Notes on a Scandal Part 2 – Events?

News of the WorldThe next installment of Notes on a Scandal follows on from our recent posts: Notes on a Scandal Overview: An Online Monitoring Perspective and Notes on a Scandal Part 1 – Impact?

This series of posts attempts to offer a different perspective on the News of the World Phone-Hacking Scandal using free-to-use media monitoring tools.

This installment makes a connection between Events in the “phone-hacking” scandal as they unfolded. 

Once more, we have used a combination of Google Trends and Topsy Analytics as our main tools for analysis whilst making reference to:

Figures 1 and 2 below, shows the main “buzz graphs” for those involved in the scandal.

Figure 1: Google Trends Graph

(Source: Google Trends, 180711)

Unsurprisingly, the graphs rise from around the 4th of July, as the news of the hacking of Milly Dowlers’ phone breaks. Events relating to the various peaks and our view of those most affected () are shown below:

  • 4th July (ALL except Andy Coulson): “Murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler had her mobile phone allegedly hacked by News of the World reporter’s”
  • 5th July (“Rupert Murdoch | Rebekah Brooks”): “It emerges that, several months earlier, the parents of murdered schoolgirls Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman were contacted by detectives investigating alleged phone hacking.”
  • 7th July (ALL): “The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) says it will take over the investigation into claims that Metropolitan Police officers were paid by the News of the World.” and “News International chairman James Murdoch announces that the 10 July edition of the News of the World will be its last”.
  • 8th July (“Rebekah Brooks” | “Andy Coulson”): “David Cameron’s former communications chief Andy Coulson is arrested and questioned by police”
  • 10th July (“Rupert Murdoch”): The final edition of the News of the World is published” and “Mr Murdoch arrives in London and visits News International’s head office for talks with executives”.
  • 13th July (“Rupert Murdoch”): “Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation withdraws its planned bid to take full ownership of satellite broadcaster BSkyB”.
  • 14th July (“Rupert Murdoch | Rebekah Brooks”): “US politicians call for the FBI to investigate whether UK journalists broke US wiretap laws”.
  • 15th July (“Rupert Murdoch | Rebekah Brooks”): News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks resigns”. “On the same day, Rupert Murdoch makes a personal apology to Milly Dowler’s family”.
  • 17th July (“Rebekah Brooks”): “Earlier on Sunday, ex-News International chief executive Rebekah Brooks is arrested”.

Figure 2 below, shows the ‘buzz graph’ for the main protagonists on Twitter.

Figure 2 – Twitter Buzz Graph “Rupert Murdoch”, “Rebekah Brooks”, “Andy Coulson” on Twitter
(Source:, 210711)

The graph and the main Twitter events for each of the protagonists, are analysed in more detail below:

Rebekah Brooks (Orange)

The main peaks on Twitter for “Rebekah Brooks” are on the 7th and 14th of July – out of sync with the Google search peaks:

  • 7th of July: Top Story – “Rebekah Brooks admits to paying police‬‏ – YouTube”
  • 14th of July: Top Story – “News Corp. shareholder says Rebekah Brooks ‘has to go’ – BBC’s Newsnight via @Reuters”

Rupert Murdoch (Blue)

The main peaks on Twitter for “Rupert Murdoch” are the 7th, 18th and 19th of July:

  • 7th of July: Top Story – “Rupert Murdoch just Killed the News of the World – TNW Media”
  • 18th of July: Top Story – “10 questions the MPs will not ask Rupert Murdoch”
  • 19th of July: Top Story – “RUPERT MURDOCH ATTACKED: Wife Wendi Takes Down Attacker!! (VIDEO)”

Andy Coulson (Red)

The main peaks on Twitter for “Andy Coulson” are the 7th and the 19th of July:

  • 7th of July: Top Story – “Andy Coulson to be arrested over phone hacking tomorrow | Media |”
  • 19th of July: Top Story – “BREAK – BBC: Conservative Party about to release a statement revealing Wallis “informally advised” Andy Coulson while working for Cameron.”

Final Remarks

  • There appears to be a strong link between Events as they were reported through traditional media and peaks in online search activity (Google Trends graph).
  • Both graphs clearly indicate that there are key points in the story where the main protagonists peak in terms of search and Twitter interest. Protagonists are often thrown back into the spotlight.
  • There appears to be less of a link between Events in traditional media and Twitter peaks. This is worth more exploration.
  • As a result, the peaks in Twitter and on Search (through Google Trends) are noticeably out-of-sync in terms of relative size and timing.
  • The reason for this may be to do with the characteristics of Twitter as well as how users search for news.

Please check out the final installment which looks at the issues arising from how the story plays out through traditional media, Search and on Twitter. There are implications for how we use each of these media channels.

As always we look forward to your comments.

Alan, Jim and Vincent


About Alan Stevenson

Over the last fifteen years I have split my time almost equally between Developing Digital strategies for public and private sector clients and helping organisations visualise, specify, plan and optimise technology-based solutions within their organisation.
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