Never before have so many tools been available to analyze and clarify digital influence. The 2009 Digital Influence in News and Politics Report leverages these tools to measure the influence of those best-in-class media companies in the digital sphere.

Sparxoo evaluated over 100 news and politics media outlets (from the New York Times to the Daily Beast to NPR) in a comprehensive study of content, social and multimedia influence.

The Report crowns CNN as the #1 digital influencer, followed by The New York Times (a pleasant surprise for “The Gray Lady”). The Digital Influencer in News and Politics Report confirms and debunks many of the long-held media myths perpetuated by marketers, brand managers and other business leaders. It is through these findings that we can re-align the media compass to find tomorrow’s true north.

1. CNN
Firestarter of the 24-hour news cycle, CNN has translated their energy to the web. CNN has high marks across the board–ranking number one in content influence, social influence and overall. The only news outlet to have a pagerank of 10/10, CNN draws much strength from search and backlinks. CNN uses the digital trickle down effect–where pagerank leads to search referrals, which leads to backlinks and sharing and the cycle continues.

2. The New York Times
Thought of as an aging titan, The New York Times is a leading digital influencer in news and politics. Fusing quality and quantity, The New York Times’ content spreads like wildfire across social media and content aggregators. Though The Times’ Twitter following surpasses 1.8 million, they are still thought of as behind the curve, when in actuality, they are 141 miles ahead of it. Truth be told: don’t believe everything you hear.

3. Fox News
Where is Fox most competitive? The right-leaning news network leans towards audio–weighing in at number three. Personality, Bill O’Reilly, makes the iTune’s top 25 news and politics podcast list with his show, Talking Points. Fox adds a curve ball to the ratings by scoring number one in Apple apps. Though the right-wing outlet doesn’t have a break-away app, they do have many local affiliates that dominate the top iTunes 100 apps. To crack the top 2, Fox will have to improve on Twitter and YouTube.

4. NPR
For NPR, community-supported means both on-air and online. The nonprofit is not only supported by donations, it’s fueled by fans… Facebook fans that is. NPR outpaces even the New York Times on Facebook, with the most fans of any major media outlet. Why is the nonprofit profiting from social media buzz? It might have to do with their unique, content rich site, coupled with customized playlists and actively listening to its community. NPR is the intersection of quality and digital savvy.

5. CBS News
CBS excels in multimedia while barely making the cut in other categories. CBS takes the golden cup when it comes to YouTube. CBS is a leader on YouTube, with 143k channel subscriptions and far outpaces everyone in video views. Such an asset might prove valuable as online video advertising increases in popularity.

6. BBC
BBC is a hit or miss in the several categories of influence. The British news and entertainment company is hot on CBS’ trail in YouTube influence–with only 10k less subscribers. BBC is perched at number one in RSS subscriptions with 2.8 million subscriptions–400k more than CNN or almost three times the total number of TIME subscribers. The BBC, with global influence, is not surprisingly the go-to source for news via RSS.

7. MSNBC
Look out NPR, MSNBC is hot on your trail. MSNBC appears four times on the iTunes top 25 podcast list, with Rachel Maddow in fourth and 12th. Curiously, MSNBC outpaces the New York Times in unique visits. MSNBC is awarded a bronze with nearly 40 million unique users, nearly double the New York Times.

8. The Huffington Post
Though the New York Times might be the prince of Digg, the Huffington Post is its reigning king. Overall, The Huffington Post–a completely digital news company–places number three in social influence. The company takes a rapid-fire approach to reporting. For die-hard news junkies, The Huffington Post is the source for the juiciest news and political digs.

9. ABC News
How many different podcast channels would you expect from a television giant like ABC? Maybe 30 or 40 max? Try 57 different podcast channels. Overall, ABC does well on multimedia–striking in the high range. ABC makes it into the top 10 list for YouTube subscriptions and views and podcasts. Surprisingly, ABC does better on Digg and Twitter than Facebook. We’d imagine the entertainment company could leverage Facebook to deepen existing relationships and acquire new viewers.

10. LA Times
When you think of the LA Times, does app come to mind? Surprisingly, The LA Times places four in the Apple app store. Other than apps, The LA Times does well on content influence, just missing the top 10 RSS subscribers and backlinks. The LA Times social influence is all over the place, however–excelling on Digg (number 10) while missing the ball completely with Facebook (number 32). LA Times may owe Michael Jackson for its presence in the top 10.

11. TIME
When you think of TIME, do you think Twitter or Digg? Social influence is a large contributor to TIME Inc.’s position as the most influential magazine. TIME excels in social media, placing number three in Twitter with 1.5 million followers and comes in at number five on our Digg charts, with 378k diggs in the past year. TIME is by far a leader in the magazine category.

