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Social media wrap: Glenn Beck, Jon Stewart, Rachel Maddow and the battle of TV's talking heads


In social media, it rarely matters whether you’re loved or hated. In the old theatrical adage, if you’re entertaining, it means “bums on seats.”
The Ticket gleaned this from a fascinating new social-media study that examined the leading eight “talking heads” on TV and their effect on users of social-media networks including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Digg.

Perhaps unsurprisingly in light of his recent rally on the steps of the Lincoln Monument, Fox News host Glenn Beck is by far the most liked -- and disliked -- of TV’s talking heads on social-media networks, ranking ahead of Jon Stewart ("The Daily Show"), Bill O’Reilly (Fox News) and Rachel Maddow (MSNBC) by a large margin. 

Beck consistently generated the highest volume of “chatter” across social networks, or a plurality at more than 50% of user comments on public forums. Stewart placed second in both volume of ...

... chatter and like/dislike votes at about 16/10%. Wolf Blitzer of CNN, meanwhile, fared last at about 1% of either.

Other talking heads featured in the study compiled by Alterian, a social-media marketing firm, were Keith Olbermann (MSNBC), Anderson Cooper (CNN), and Stephen Colbert (Comedy Central).


 (Chart credit: Alterian)


 (Chart credit: Alterian)

O’Reilly had the biggest swing from like-dislike, registering in fifth place for volume of comments about his work and seventh on the “like” scale, but jumping to third place on the “dislike” scale.

In terms of chatter generated by TV networks, Fox News (largely driven by Beck’s show), leads the pack, with MSNBC placing second followed by Comedy Central (largely driven by Stewart and Colbert) and CNN finishing fourth.

Before we get to the complicated methodology behind the statistical analysis, which was compiled in the three-month period ending with Beck’s rally and examined social-media comments from U.S.-based English-speaking users, we’d like to offer our own (relatively) unscientific conclusions from the data:

+ Love him or hate him, as social-media users clearly do, Beck is by far the most polarizing -- but more importantly entertaining -- of all the talking heads mentioned above. The more outlandish Beck’s theories, the more chatter and traffic he seems to generate. His D.C. rally is a case in point. On the day of his rally, he swamped his combined competition in traffic and chatter by more than a factor of ten (as the Ticket also noted, Beck and his rally partner Sarah Palin also lit up the newly launched Google RealTime search engine on that day).

+  We base the conclusion above on the “entertainment” factor of CNN anchors Cooper and Blitzer. CNN famously a few years back purged outlandish political demagogues from many of its shows, preferring to concentrate their programs on straight -- or at least semi-straight -- news gathering and presentation.  No matter what you choose to call Cooper or Blitzer, neither has the “wow-did-he-really-say-that?” factor that Beck possesses in spades. Stewart, also an entertainer, consistently ranked highly also.

+ We asked Alterian to run its analysis with and without the “spike” effect of Beck’s rally. This resulted in a slight drop in Beck’s average volume of chatter, but not a significant swing either way for his like/dislike ratio. 

+ The study didn’t take into account social-media chatter in relation to TV viewership. Beck and O’Reilly at Fox News are far ahead in viewership figures than both Cooper and Blitzer, for example, which undoubtedly affects the amount of chatter they generate on social networks. The study’s authors have pledged to examine this in more detail.

+ Interesting to note is the positive/negative aspects of the “like/dislike” factor. For one, it’s not broken down into “strongly like,” “like,” or “strongly dislike,” as users did not fill out a survey (this is key). The research is based on people’s public social-media posts, not their solicited answers. It’s a straight like or dislike choice that is automatically generated from a keyword search of users’ postings. Ah, we hear you say, what if a teenager in the modern parlance says something is “sick” -- is that a like or dislike? Which leads us into the methodology bit. 


 (Chart credit: Alterian)

[The number of searches here is skewed by Beck's rally in D.C. We asked Alterian to rerun the results discounting the effect of Beck's rally.]

Michael Fisher, a senior vice president at Alterian, says the data collected by his researchers on TV's talking heads indicated a “large volume of conversation,” a “weekly pattern of conversation” and conversation “primarily driven by Twitter and social networks."

As the data are harvested by a variety of computer programs from public comments on social networking sites, Fisher says the data are not therefore affected by concerns over how a particular survey question has been posed.  “It’s unsolicited feedback that describes consumer sentiment and commentator popularity; it absolutely shares and describes the nature of those conversations.  No one has been prompted, no one has said, ‘Fill out this survey.’”

