Google, Facebook and New Zealand News Media: The Problem of Platform Dependency

Myllylahti, M
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Commissioned Report
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Auckland University of Technology

About the data in this report: This report utilises data from two analytics companies: SimilarWeb and BirdSong Analytics. The findings of the report are dependent on the quality and accuracy of the data offered by these companies. This method was chosen because there is no publicly available data about news companies’ distribution and engagement on Facebook; news companies do not report details about their website traffic numbers or sources of their traffic. The author of the report believes that the lack of transparency in this information is hindering our understanding of the relations between news companies and platforms. Without news companies’ participation it is therefore in the public interest to utilise other data sources which are available for this kind of research. The downside of using third party data is the researcher does not have control over data collection and what is included in raw data sets. However, manually collecting this data, while possible, would be an onerous task and best suited to the bots created by analytic companies.

General data about Facebook news consumption etc. was gathered from multiple sources such as government and corporate documents as well as industry reports and news articles.

Website traffic data was sourced from the publicly available data of website traffic analytics company SimilarWeb. Of the freely accessible data some information, such as visits from social media to websites, were only available for a limited time period (3-6 months), and therefore long-term analysis was not possible. Also, SimilarWeb data does not cover all New Zealand media companies, for example it does not offer traffic related data for Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

The data concerning news companies’ social media postings, content and engagement was sourced from the social media analytics company BirdSong Analytics. As the company’s data and analysis are paid services, data sets were bought for five companies and their news sites, including NZME (news publisher), Stuff (news publisher), RNZ (public radio broadcaster), The Spinoff (digital media outlet) and TVNZ (state-owned commercial television broadcaster).

Auckland: The Policy Observatory. Retrieved from
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This paper is covered by the Creative Commons Attribution License 4.0 International: When reproducing any part of this report – including tables and graphs – full attribution must be given to the report author.