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Online Trends

Published January 14th 2020

Meghan Markle: The Data Behind The Negativity

We’ll never be royals. But boy we love to talk about them – and so do the press.

Recent days have seen drama with the royal family, and the papers have come under fire from some for their treatment of Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle.

So, what do the press say about Markle? And what are the people saying? We decided to take a look at the data alongside coverage of Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton to see how things compared.

The data in this blog post (unless stated otherwise) is collected globally using Brandwatch Consumer Research, from 1 January 2019 to 31 December 2019. We’ve excluded retweets, but we’re looking at all kinds of public posts – not just tweets.

Is the news harsher on Markle than on Middleton?

Claims of news bias are circulating online, made very popular by a recent Buzzfeed article criticizing royal reporters and using screenshots as evidence.

Using Brandwatch Consumer Research we found that, in the 365 day period observed, Markle appeared in negative news stories 21.1k times, across 29k tabloid and broadsheet publications.

Meanwhile, Middleton appeared in 4.3k negative news articles from 14k publications.

Looking at this data, Markle received 132% more negative press coverage.

In terms of the percentage of negativity, broadsheets and tabloids are no more or less negative than each other.

The two are sometimes spoken about on similar issues, but Markle often gets a more negative outlook.

For example, take Middleton’s role as guest editor at the Huffington Post in February 2019 and Markles’ guest editor role with Vogue in 2019 – two stories in the same publication, two very different points of view:

Brandwatch image
Brandwatch image

Brandwatch partner Buzzsumo was also on the case with royal data.

Marketer Chris McCormick investigated which duchess had the most news coverage over a five year period, finding that Markle gets a lot more coverage.

But, the data suggests publishers should spend more time writing about Middleton, as those articles receive much more engagement online.

Social says…

15% of the conversation on social surrounding Middleton is positive, while 13% is negative, according to Brandwatch Consumer Research.

Markle is less favored in comparison on social. Only 13% of her mentions are positive, compared to 18% negative.

It’s important to note there was much more conversation online surrounding Markle (who has 1.2 million posts, excluding retweets) than there are about Middleton (who has around 450k, again excluding retweets) in 2019.

An emotional issue

For this section, we looked at mentions of the duchesses that had an emotion categorization (something that Brandwatch Consumer Research applies automatically when analyzing mentions likely to contain emotions like anger, disgust, or sadness).

For both duchesses, the dominant emotion is joy, with Middleton’s emotion-categorized mentions coming in at 53% joyful, and Markle’s coming in at 44% joyful.

Overall, the emotional conversation around Markle is more negative than that relating to Middleton.

For example, 27% of the Markle mentions we looked at were categorized as ‘sad’, and 17% were categorized as ‘disgusted’. (Kate’s mentions in these categories are 20% and 11% respectively).

In summary

Meghan Markle has it hard both on social media and in the news. Whether this is the reason the couple have decided to step back isn’t confirmed, but it can’t have helped matters.

You can check out more of our content around this issue here. And if you’re a journalist looking for more on this issue email [email protected].

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