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.