Twitter’s Viability as a News Platform, pt. 1

A major topic in communications is the viability of Twitter in terms of using it to deliver news, both from the perspective of journalists and from the perspective of industry representatives. There have been several attempts to implement creative ways of doing this, but before we explore those attempts, it is prudent to review why communicators are trying so hard to access this audience.

In a timely coincidence, the Pew Research Center and John S. and James L. Knight foundation have released a report titled “Twitter News Consumers: Young, Mobile and Educated”. The article opens with the fact that 8%, or nearly one-in-ten, U.S. adults get their news through Twitter. While the number isn’t particularly compelling, some of the more interesting elements are who those users are exactly.

The numbers, which are often compared to the 30% of Americans who get news on Facebook, do little to explain the fact that 45% of Twitter news consumers are 18-29 years old, and that 40% of these new consumers hold a bachelors degree.

With this sort of information, one immediately begins to see the potential for a focusing lens when it comes to target audiences. These numbers are quite unlike the numbers one would expect of the total population, creating an atypical setting that can act as a ripe flowerbed for growing projects targeted at youthful, educated audiences.

The article breaks down three key points derived from the various studies it has conducted:

Twitter users pass along pieces of developing information
In this case, the analyses conducted found that the news being passed along by users tended to be straight news rather than emotionally-tinged or with opinion. More often than not, these users were acting as links in a chain that passed along bits of news, with opinion coming in later.

Twitter conversations can shift and evolve rapidly
Over the course of various major news events, researchers found that the tone and topics discussed within could change drastically within a matter of days. Over the course of a month, general sentiment regarding the Supreme Court hearings on same-sex marriage flipped from opposed to in favor.

Twitter is not reliable as a general population metric
Twitter users, as confirmed by earlier statistics, are not reflective of the general population. Facebook users tend to be closer to what a general population’s opinion trends may be. In this example, Ron Paul won the “Twitter primary” for 2012.

With these statistics in mind, we have a better idea for what to do with Twitter and how to do it. Over the course of the next week, we’ll go over interesting concepts that other communicators have applied to Twitter.


One response to “Twitter’s Viability as a News Platform, pt. 1

  1. Hi Christopher,

    It is interesting you post this, because I just recently brought this issue to fruition on my own personally Twitter, talking about how journalism and Twitter have become best friends, yet enemies in the same time frame. Your article broke it down intricately and I think brings up many good points. I will direct my journalist friends to your post.


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