Why Technology News is Twitter-Driven 11

Image courtesy of PEW Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism

Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism released a year’s worth of data yesterday on the top news stories discussed and linked to on blogs and social media pages, and seven months’ worth on Twitter. The study, New Media, Old Media, returned some very interesting findings on the differences between what the most popular story is for mainstream news outlets versus what the top news story is on social mediums. In addition it turned out some interesting data on the difference between what headlines draw crowds on these new social mediums.

The study examined the blogosphere and social media by tracking the news linked to on millions of blogs and social media pages tracked by Icerocket and Technorati from January 19, 2009, through January 15, 2010.  It also tracked the videos on YouTube’s news channel for the same period. It measured Twitter by tracking news stories linked to within tweets as monitored by Tweetmeme from June 15, 2009, through January 15, 2010.

Of the 29 weeks that PEW tracked all three social platforms, blogs, Twitter and YouTube, the different mediums only shared the same top story just once. That was the week of June 15-19, when the protests that followed the Iranian elections. When you dive deeper into the differences between the social mediums you can also see that each has a certain personality associated with its user-base.

The clearest example of that was illustrated by the popularity of technology news on Twitter. More than 40 percent of stories linked to on Twitter were technology related. Meanwhile only eight percent of stories on on blogs were technology related and only one percent of stories in the mainstream press and on YouTube were technology related. These findings may have been expected in 2008, with early adopters driving Twitter’s use, but it is surprising that technology stories are so popular and prevalent today, as Twitter stretches its mainstream appeal. Comparatively only six percent of the stories linked to on Twitter were focused on politics.

Meanwhile political news and foreign events dominates the other mediums, with 29 percent of stories on blogs, 47 percent of stories on YouTube and 24 percent of the newshole at mainstream news outlets being political or foreign event focused. Stories linked to on Twitter also have much shorter shelf life’s.  On Twitter, 72% of lead stories are no longer on the top linked to list after three days, and more than half (52%) are on the list for just 24 hours.

There are also numbers within the research that offer a contrarian view to the idea of news items bubbling up from Twitter, to the blogs, to the mainstream press. Across the entire year studied, just one particular story or event – the controversy over emails relating to global research that came to be known as “Climate-gate” –  became a major item in the blogosphere and then, a week later, gained more traction in traditional media. Twitter is even less tied to the mainstream press in terms of drawing attention to stories and distributing information from mainstream outlets. Nearly 40 percent of the links on Twitter went to web-only news sources such as Mashable and CNET.

What all this means is hard to say. It will be certainly be interesting to see how it changes over time. However, in terms of those seeking to gain attention in the Twittersphere and with technology influencers, they should takeaway:

  1. Twitter drives the technology news-cycle. If stories linked to on Twitter were cross-referenced with Techmeme, the technology Website of record, they’d likely be very similar. Therefore if you want your news to drive the technology agenda, it better make the trending topics on Twitter.
  2. Like the platform itself, Twitter news and attention moves in real-time, on the 1,440-minute news-cycle. You may capture attention, but it won’t be for very long.
  3. Don’t count on the news bubbling up. While you may reach technology influencers on Twitter, this data “echoes” the thought that Twitter can be an echo-chamber of technology advocates.

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