Annenberg to fund social media research

The Norman Lear Center’s Media Impact Project received $3.25 million in grants Monday to fund a cutting-edge research study aimed at measuring the influence of social media and understanding the audience draw.

“People are analyzing their work by looking at counting page views, likes on Facebook, followers on twitter, retweets, etc. [and] trying to figure out if their film or their television show or their opinion piece or any kind of journalism actually made an impact,” said Adam Rogers, the Norman Lear Center’s project specialist. “Those measurements show how many people saw something or looked at something, but that’s not the same as the outcome or the impact. [What] we are doing is going to take this to the next level to actually look at the engagement and the impact statistics as well.”

The funds for this research, which come from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, will be distributed over the next two and a half years as specialists from different disciplines come together to contribute to the investigation.

These specialists include Professor of Industrial and Systems Engineering Carl Kesselman, Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism lecturer Dana Chinn and Norman Lear Center Managing Director and Director of Research Johanna Blakley.

“When we get these people together from across disciplines to really look at the issue of the media in a way that nobody has looked at it in the same way before,” Rogers said. “Hopefully we can get lots of students involved from across different disciplines of the entire university.”

Rogers said the Media Impact Project distinguishes Annenberg as an institution at the forefront of research on an international level.

“This particular project we are kind of setting up as the global hub for this type of metric analysis, and its really doing something that nobody else is doing well,” Rogers said.

Max Schwartz, a freshman majoring in broadcast and digital journalism, said this project will not only have a huge impact on the school as a whole, but the professional careers of its students.

“It sets [our school] apart because it allows us to go deeper than just content,” Schwartz said. “It allows us to see what the content leads to and the impact of the content, which is something that will make us. I think that, ultimately, that will be part of the future of our profession.”

Though the project is still in its early stages, Rogers said this only adds to the excitement for the possible opportunities for the students and the school.

“The first step will be identifying interested student workers who can come in and work on our social media and our engagement in helping indentify the types of projects that are out there to work with,” Rogers said. “Any students who have experience and want to gain experience in the type of statistical analysis that we are doing that is cutting edge that nobody else is doing. This will be an incredible opportunity for them to gain that experience.”

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