Digg logo Muhammad Saleem at The Mu Life wrote an article last week claiming that social media is more effective at disseminating news than Google News.

Muhammad’s article, ‘Why Socially Driven News is Better’ used the news of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s resignation as an example of social media beating Google News to a major story.

Interesting argument, but it doesn’t stand up…

Essentially, Muhammed’s argument is that the story appeared on social media sites such as Digg, Netscape and Reddit before Google News picked it up (about 20 minutes later). Therefore he claims that social news is better, or at least faster.

But the article / methodology is wrong on a few points:

  • The screenshot for ‘Google News’ on MU Life is not in fact Google News! It shows the news results at the top of Google.com. Two things – 1) these links can’t be sorted by ‘Most Recent’, and 2) news results shown on Google.com are most likely determined by popularity, which is never going to happen within 20 minutes.
  • Digg and Netscape didn’t ‘break’ the Rumsfeld news — they were simply the first to link to the Associated Press story.
  • Also, Google’s news crawler - ‘newsbot’ – doesn’t visit news pages every second, so how so how can it possibly be as fast as humans? Newsbot typically visits several times an hour to look for new stories.

Heather Hopkins at Hitwise has looked at the behaviour of users on these sites – check out her comparison of Digg and Google News.

Her analysis of clickstream data from the two sites suggests that Digg is more about video and games site than news. For instance, Heather’s stats show that One More Level, a games site, accounted for 16.83% of upstream visits to Digg.com last week, and that Digg accounts for a smaller share of visits to news websites than The Register.

Meanwhile, Danny Sullivan has an interesting case study which compares traffic sent to SearchEngineWatch’s blog from Digg and Google News. In this case, Google News won.

Further Reading:
How much traffic can Digg or Google News drive to your site?