Some analysts claim that the Web is a centralized medium where a few sites dominate the user experience. To test this claim, we'll assess the sites users are likely to find if they research the two sample topics mentioned by Matthew Hindman and Kenneth Neil Cukier in their article , and two topics in a different domain.
Gun Control and Capital Punishment: Zero Overlap
First, let's look at the top ten Google hits for gun control . This list includes six American sites as well as sites from Australia, Canada, Japan, and the U.K., and includes sites both for and against gun control. Right away we see diversity at play.
Turning to the top ten hits on capital punishment , we find eight additional sites (the U.S. Department of Justice and the University of California San Diego get two links each, reducing the number of different sites listed). The most important point is that there is zero overlap between the top ten sites for gun control and those for capital punishment .
Web users don't all search for the same terms . They often have very specific interests. Searches for gun control assault rifles and gun control concealed weapons identify nineteen sites (with the National Center for Policy Analysis listed twice). Of those, only two (guncite.com and guncontrol.ca) are included among the top ten sites in the general gun control search.
Similarly, searching for death penalty instead of capital punishment generates nine new sites among the top ten, with the only overlap being a page from the American Society of Criminology. Comparing the death penalty hits with the gun control hits doesn't uncover much evidence of monolithic thinking either: the American Civil Liberties Union is the only site to appear on both lists.
Economic Policy: No Monopoly Coverage
Let's try some topics related to economic policy, as opposed to crime and guns. A search for President Bush's tax cuts finds eight different sites in the top ten (The White House and PBS both appear twice). None of these eight sites were among the 43 sites we found for gun control and capital punishment. Moving to the top ten sites for when will Social Security run out of money we do see a small amount of overlap: PBS appears on the list again, as does the Cato Institute, which was also a top hit for gun control concealed weapons .