Methods and limitations

From March 23 to May 14, 2010, Community Media Workshop reached out to more than 500 people and organizations that publish news online or participated in the 2009 Journalism Town Hall. Of those contacted, 121 sites participated in the second annual survey to learn more about the Chicagoland’s online news ecosystem. The NEW News 2010 report details the survey’s findings. The report also provides an overall listing of 146 news sites and blogs, which includes the survey participants and news sites featured in The NEW News 2009. The Workshop collected responses using the web surveying tool SurveyMonkey.

Conducting a survey of this type is challenging and a review of the data should keep these limitations in mind.

  • For many questions, sites could choose more than one response, so percentages do not add up to 100.
  • Not all participants answered all questions.
  • Some news site publishers do not post contact information on their sites, making it difficult to invite their participation.
  • Other online news publishers (most frequently, but not always, in the traditional/legacy news category) did not respond to follow-up, may not have been made aware of the survey or chose not to participate.
  • Finally, the online news ecosystem is ever-changing: small sites come and go, especially as people and organizations experiment with new ways to create and share the news.

Last year, drawing on our experience garnered over two decades of compiling lists of Chicago-area news outlets and personnel for the annual Getting On Air, Online, & Into Print news media directory, we ranked 60 niche sites in The NEW News 2009 listings. We devised a six-point algorithm that looked at transparency of site sponsorship, how much original local news content a site used, and we included commercially available and self-reported web traffic statistics. We excluded larger traditional or legacy media sites whose unique visitor numbers would dwarf the newer sites we were trying to highlight. (Overall, we discovered almost 200 online news sites, blogs or e-newsletters serving the Chicago region. Some 90 of these responded to our 2009 survey and their rankings can be found online at: www.communitymediaworkshop.org/newnews.)

This year, we decided not to rank sites for this second annual listing of The NEW News sites and instead list in alpha order all online news and blog sites big and small covering the Chicagoland area who either participated in the survey or had been identified as online news sites in the 2009 report.

We used data from Compete.com to derive some aggregate traffic statistics for May 2010 and, not surprisingly, found traditional or legacy news sites dominating the numbers (six out of eight million unique visitors to 146 sites). Some of the more interesting sites ranked last year did not show up in this year’s aggregate traffic numbers. But as we discovered last year, the traffic to many other smaller niche news sites is not picked up by commercial tracking services. Compete.com’s numbers are estimates and may or may not mirror a site’s own analytics data. For smaller sites in particular, Compete.com acknowledges its data represents an estimate only. Also, Compete.com cannot always separate out Chicago-editions for sites with multiple local editions. Those sites have been excluded from the total counts.

Compete.com is a commercial service that publishes website traffic estimates based on a variety of sources, including a panel of more than two million visitors who have agreed to allow their web usage to be measured. For more information about Compete.com’s methods, visit their website. http://www.compete.com/resources/methodology/

The Workshop restricted its use of Compete.com data to information we could obtain for free without creating an account. We hope in future reports to discover more reliable traffic indicators that will allow us to rank sites and to engage in some content analysis to measure what kind of information is being published.


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Community Media Workshop
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