SnapStream Blog

The word "actually" on television

July 28 2008 by Rakesh

Jeff Jarvis wrote a blog post last week about how he thought the word "actually" was overused on television. Here's the post (he lost a bunch of posts and hasn't restored them all):

Actually is the new ‘y’know’
July 19th, 2008, by Jeff Jarvis

The most overused and unnecessary word on broadcast is “actually.” Start counting how many times it is used by TV people and you’ll hate me for driving you nuts.

While I’m kvetching, why do TV people introduce a panel of three people and then say, “Mr. Jones, let me start with you.” Just start with him: ask your question. Why this need to warn Mr. Jones?

Our TV search appliance is used by a number of journalism schools for content analysis (like Emerson College and GWU, so this got me thinking about how we might try and use our product to measure Jeff's assertion about the word actually.

So here's what I did. I took one week of national TV recordings that we had made on a SnapStream Enterprise TV Server and I did some ad-hoc analysis (remember, I'm not expert on content analysis!) on how frequently the word 'actually' appeared by series and by network.

Here are the 20 shows that use the word 'actually' the most:

TV Series 'actually' count / hour
House Call With Dr. Sanjay Gupta (CNN) 19.17
Reliable Sources (CNN) 17.89
ABC's World News Sunday (ABC) 10.7
The Tonight Show With Jay Leno (NBC) 10.4
The Newshour With Jim Lehrer (PBS) 8.68
Washington Week (PBS) 7.61
Oprah Winfrey (CBS) 7.35
Fox And Friends Sunday (FNC) 7.27
The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson (CBS) 7
20/20 (ABC) 6.82
CNN Saturday Morning (CNN) 6.13
American Morning (CNN) 6
Today (NBC) 5.76
CNN Special Investigations Unit (CNN) 5.63
Fox And Friends (FNC) 5.47
The Colbert Report (COMEDY) 5.4
At The Movies With Ebert & Roeper (ABC) 5.32
Dr. Phil (NBC) 5.26
Kudlow & Company (CNBC) 5.22
Studio B With Shepard Smith (FNC) 5.07

And here are the 20 shows that use the word 'actually' the least:

TV series 'actually' count / hour
Sportscenter (ESPN) 1.45
Geraldo At Large (FNC) 1.41
Nightline (ABC) 1.39
The Tyra Banks Show (FOX) 1.36
Anderson Cooper 360 (CNN) 1.33
The Live Desk (FNC) 1.17
This Week With George Stephanopoulos (ABC) 0.94
Baseball Tonight (ESPN) 0.94
Special Report With Brit Hume (FNC) 0.89
Bulls And Bears (FNC) 0.89
This Week In Politics (CNN) 0.79
Lou Dobbs Tonight (CNN) 0.68
The Beltway Boys (FNC) 0.59
Cnn Student News (CNNH) 0
Fox News Watch (FNC) 0
Forbes On Fox (FNC) 0
Hannity'S America (FNC) 0
Cashin' In (FNC) 0
Face The Nation (CBS) 0
Now On PBS (PBS) 0

And here's a summary of the the word 'actually' by network:

Channel 'actually' count / hour
PBS 5.84
NBC 5.1
CNBC 4.55
CBS 4.18
CNN 3.75
ABC 3.71
CNNH 3.65
CSPAN 3.59
FNC 3.06
FOX 3.02
ESPN 1.4

So at the higher end, offending shows are using the word 'actually' between once every 10 minutes to once every 3 minutes. Since I'm not a content analysis expert, what other trends can you draw? How could the test be improved?

What is SnapStream? There's an unlimited amount of video content out there: 24/7 news channels, breaking news events, sports, talk shows, awards galas, entertainment shows, and so much more.

SnapStream makes a real-time news and media search engine that makes it fast and easy to find the video moments that support our customers telling great stories.

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