A study released on Monday by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism (PEJ) tracked 437 technology-oriented stories that appeared from June 1, 2009, to June 30, 2010, in the lead sections of 52 different mainstream news services. These included 11 newspapers, three cable and three network news channels, 12 websites and 10 radio programs.
Apple was the most frequently covered technology company, followed by Google, Twitter, and Facebook.
Microsoft, meanwhile, can barely get noticed by the mainstream press. It received about a fifth of the coverage received by Apple and less than half the coverage of Twitter.
It's perhaps not surprising that Apple received so much attention, giving that the survey period included the iPhone 3GS launch, the iPhone 4 launch, and iPad launch. What is surprising is the extent to which Apple is deemed to be more innovative than Google in these stories. The PEJ study says that 42% of Apple-related stories described the company as innovative or superior. Google was only half as likely to be characterized thus, despite its frequent publication of technical papers, its daily blogging about new products and features, its reputation for hiring the best and brightest, and its invention of influential technologies like MapReduce.
The fallout from the iPhone 4's antenna issues clearly had an impact however: 17% of stories about Apple suggested that its products fall short of the media hype.
Ironically, Apple only rarely communicates with the media, whereas Google publishes multiple blog posts every day. For all the talk about social media, which clearly has a lot of impact on the technology press, the mainstream press isn't all that influenced by blog posts.
According to the PEJ study, Twitter is where the action is when it comes to technology. Just 11% of the most blogged about stories were related to technology, compared to 51% of the most tweeted story links on Twitter.
The PEJ suggests that the mainstream media vacillates between gushing about gadgets and companies and warning the world away from technology risks. Social media practitioners meanwhile show more interest in discussing a wider array of topics and take a more positive view of new technologies.
During the study period, there were more pro-technology stories (23%) than anti-technology stories (18%). However, the single most common topic in mainstream coverage focused on the peril of texting while driving. Almost one out of every ten tech stories touched on this topic, five times more than the amount of coverage of U.S. broadband plans and six times more than the amount of coverage of net neutrality.
The second single-largest story topic was the launch of Apple's latest iPhones, the iPhone 3GS at the beginning of the study period and the iPhone 4 at the end of it. The launch of the iPad was also among the most covered stories.