Therefore, Fisher says, the data have no statistical margin for error (although it does not take into account multiple postings on the same subject from the same user or group of users, or the possibility of computer-generated “spamming” of notice boards, or the political leanings of the Facebook/Twitter audience in general, or the average age of respondents). 

Alterian has compiled similar social-media trending studies for the Super Bowl, soccer World Cup and the UK’s general election earlier this year and researches the effects of social-media usage in areas such as company branding and consumer loyalty.

In terms of user comments examined, Fisher says, “Anything private is out of bounds. If it is publicly available, we’re happy to share.” He says resources include Twitter, Facebook, newspaper and blog notice boards, Digg, Reddit, Delicious, YouTube and Flickr.

He says the data are broken down by a series of algorithms and language-processing tools by keywords, which are cross-referenced against a customizable dictionary of terms or topics.    

He says the analysts “sometimes look at conversation directly. If there is commentary that doesn’t quite make sense or isn’t abundantly clear, you need to manually go in there and take a look. Language and meaning evolve. We consistently refine our dictionary.”

On the “Beck effect,” Fisher says: “Results were incredibly favorable for him. His commentary is polarizing, resulting in a lot of positive and negative sentiment and more communication volume across different channels. Absolutely the one most people like or hate. He’s equalized.” 

On social media’s influence and effects in general, Fisher says: “Because consumers are involved in these social networks with groups of people, one person can have a significant influence in forming opinion. It exposes the power of these networks and the power of social communities.” 

-- Craig Howie

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Photo credits: Associated Press; Reuters; EPA; CNN; Fox News; MSNBC


Comments () | Archives (33)

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God Bless Glenn Beck!!!

Too bad there was no Most Sickening catagory. I am sure Olbermann would have won that one, hands down. He and Matthews spew spit when they talk and act like total retards. No wonder no one watches their crap. It is good comedy though, when there isn't anything else on.

God be with our Country and God be with it's real Leaders, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Sarah Palin!

Glenn Beck, love him or hate him is a force to be reckoned with. No other person in America could bring together 500,000 Americans, plus another 150,00 on Facebook Live stream, plus CSpan. Don't have the numbers on that yet.

I personally love his show and his message!

I know is a Libertarian and tries to stay out of politics, but he has influenced the November elections without a doubt. The House and the Senate are going to the Republicans in November, if you think otherwise you are delusional. A Tsunami is coming this November, fasten your seatbelt! The great Americans of this country are going to make history taking their government back from the Communist, Marxist, thieves that now occupy our White house. WE THE PEOPLE don't ever forget it!! God Bless

I'm confused as to the inclusion of Jon Steward. If he is left out the charts will look more balanced. He does seem like the odd man out...

lovin that WE are stirring the pot.... WE should have done this a LONG time ago!!!


And the the meaning and import of this whole article is ????? I doubt that most people who respond to these pages even watch or listen to these programs. Though I can't stand Olberman's invective and hate and can't stomach him for more than 5 minutes, I often respond to what the written word says about him or his views. He's a clown spreading light, not heat, what a joke. All of this means noting in the real world of seemingly endless unemployment and real social problems in this country.

Fun article to read, but could you imagine is LAT did a report like this vetting candidates (D, I and R) or reporting on the state of the economy or California's economy.

Yes, I can't either. Don't expect this type of coverage on important issues.

MSNBC, CBS, WaPO and the rest of the ‘tingle up the leg’ news agencies should thank GOD for Glen Beck. Without him, they would only have Palin to trash or (GOD forbid) report real news like FOX does.

Glenn Beck ROCKS! LOVE U GLENN BECK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Rachel Maddow WHO?!? Olberman who?!?!? Can ya hear the crickets?? HA! Liberal nut jobs is what they are. Glenn is for personal responsability, our freedom and faith in God. That is just SOOOO crazy. We love you Glenn, keep it up, you are a blessing to this world.

We love you Glenn! God bless you!

I'll 2ed that GOD BLESS GLENN BECK.. This Man was sent by God to wake up God's America. Glenn Beck for President of the United States of America.... People need to get back to Church get on their knees and have a talk with God EVERY DAY. Let's bring our Nation back from the brink of hell.

Beck is much better unscripted on the Radio with Stu. His tv show is boring.

I have no feelings of 'love' or 'hate' toward the man personally, but he's a pretty funny radio guy, and I had high hopes for his TV show. It was a little disappointing for me--but looking at his ratings, I guess I'm in the minority here.

I sure am not in that huge group that hates him, but I must agree that he's their most effective adversary!

