January 2010 Headlines: Edmonton Journal vs. Edmonton Sun

I think it’s fair to say that Edmonton’s two major dailies have strong stereotypes attached to them. The Edmonton Journal, as the capital region’s newspaper of record, is generally considered reliable, encompassing, and important, with an emphasis on politics and current events. The Edmonton Sun, which has just less than half of the Journal’s weekly circulation (according to data from 2008), is generally considered a bit more tabloid-like, with an emphasis on sports and special sections. But I’m not happy with stereotypes – I like data!

There is obviously much more to a newspaper than its headlines, but I figured that was a good starting point for comparison. Using data extracted from Twitter (which means it may be incomplete) I compared headlines from The Journal and The Sun for January 2010. I counted 662 headlines for The Journal (in blue) and 589 headlines for The Sun (in red).


The most frequently used words in The Journal’s headlines were: Edmonton, Alberta, new, fire, man, woman, Oilers, Calgary, gallery, and police.

The most frequently used words in The Sun’s headlines were: Haiti, Canada, city, man, Canadian, Edmonton, Alberta, Hatian, new, and quake.

Here’s a quick comparison of the average length, average number of words, and average Automated Readability Index (ARI) for each headline:

I’m not sure that calculating the ARI for a headline is valid, but calculating it for the collection of headlines isn’t valid either (because they aren’t equivalent to sentences). I did look at the collection though – The Journal used 865 complex words, whereas The Sun used 552 (a complex word is three syllables or more, as determined using this online tool).

I don’t know what the takeaway is here, but I thought it was interesting enough to share. I’ll probably revisit this again in the future, with additional news sources, and probably some sentiment analysis as well. If you have any suggestions, let me know in the comments!

12 thoughts on “January 2010 Headlines: Edmonton Journal vs. Edmonton Sun

  1. I thought I was the only one looking at headlines day in and out. 🙂

    While looking at headlines for the last 8 months I felt that in later 2009 that the Journal appeared to tweak their headlines to include more “Edmonton” (at least online).

    I really like this data since it’s neat to see what a paper is covering (Which you can usually tell from the headline, but not always.) and what that could say to a reader.

    I’d say the Journal is about Edmonton where the Sun is (seemingly) national. That could mean that the Sun, with fewer local reporters, is using more stories from within the Sun-chain.

  2. Yeah it would be interesting to break this down by source – articles written locally versus those sucked in from the newswire. I should be able to do that analysis in a couple months!

    I think including “Edmonton” in the headline is smart, because it’s almost a given that people will include that in their search queries.

  3. Jeff, you are a perceptive fellow. For reasons of SEO, we do indeed make an effort to get Edmonton or Alberta into our online headlines, which is why our cloud looks like that. I suspect The Sun doesn’t have the staff to do that. (Google News often doesn’t reward our SEO efforts, incidentally; if anyone has any insights as to why, I’m all ears.)

    Our philosophy at edmontonjournal.com is that local is our specialty, so while there are national and international headlines on the home page and on the section pages, our emphasis is on local stories. We publish a lot of them during the day, because we can, given the size of our newsroom. The cloud reflects that approach.

    Mack’s headlines analysis demonstrates a couple of things to me: 1. Broadsheets have longer headlines than tabloids, because of space and style, so the headlines on our site that are from the newspaper are usually longer; 2. Headlines written with SEO in mind tend to be longer, because it often takes more characters to get the keywords in, and because we’re not as constrained by space online as we are in the paper.

    Really interesting analysis. I’d love to see more!

  4. Neat stuff–both the post and Karen’s analysis. Mack, if you ever decide to do something similar with national papers, I’d be very interested in seeing the results.

  5. Karen, thanks very much for the comment. It’s great to hear a little more about the strategy behind these stats.

    Matt, that’s an interesting idea! The Globe and Mail versus National Post. I’ll let you know if I put something together.

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  7. The Edmonton Sun has the coveted younger age group; predictions suggest they will soon (5- 10 years) have more readers than the Edmonton Journal.

    The Sun paper format is much easier to read also, especially while eating or holding with one hand.

    The Sun puts its focus is more on younger age groups, with a great and in-depth sports and entertainment section with movie and videogame reviews everyday.

    I’ve had the Journal before and absolutely HATED it. It was WAY to localized; it felt like nothing was going on outside Edmonton, while the Sun has a good mix of both local, national and world news.

    Final choice: Edmonton Sun

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