A publication of the World Editors Forum


Fri - 19.01.2018

Taking a look in the mirror: how the US mainstream media uses Twitter

Taking a look in the mirror: how the US mainstream media uses Twitter

It's a matter of fact that Twitter has become part of the regular news workflow. And this is also the case for mainstream media outlets.

But how do they really use it? And how often? What's their underlying strategy? Is Twitter used by traditional media as a self-promotional channel for their own links or has it become a real, independent reporting tool?

The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism and The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs answered these and other questions in a study that analysed the relationship between 13 major U.S. news outlets and Twitter.

It emerged from the study that news organizations mainly use Twitter for auto-referral. In fact, their use is primarily limited to disseminating their own material, rather than developing real engagement with followers or adding to the general debate by sharing external content.

The research examined more than 3,600 tweets over the course of a typical news week (February 14th - 20th 2011). It looked at tweets from each outlet's main newsroom Twitter account, as well as tweets by journalists working for these outlets. The study analysed both reporters with the largest number of followers and niche reporters. In order to observe how niche reporters use Twitter, the researchers examined a health reporter at each organization, as, according to the study, health was one of the most consistent beats across these news sites.

The study analyzed six newspapers, five broadcasters and two websites.

What emerged from the study then is that, even though usage among some of the major US news outlets varies, generally there's a lack of proper interactivity. News outlets concentrate on driving traffic back to their own websites, meaning that they fail to create a two-way communication flow or to stimulate online debate. In fact, 93% of tweets on main news accounts just link to content published on their own websites while only 1% link to other news sites and 2% asked input from the audience.

The use of the retweet - sharing someone else's tweet - is also limited, according to the survey. Retweeting is an activity which implies "curation and recommendation"; it enriches the discourse by sharing different sources and widening the debate. It also has the merit of incorporating different sources, including citizen journalists and eyewitnesses of particular events, into the news flow. This was proved by the work of NPR's Andy Carvin - cited also in the study - whose recent, widely-praised efforts, were focused on curating and diffusing information on Twitter from the uprisings in the Arab World. But despite this, retweeting accounts for just the 9% of the tweets analysed.

When it came to individual reporters' tweets, it emerged that, on average, health reporters tweet less than the most-followed media personalities at major US news outlets. However, at the same time, their use of twitter is more interactive and engaging. According to the study, they use Twitter to gather information 6% of the time, twice as much as the most-followed personalities did (3%).

Source: Pew Research Center



Federica Cherubini


2011-11-14 16:48

The World Editors Forum is the organization within the World Association of Newspapers devoted to newspaper editors worldwide. The Editors Weblog (www.editorsweblog.org), launched in January 2004, is a WEF initiative designed to facilitate the diffusion of information relevant to newspapers and their editors.

© 2015 WAN-IFRA - World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers

Footer Navigation