How do stories spread across the Web? Why does one storyline dominate the news cycle while another, just as compelling, story falls by the wayside? PR professionals have been trying to figure this out for years, and according to an article in Technology Review, a group in Germany is trying to discover one of the key factors in setting a news trend which Websites lead the field.

What they are doing is looking at Websites and using an algorithm to look at the word usage on the sites and compare it to the same word usage from an earlier time. By identifying which sites used the words earliest, they can learn whether certain sites are good predictors of what other sites will pick up.

Last year, the group followed 96 different technology news sites, following data on approximately 100,000 words. Using the algorithm, they then picked the top ten trendsetters in this news category. The article identifies some problems that may affect the data interpretation, such as what if one of the news topics was actually covered by a site outside the focus group first.

Ultimately, this type of analysis will certainly provide insight into which Websites are trendsetters and which are followers. This will help PR practitioners focus on getting their stories into the publications and media that can drive further placements.