12. Google News
Despite not having a stable of news reporters and journalists, Google News manages to score well through its aggregation strategy. Google’s sizable cult following of users are eager for the next innovation. With the Google OS revving up, expect it to further harness YouTube within the next year.

13. USA Today
USA Today brings into question the correlation between pagerank and backlinks. It’s curious–the media heavy weight has a pagerank of five but places seventh in backlinks with 31k. USA Today performs even better in the RSS subscription category–placing sixth with 763k subscribers. It is surprising how the major media player doesn’t perform better on Twitter. USA Today is in 20th place with 27k Twitter followers.

14. The Wall Street Journal
Thinking of the WSJ, extensive, in-depth coverage of global business markets comes to mind, but usually in the written word. That image will likely change if the WSJ keeps a steady course towards video. The WSJ breaks into the top 10 YouTube views, closely followed by ABC News and Fox News. Interviews with high-profile industry leaders, such as Steve Jobs, Bill Gates and Martha Stewart, the WSJ will continue it’s influence in the multimedia category.

15. The Washington Post
If you added the links going to The New York Times, ABC News and CBS News, it would still not be enough to beat The Washington Post. In total, the Washington Post has 40k backlinks, making it to number four on our list. Overall, The Washington Post does slightly above average in content and social influence, but has a weak multimedia arm. Surprisingly, The Washington Post just breaks in the top ten most frequently “dugg” sources.

16. Yahoo! News
Watch out CNN, Yahoo is hot on your trail. Yahoo News places fourth, while CNN takes third place in the Digg category with almost 400k diggs. As for a loyal following, Yahoo is struggling to gain Twitter followers and Facebook fans for its Yahoo News property. It’s surprising for such a large news organization to fall so far behind the pack on Twitter.

17. Chicago Tribune
In the past year, there have been a couple blockbuster stories sourced from Chicago. First there was President Barack Obama, then disgraced governor, Rod Blagojevich, tried to sell his senate seat. Both news sensations might have contributed to the Chicago Tribune’s website traffic. The Chicago Tribune placed seventh in web traffic–surpassing NPR, ABC News, CBS News and BBC News. The question is: can their success be replicated next year?

18. PBS
One of the few successful non-profits in the mainstream media, PBS wields tremendous influence. While NPR does podcasting well, PBS emphasizes video and audio–particularly on YouTube. PBS comes in number four in YouTube subscriptions and views with 29k and 927k respectively.

19. The Economist
Just ahead of Newsweek, The Economist is surprisingly competitive in the social category. The Economist does very well on Facebook (placing sixth) and breaks into the top 10 most backlinked sites. In fact, the Economist more fans than CNN, MSNBC, the BBC and the Huffington Post combined, with 158k.

20. Newsweek
Newsweek is vying with the Economist to be the 2nd most influential magazine, with TIME taking the number one spot. Newsweek’s strong suit is social media. The magazine has a prominent position among Twitter heavy weights, such as CNN, The New York Times and NPR. Newsweek ranks number six with 761k followers.

21. The Daily Kos
Not only does the Daily Kos place 10th in RSS subscription category, they also take third in backlinks. The Daily Kos draws much of their social influence from Digg–placing seventh among all other digital media. Incredible for a blog started only seven years ago.

22. NBC News
Coming in a distant last place among TV peers, NBC does audio very well. NBC pushes past ABC News, The New York Times, CBS News and even the BBC–ranking number five. NBC Nightly News and Meet the Press are the top-rated podcast channels on iTunes top 25 news & politics list.

23. Politico
Only two years out of the gate and Politico has over twice the backlinks of the New York Times. Though Politico performs poorly in social influence, it’s to be expected–as they cater to a specific demographic. Digg is the exception, however. Politico places 15th, “out-digging” USA Today, BBC News and CBS news. Unlike many blog-start-ups, Politico was born with running shoes.

24. The New Yorker
As we’ve seen with nearly every media outlet, Twitter followers typically outnumber Facebook fans. Why? It takes little effort to collect 400 Twitter followers versus Facebook fans. Facebook fans have a core passion for the brand–as there are only a few businesses fans let into their inner circle. We were surprised when we discovered the New Yorker had nearly twice as many Facebook fans as Twitter followers. The New Yorker has 55k Facebook fans.

25. The Drudge Report

The Drudge Report is the epitome of bare bones blogging. The good: 38k links back to its site. The bad: minimal dabbling with YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Podcasts, and Apps, leaves us waiting for a runaway success. It’s time for the 13 year old Drudge Report to increase its social and multimedia bets.

Read the full Digital Influence Report (PDF)

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