Joshua Benton at the Nieman Journalism Lab has been analysing the success – or as he believes the decline – of Rupert Murdoch’s iPad only US newspaper, the Daily, by monitoring tweets sent directly from the app.
This post is interesting, not only as an insight into possible problems at the Daily, but for some of the techniques and tools Benton uses for his analysis.
No one outside News Corp. and Apple has a reliable way of knowing how often people read the Daily. But there is one way in which the Daily’s app interacts with the public web — through Twitter sharing. On nearly every page in the app, there’s a sharing button in the top right that allows the reader to share a link to the story on Twitter or other social networks. (A few pages, like the table of contents and user-customized pages, aren’t sharable.)
Benton has used PostRank, a Canadian social media indexing service that analyses how individual web pages are shared through social media.
It’s easy to think of a tweet as just 140 characters, but there’s a lot of metadata around that little snippet of text: when it was tweeted, who tweeted it, how many followers she has, what date she joined Twitter, and more. Amidst all that data is information about where each tweet was generated. Did it come from Twitter’s web interface, or from the official Twitter BlackBerry app, or a third-party app like Echofon or TweetDeck? That’s in there.
And thanks to Twitter’s requirement that app developers register with its API to allow in-app tweeting, that means you can track every time someone tweets from within the Daily.
The data doesn’t look good for the Daily. Its activity on Twitter seems to match my own perceptions of how they’re doing — an early rush of excitement; a decline as people lost interest and the app struggled with technical problems; a plateau once the tech got sorted out; and then another decline once the app started charging users.