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Nieman Journalism Lab
Pushing to the future of journalism — A project of the Nieman Foundation at Harvard

Bitly’s business is shortening links, which means they have a lot of data about who is sharing what stories, where. Today, they published an interactive Real-Time Media Map that helps visualize that information.

Splitting 40 media outlets into four traditional categories — radio/TV, online only, newspapers, and magazines — they attempted to “visualize disproportionate traffic rather than raw traffic count” across all 50 states. You can choose to view either which states are most disproportionately sharing links to one source, or you can watch blinking dots dart around the map as people share stories in real time. (There’s also a side bar that shows which stories from a source are currently driving traffic.)

If you’re interested in how Bitly Labs made the map, their blog post goes into some basic details, but I was curious about how exactly they went about visualizing disproportionate interest. Here’s Brian Eoff, their lead scientist:

It might be best explained through a hypothetical example. Let’s say that Al Jazeera gets 1% of all traffic in the US and USA Today gets 10% of all traffic in the US. If Al Jazeera then gets 2% of traffic in Wyoming and USA Today gets 11% of the traffic in Wyoming, Al Jazeera would be ranked above USA Today for that state because Al Jazeera has the higher disproportionate amount of traffic compared to the rest of the country. (Al Jazeera has a 100% increase versus USA Today which only has a 10% increase.)

Our goal was to show which states have a preference towards certain media properties compared to the rest of the country, not which media properties are the most popular (which would unfairly bias the results to media sources who heavily use our service (NYTimes, HuffPo, etc.).

— Caroline O'Donovan
                                   
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