Tiger scandal follows Clinton trajectory…

Posted on December 16, 2009. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Is Tiger the new Bill? Using Dow Jones media measurement tools, we compared media coverage of the current Tiger Woods scandal against five other indiscretions to see how long the golfer might expect his name to stay in the news for something other than golf.  We looked at news mentions of Tiger Woods, David Letterman, Mark Sanford, Eliot Spitzer, and Bill Clinton in the months their scandals hit the news, the preceding three months to get an idea of “normal” coverage, and for six months after to see how quickly the scandals died down.

The Tiger Woods scandal just keeps getting worse...

Of the five, New York Governor Eliot Spitzer had for the most dramatic rise in March 2008 when his sex scandal broke.  Coverage increased a whopping 158% compared to his average volume of news in the three previous months.  The scandal just as dramatically fell off the media’s radar, with a 171% drop in coverage in April.

Remember South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford’s dalliance in Argentina? Sanford experienced the second largest increase in coverage when it was reported he went “hiking the Appalachian Trail” in June 2009.  However, in July, his coverage dropped only 20% – it took Sanford about 5 months to see the same proportional decrease that Spitzer experienced in his first month following the crisis (fast forward to the present and Sanford is back in the news recently as his wife has filed for divorce).

David Letterman’s scandal, if you can even call it that, is the biggest success story – news of sex with female coworkers received about the same amount of play as Sanford’s affair.  Compared to a Southern governor, you’d expect much more from a scandal involving a celebrity national talk show host – just one more piece to the growing body of support for Letterman’s handling of the issue.  His coverage only bumped up 70% in October 2009, quickly falling 99% in the first month following the scandal.

Tiger? Well, he certainly didn’t pull a Letterman out of his golf bag.  Tiger’s trajectory is starting to look far more like that of former President Bill Clinton.  When rumors first broke of the Monica Lewinsky scandal in January 1998, mentions of Bill Clinton increased at a similar level to Letterman.  The problem for Clinton is that it didn’t go away – coverage of the scandal stayed pretty constant for the next 6 months.  Tiger’s coverage rose 78% in November 2009; a considerable increase considering the scandal only broke around November 21.  In the first two weeks of December, coverage of Tiger Woods is already 44% higher than in November.  

With recent news about sponsors like Accenture dropping Tiger, coverage of this scandal isn’t likely to go away anytime soon either.  Just don’t tell us it depends on what the definition of “is” is, Tiger.

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