Statistically breaking down the Deseret News: BYU Football, November 2014

Deseret-News-CommentsHave you ever wondered who the top commenters on BYU discussion boards, are and if they vary from one publication to the next? Would you like to know how often articles are written about BYU football and which articles get the most traction? How about how you stack up against other posters on the discussion boards? Yeah, well me too… so I decided to do some digging.

How Newspapers make money

Newspapers generate revenue through print subscriptions and home delivery, news stands, print advertisements, classified ads, and through digital advertising. While most newspaper money is made selling advertising space to local and national advertisers the lion’s share of revenue is coming from print advertising with digital ads making very little. So to compensate for that newspapers often make their online versions somewhat gimmicky so readers will click on ads or be exposed to more ads (annoyed by the 30 click through posts on DNews?… yeah, me too). Even with these tricks online publications typically make very little money.

User comments show that readers are engaged (spending time on the website) so it stands to reason that publishers would want to encourage commenting on each article and the articles with the most comments are likely driving the most traffic to the site and generating the most revenue for the publisher. So which articles get the most comments? Who is doing the commenting?

Analyzing one month of Deseret News data

I decided to go one publication at a time to get some answers to my questions. I started with the Deseret News because they are the semi-official newspaper for BYU (the paper is owned by the LDS church just like the university is). I planned on looking at all the posts for the entire football season but quickly learned I was in over my head. If I get enough requests I may go back and look at more of the archives, but just sifting through the month of November took way more time than it is worth for doing simple research. I did, however, look at every article about BYU football published by the Deseret News for the month of November. In total there were 80 articles written by 15 different authors. In those articles there were a total of 1490 user comments (or an average of 18.6 comments per article). I am not privy to the analytics for Deseret News, but judging by the number of user comments the top five posts for November were:

  1. Outwardly lobbying Big 12 by Mendenhall is right on Track – Dick Harmon, November 17 (143 comments)
  2. BYU to play Missouri of SEC next season and face Tigers in Provo in 2020 – Jeff Call, November 13 (137 comments)
  3. BYU’s Hill plans to return for senior season – Jeff Call, November 19 (116 comments)
  4. BYU offense and defense make crucial plays to earn 42-35 victory at Cal – Jeff Call, November 29 (110 comments)
  5. Every player on BYU’s roster will continue bowl tradition of 10 straight – Dick Harmon, November 15 (71 comments)

One of the benefits of going through a month of data is that it is a nice way of reflecting on the state of the program.

So what do we learn about the state of BYU football?

It is telling that four of the top five articles for the month are related to the future of BYU football, not the current state of the program. Readers have obviously moved on from the disappointment of this season and are eagerly anticipating what lays in store for BYU football. We want Hill back, we want to schedule quality programs (especially in LES), and we want to fast forward to high quality match-ups (like Cal, the bowl game, and next season).

Who is commenting about BYU football?

Without doing the analysis I guessed that the top poster would be Chris B (with all his aliases) and the top ten would be split with half being anti-BYU trolls and the other half die-hard BYU fans. I was wrong on both accounts. I tallied up how many comments each user made and the findings might surprise you. Previously prolific (or at least regular) posters like Ernest T. Bass, Brave Sir Robin, Aggie238, Howard S., MiP, Duckhunter, CougFanInTX, and poyman all had less than five posts each during the month of November. All five of the top five posters on BYU football articles are alleged University of Utah “fans” (anti-BYU trolls).

Top 10 posters on DeseretNews articles (BYU football only)

10. Ken and Sanefan (11)
9. 81Ute (12)
8. souptwins (14)
7. wer (15)
6. Taysom4Heisman (16)
5. VegasUte (27)
4. gdog3finally (30)
3. Uteology (30)
2. Chris B (51), this is counting “Chris B”, “4 out of 4, 9 out of 12”, “Ute Seniors SWEEP byU”, and “Christopher B”…if he has other alias he might rank higher
1. Two For Flinching (61)

Are you shocked that Chris B wasn’t #1?  Yeah, me too… I guess consistency pays off for 2fer.  Chris B likes to post fast and furious with 5+ posts on several articles but he tends to ignore any article that won’t likely result in a large debate.  Deseret News employee?  Who knows…

What does this tell us?

I must reluctantly but sincerely thank 2fer, Chris B. Uteology, gdog3, VegasUte, and the rest of the anti-BYU trolls for helping ensure BYU remains the most read about, most discussed, and absolutely the most relevant football program in the state of Utah. There have been long-standing rumors that Chris B actually works for the Deseret News as he always seems to be the first to post. Whether that is true or not he certainly initiates a LOT of discussion about BYU and for that I am grateful. I am glad he and his compatriots have not “moved on” but continue to show support for our beloved Cougars.

User and article analytics

I don’t know if anyone cares about these kinds of statistics. If this was useful and/or you want more info let me know in the comment section below. I only looked at one month of one newspaper but if there was enough reader demand I could do a comparison of total articles and comments for October, September, August and look at any trends; compare BYU football to Utah football (by number of articles and comments); compare BYU football versus all other BYU sports; etc. I could do the same for other Utah papers and possibly even look at a few national publications. Because it takes so much time to tally up all the individual user comments I don’t plan on any other future analysis of comments unless I get several requests for such articles. Similarly, while these kinds of stats interest me I don’t know if anyone else cares… so again if you’d like me to do any particular kind research make sure to get your requests in in the comment section below or by emailing me.