Sentiment by Subject


If you want to maximize your outreach efforts, you should start list building while your content is still in production. A crucial step within the process is to determine which publishers are worth the exclusive versus which should be saved for syndication. When you have content that explores a controversial topic, this process should include one additional step that is often overlooked: Determine the tone of your campaign and explore how similar topics are presented in different publications.

BuzzStream and Fractl examined the sentiment around 10 contentious topics – climate change, evolution, health care, immigration, jobs, marijuana, minimum wage, net neutrality, privacy, and vaccination. Our analysis included 50 articles on each subject from more than 75 popular online publishers, and we determined sentiment using AlchemyAPI (i.e. This helped us determine the tone of article as either positive or negative. For example, a negative sentiment/coverage of a topic like minimum wage could be about protesters wanting an increase in it).

Here, we’ll walk you through four key takeaways to keep in mind during your next promotions cycle. This information will help you determine which publishers will lean more favorably toward your topic than others.

1. A majority of these topics tend to earn negative coverage.

These topics are controversial for a reason, and editors may tend to avoid them because of a strong probability that coverage might be more negative – something that may be a turnoff to their audience.

Our data indicates that the vaccination topic earned the most negative coverage out of the group, while health care garnered the most positive coverage. Additional analysis revealed these details:

  • Health care coverage was more than 30 percent more positive than coverage of evolution, the only other topic that earned a positive sentiment score.
  • Coverage of vaccination was nearly 150 percent more negative than coverage of privacy, the topic that earned the weakest negative sentiment score.
  • Two categories associated with the workforce – jobs and minimum wage – both had a tendency to earn negative coverage.

Average Sentiment by Subject

2. Publishers with higher positive sentiment scores tended to be technology based.

Although these topics are controversial, they aren’t necessarily limited to a specific vertical and can be pitched to multiple publishers. Our results revealed that if you want to earn more positive coverage, you should try to connect your topic to a section within a technology-focused publisher.

For example, sites including VentureBeat, IGN, InformationWeek, TechCrunch, and ZDNet are top publishers whose coverage for all 10 topics was more positive. MediaBistro and LinkedIn were the most positive publishers, and although they are not as focused on technology, some of their articles do cover digital industry trends.

3. Publishers that earned negative sentiment scores tended to be focused on general news coverage.

Publishers that cover multiple verticals have a tendency to produce more negative coverage than any other outlet. DailyFinance was the only niche publisher on the list, and it received the weakest negative sentiment score out of the entire group.

For example, Mirror’s negative coverage was nearly 200 percent more negative than DailyFinance. Further analysis revealed the following:

  • Gawker produced the most negative coverage for all 10 topics.
  • A large portion of these publishers were be based in foreign countries, including Daily Mail (UK-based), Mirror (UK-based), RT (Russia-based), and Al Jazeera (Qatar-based).
  • The United States is also home to a strong representation of negative publishers, including the Houston Chronicle and the LA Times.

Average Sentiment by Publisher for All 10 Topics

4. Net neutrality was the only topic to earn both positive and negative coverage by online newspapers.

Although some local newspaper sites surfaced in other areas of our research, we also narrowed our data to a handful of the larger online newspapers – the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Guardian, the San Francisco Chronicle, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Boston Globe – to see where their coverage landed for all 10 topics.

Although the degree varied, our results indicated that the sentiment of coverage was the same across the board except for one topic: net neutrality. It received negative coverage from every publisher except The Boston Globe. Additional insights include these details:

  • The New York Times’s coverage of privacy was overwhelmingly negative compared with coverage by all other outlets – 178 percent more negative than USA Today’s.
  • Although the publishers are in the same state, net neutrality coverage was 164 percent  more negative for the Los Angeles Times compared with the San Francisco Chronicle.
  • The sentiment of climate change coverage had little variation among all seven publishers.

Online Newspaper Sentiment Per Topic

Although you can’t control how an editor covers your story, you can determine which outlets have a greater chance of publishing a positive story over a negative one. Specifics you want to keep in mind include how much more common negative coverage is with certain publishers compared with others – along with which topics can lean either way. Some topics will always remain contentious, but that doesn’t mean they can’t earn coverage.