Is Twitter Really the Future of Breaking News?

Twitter seems to be made for breaking news. Its 140-character capacity models how reporters release information updates in short, punctuated bursts. The hash-tagging system is ideal to track and update breaking news for the mobile consumer. Historically, the platform has facilitated breaking news updates. 

However, a recent study by the Associated Press and CNBC suggests Twitter users are not flocking to the site to consume breaking news. Only 16 percent of users say they turn to Twitter frequently for breaking news, the study, released today, says.  About 44 percent of users do at least some of the time, a bleak forecast for current events aficionados praising the platform's potential to revolutionize the news consumption process.

The study is a reminder that news consumption on Twitter is constantly evolving. Media analysts must reconsider the question, "Is Twitter the future of breaking of news?" Recent data show the gap between the platform's potential and the reality is still wide. With over 500 million tweets published daily, almost 40 percent of users use the site as "a curated news feed of updates that reflect their passions." Users can customize what they want to see and breaking news may be lost in the mix.

This raises an inevitable question: How can journalists use Twitter to break news more effectively? Part of the answer lies in helping users see the platform as a breaking news source. Journalists can also utilize the latest trends and Twitter analytics to understand how users consume and engage with information on the site. It seems foolish to allow this platform to go untapped.

Graphic by: AP, CNBC


Wheres Wendy said...

The point that users create news feeds based around their own interests is important. Many users--particularly young people--take advantage of social media for celebrity or 'fluff' news. The Facebook news tool SocialReader was shut down because users were actually uncomfortable with their peers seeing the types of news they were looking at.

Twitter is a social media tool first and foremost which may explain why its news use is so low. Personally I hope that Twitter trends don't drive news coverage too heavily. While analytics are essential, I wouldn't want my news coverage decided by Twitter use.

Rachel Barron said...

I think the main issue with the low numbers of people getting their news from twitter lies in the fact that 84% of U.S. adults do not use Twitter at all, according to the AP and CNBC graphic. I don't think I am just speaking for myself when I say that I get a lot of my news from Twitter - I think most people on Twitter do get some news from the social network.

To get more people consuming news from Twitter, news sources must get people on Twitter in the first place. This could be accomplished by giving additional article information through Twitter. For example, for a breaking news story, a sidebar could be added that says something like "check @twitterhandle for live, updated photos from *insert event here*" That way, people who only consume news through the organization's website would be prompted to look at Twitter to find out more information.

Tim Drummond said...
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Tim Drummond said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tim Drummond said...

One of Twitter's biggest strengths for journalists is that it is so popular within the journalism community itself. As The Washington Post's Ezra Klein explains here, consumers generally prefer social sites like Facebook and Pinterest to access their news. Yet Twitter is far more popular among journalists. For this reason, I think Twitter's true strength is in collaboration. It's a place for journalists to show off their work to peers, instead of readers.

And maybe that's not so bad! As a broadcast student, I would hope that viewers are still tuning into the newscast instead of just siphoning news off of my Twitter feed. For newspaper people, selling a copy of the paper is far more lucrative than getting a reader to click on a link. For better or for worse, Twitter is a great place for journalists to break news to each other--and it's therefore one of the best ways for journalists to know what's going on in their world at any given moment.