'If you aren't taking flak, you aren't over the target'
--George H.W. Bush

I don't care what your charts say about Glenn Beck, he tells it the way it is.

Yes indeed! I believe that Glenn is divinely inspired and that he is the only one out there giving us a well-researched truth.

If you are inclined to reply to this post negatively, I ask you first, "Have you ever actually listened to either his radio or tv show?". If your answer is "No." or if you get your information from news stories or blogs, then save your uninformed hatred. Don't blindly follow what the media throws at you.

If your answer is "No." then I challenge you to watch or listen for 5 days. You may be VERY surprised. Do your own research and then formulate your opinion.

I do believe you have them "running scared"...good job Mr. Beck and God Bless you!

One man, so full of distasteful hate should be banned from the air. MSNBC should FIRE Ed Shultz. Somebody please hit his HOT BUTTON and get him
off the network.

Well the PRO-Beck peoples need to get on the horn and start making more positive comments in cyber-space to combat the mental cancer being spewed so that the love-to-hate ratio appears more favorable eh?

The usefulness of these "social media" studies is great! It so clearly shows the hatred that exudes from the Liberals, Left and Uberleft camps. What you didn't mention was the anti-semitism of those that show "dislike" it for yourselves on the HUFFpo, DailyKos, Slate, Atrios, Echton, La Times, NY Times, New Yorker rag, the Atlantic is most vitriolic than most, to name such a very, very, minuscule of these participants in hate.

Whoa, almost twice as many posts for most hated. Whats with all the hate?

Thank you for all the feedback on our analysis. If you'd like to see the complete report we've listed it below.

Jim Reynolds

This must be wrong - Glenn Beck the most hated?? The left doesn't hate. Only the right hates.

I'm so amused at how completely insignificant Keith Olbermann reflected by his amazing ratings...

I simply love the fact that the sum of Most Loved + Most Hated = >100%

The truth deserves the biggest voice, but it rarely gets it.

Glenn always says its about one's 'Content of Character'. How could anyone disagree? Glenn's foes have no footing in anything real, so they are destined to fall.

My Father always said they fail because, "The argumentative defense of any proposition is inversely proportional to the truth contained."

This is one for the 'Good Guys'.
Thanks Glen! Thanks America!

Swiss -

This backs up my theory that most liberals get their news from comedy central.

The funny thing about Beck is that if you watch long enough, whether or not you agree with his conclusions, you can find yourself walking away from a show thinking "I really need to read more about Woodrow Wilson"...

Beck makes you think and as a result, people talk about it.

I wish I could see how Beck goes up against Limbaugh, but Limbaugh isn't a talking head -- he is just talking.

finally, good people are starting to stir, but not soon enough for me. Would really like to give a one-way ticket to anywhere but here,
to a select group of Democratic undesirables now in Washington, and escort them to a leaky boat. Peacefully l would hope, but forcefully if necessary.

Who cares about twitter? Glenn Beck rocks! Love him or hate him he provides information no one else will...

Glenn Beck is a man in his own class equal to none. KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK giving us Historical accounts and those truths of today. NO ONE ELSE does so much for US, and we greatfully appreciate it!

The Republican ship of state is in danger. With the new captain, Rush Windbag trying to force the ship to sail backward, and his lieutenants, Beck and Palen throwing black Republicans and Muslim Republicans overboard as fast as they can, and that orange guy and Mitch the turtle forcing moderate Republicans off the ship, the crew is shrinking fast. With the Koch Brothers tea party, getting sincere but deluded people to vote for radical Republicans, the crew waiting on the dock is pretty scary. With radicals like Sharon Engel, Rand Paul and Joe Miller, waiting to come on board and chop down the masts, burn the sails and chop oar holes in the bottom of the boat, and move all of ballast as far to the right is they can get it, it's obvious to me that the ship is headed for the bottom. Maybe that's a good thing. We can replace the ( just say no) Republican Party with an independent party that's not controlled by big business and the banks and cares about what happens to the regular people in this country.

The reality is that neither political party is demonstrating any ability to tackle the most difficult issues facing the US. As the debt loads get higher and higher, the Federal Reserve will no longer be able to float the dollar's value into something worth exchanging for real goods and services. A third and most likely forth political parties are needed to upset the loss of ideas and corrupt practices. The TEA party is not just a Republican plot, most of us couldn't stand clueless George Bush any more than President Obozo. The subjugation of America to it's debt is racing breakneck into the future. That is the truth that few want to discuss because it is far too frightening a scenario.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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