Rippla: Tracking Media Impact Online

16 May 2012

Written by: Steinar Ellingsen

Rippla is a website created by political blogger and journalist, Sunny Hundal, which lists news articles according to how many times they have been shared across various social media sites. These hits are referred to as ‘Ripples’ and include tweets, facebook shares, and reddit ‘upvotes’ on submissions, as well as popularity on other sites.

Perhaps the most significant aspect of the site is its Widget, Ripple Tracker, which allows anyone to enter an article URL and see its spread through the aforementioned social media sites.  Obtaining this information could be vital for media outlets to gauge their performance in penetrating global online markets through sites like twitter, particularly when users are turning away from news home pages to obtain their information.

BBC blogger, Gareth Owen, wrote that less than half of the BBC website’s 8 million visitors per day link to articles through the site’s front page. In addition, the number of Facebook links to BBC News stories has increased by over 14-fold since 2008.

The increased role of social media in spreading news is undeniable, and will likely only grow in the future. Therefore it is important that media outlets, and hence journalists everywhere, know what kind of stories are being shared online. People today are spoilt from choice when it comes to the media they consume, so it will become increasingly important to monitor how and why readers choose certain stories.

One of Rippla’s stated aims is to ‘re-define news consumption so people can choose to consume content based on what their peers are reading, rather than by what website editors think they should read or watch.‘

This vision of peer-based consumption in the future sounds plausible, considering recent trends, although there will always be a place for the homepage of a news website.

It could be argued that Rippla merely provides a trumped up (if more useful) way to track twitter trends, of which there are already several simple ways to do so. However, the unique use for media outlets in tracking their own stories directly through Rippla is still valuable.

While a poor circulation through Facebook and Twitter does not provide answers to the problem, it at least raises questions of news organisations in regards to what topics are being covered, as well as their quality or accessibility of writing. These problems could even be applied to marketing techniques or the functionality of site interfaces.

While Rippla is still in a beta stage, and has a basic site layout, it provides information that could alter the way in which media outlets operate. A flashier clone may appear in the future and take its place, but the fact remains that tracking social media penetration could shape the content, site layout, and writing style of online publications around the world.

As revenue from print media diminishes and online revenue becomes more and more important to traditional publications, Rippla might just be the tool that helps them stay relevant.

Tim Viney is a Master of Global Communications student at La Trobe University.