posted URLs in our recorded twitter messages.
Out of the URLs we were able to pick out, however, the biggest one of them was about the music group Muse and them publicly asking Glenn Beck to retract his support for their group. These messages comprised 11.5% of our recorded URL messages. These URLs linked out to several different news stories but the most common one used is posted below.
The second largest group was URLs linking out to stories about advertisers boycotting or pulling themselves off of Fox News and Glenn Beck’s TV and radio show because of a comment he made claiming that President Obama was racist. These messages comprised 11% of our URL messages. The most popular news story linked is posted below.
The third largest group was URLs about the audio book release of Glenn Beck’s latest book, Arguing with Idiots. These messages mostly linked to the same place where readers could purchase and listen to a sample of the book. These comprised 6% of our messages with URLs in them.
The fourth largest group we found was messages about Stephen Colbert mocking Glenn Beck. These messages linked out to the video of Stephen Colbert mocking Glenn Beck on his show. These messages comprised 5% of our recorded URL messages. The video is posted below.
Overall, Glenn Beck is a popular topic for twitter users to discuss and post about. His stream of messages seems to be constant and had we had any larger events or incidents during the week we were recording messages we would have most likely seen even more messages and even greater consistency among the retweets and URLs.
Linked Below is a URL to an excel spreadsheet of our recorded twitter mesages and the xml flile of our originally recorded messages.
Seidman, Robert. "Big Beck: Goes over 3 million viewers, beats O'Reilley in Demo; Cable News Ratings." http://tvbythenumbers.com/2009/08/27/big-beck-goes-over-3-million-viewers-beats-oreilly-in-demo-cable-news-ratings-for-wednesday-august-26-2009/25541. Posted 27 August, 2009.