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While Twitter tends to get pooled in with the other “self absorbed” social-networking sites, a group of researchers has analyzed how people use the service and found that it resembles more of a traditional news media outlet.

Think of Twitter not as the red-headed stepchild to Facebook, but as an efficient news site where anyone can be a reporter but the dispatches must be no more than 140 characters long.  This method is quick and to the point.  In other words “Cliff Notes” for News.

For their study, the research team gathered information on 41.7 million user profiles. They pulled 106 million tweets and followed 4,262 trending topics, identified through hash tags.

Unlike with most social-networking sites, a standard Twitter user does not need to get the permission of another user to follow that person’s missives. With Twitter, anyone can follow anyone else (as long as that person makes his or her tweets public).  This approach, is closer to that of blogs, which can be subscribed to via an RSS feed. This led the team to ponder if Twitter was more of a news medium than a social-networking site.

Like other forms of media, including news outlets, Twitter has its stars. About 40 Twitter accounts have more than a million followers.  The data indicates that building this level of popularity cannot be achieved simply by tweeting as much as possible. Rather, all the most popular Twitter accounts belong to celebrities, who are famous in channels other than Twitter. 

The messages themselves more closely resemble those of a news format as well. Of the tweets studied, more than 85 percent were news-related in some way.

The news aspect of Twitter is reflected in the question its users are now asked when posting tweets “What’s happening?” – as opposed to the earlier question, “What are you doing?”   That hunger for knowledge has helped separate them from the pack.  And many people use the service to search for up to the second information about unfolding events, such as a sporting event or a natural disaster. 

The researchers compared how often Twitter contained the first mention of a breaking news event to how often the CNN Headline News site got the scoop. While CNN broke the news first more than half the time, news appeared on Twitter before CNN a considerable number of times as well.

 Twitter rapidly gained worldwide popularity, with over 300 million users as of 2011, generating over 300 million tweets and handling over 1.6 billion search queries per day.  It is often best described as the SMS (Short message Service) of the Internet.

In closing, whether you have been paying attention or have just started to step back and take notice,  Twitter is now, and is the present and future for our news.  So embrace this phenomenon, because it isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

To see Pat’s Current Events Presentation to our NY office, you can view the video on our Livestream channel:

Because the notes on the board are a little difficult to read, here is a summary:

Twitter: Not Another Social Network – The Next Generation of News

  • Twitter: online social that is used to send and read texts up to 140 characters know as “tweets”
  • Of 106 million Tweets, more than 80% were news-related in some way.
  • News Aspect of Twitter is reflected in the question it now asks it’s users: “What’s Happening?” as opposed to the previous “What are you doing?”

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