August’s look at articles in the New Media Index produced an eight-month low in female bylines and one of the lowest percentages of female sources. Time will tell whether these numbers are related to a change in the methodology for determining the top five most discussed and linked to articles on the web.
Here at The Gender Report, we’ve been monitoring the web’s top articles based on links provided in the Project for Excellence in Journalism‘s weekly New Media Index roundups since January. These posts chronicle the top five news stories and opinion pieces around the web in a Monday to Friday week based on commentary on blogs and social media sites. We’ve chosen to focus on the top five in the blogosphere.
Aug. 1 marked some changes to the New Media Index report. PEJ updated its methodology to use more sites to track the top stories and began using a larger sample size and range of sources. (Read more about those change and the process here.)
For the purpose of our study, this has meant changes in the sources of links. During the first seven months of the year, the majority of links provided mostly came from the LA Times, Washington Post and in less frequency the BBC, and were mostly news articles with some opinion pieces (in other words, almost exclusively traditional media sources). This month we’ve noticed more diversity in the link sources, including from blogs and company’s direct postings.
When more than one link was provided on the topic, we’ve monitored the first mentioned or the one that appears based on the writing to be more dominant, unless it is mentioned that two articles shared the attention for that particular subject. This happened in higher volumes this month, resulting in a larger sample of articles overall.
In July, we released our findings from the first six months of monitoring. In that time, women were 20.2 percent of sources and had 31.3 percent of bylines (of articles by a person or several of one gender or the other, not including shared bylines between a woman and a man).
Here’s what we found specifically in the past month:
Between Aug. 1 and Sept. 2, the New Media Index included 33 articles that could be checked. Reoccurring topics included the 2012 presidential campaign and the new iPhone — both appeared in the top five in four out of the five weeks. More than one link was included for nine topics. One link related to the iPhone in week four was no longer functioning and no link was provided for the No. 3 story of Google buying Motorola in week three.
Here’s what we found:
- Women were 14.1 percent of sources in this month’s articles. The articles contained 67 male sources and only 11 female sources. This is the second lowest female source total we’ve seen. The low thus far came in May with women at 13.3 percent.
- Most shockingly 18 out of the 33 linked to articles contained no human sources at all (though one or two did reference a company or an unnamed and unidentified official). Nearly all of those links were to posts or reviews as opposed to traditional news articles. In addition, eight articles featured only male sources.
- Only three articles or posts were written or produced by a woman while 27 articles were by men. That means women wrote only 10 percent of articles or posts by authors of one gender or the other. Two were uncredited and one was by staff. That percentage of female authors fell below our previous low of 11.1 percent in May.
We’ll be keeping an eye on these findings in the coming months to see if we deduce other trends emerging now that the methodology for the top five articles has changed. For past months’ findings as well as other statistics on gender and the online news, visit our findings and statistics page or view our six-month recap of all of our projects and studies here.