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Do we really read the news via Twitter?

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Do we really read the news via Twitter?

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Twitter has supposedly had a big impact upon much of the media industry.  The TV industry for instance has been enthralled by the potential of Twitter to act as an impromptu, almost live, ratings agency.  Such has been the enthusiasm that Twitter bought ratings company BlueFin earlier this year, before teaming up with Nielsen to provide an online ratings service.

There has been similar enthusiasm for the role Twitter plays in the breaking of news stories, despite research from Scotland suggesting that we still tend to go to mainstream news sources for the bulk of our news gathering.  New research from Marco Bastos and Gabriela Zago has delved further into this to try and uncover some regional trends in how we use Twitter for news.

The findings shed some light on how different nationalities tend to consume news content.  American and British readers for instance, are more drawn to opinion and world news, Spaniards to local and national news, Brazilians to sports and arts, and Germans to politics and economy.

What’s more, British readers tend to consume a lot of news from foreign publications (apparently), whereas German and Spanish readers tend to go for more domestic fare, which could well be explained by language issues one would have thought rather than any kind of content preference.

The pair of researchers monitored the news links we tweet to eight of the largest national newspapers in the US, UK, Spain, Brazil and Germany over a two week period in 2012.  That added up to nearly 125,000 tweets in Germany, 400,000 in Brazil, 800,000 in Spain, 500,000 in the UK and nearly 1 million in America.

Of note though is that they found that the posting of news related content was significantly below that predicted in previous studies, with just 5% of users responsible for 50% of the links shared, with the top 5% in Germany and Brazil accounting for over 60% of the links shared.

Through their analysis, the researchers found not only that social media helps to demonstrate readership patterns, but also that through social media the readers themselves play an active role in determining the popularity of different news stories.

It all paints a picture of Twitter not as a source of news for the majority of folks, but rather a platform for an active minority to share the content that is of interest to them.

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