Twitter vs. news agencies- which is best for breaking news?

09/07/2013

Despite its phenomenal growth in recent years as a social news and information feed, Twitter is still trumped by traditional news agencies when it comes to breaking news first, according to a new report.

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The research, conducted by scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow, used a software algorithm to track 51 million tweets over 11 weeks in summer 2011 and compared these with output from news outlets for the same period.

According to the research, Twitter can only break news before newswires in rare incidences, but for major events there is little evidence that it can replace traditional news outlets.

Newswires tracked included the BBC, CNN, Reuters and the New York Times, which seek to set the news agenda and break news stories ahead of one another.

Scientists were able to examine Twitter messages relating to major news items. They also identified a large amount of minor news items that had featured on Twitter but had been ignored by the mainstream media.

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Table source: Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow

It was mainly for sport and disaster-related events when Twitter outperformed newswires for speed, the findings showed.

The study, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, is to be presented at the 7th International AAAI Conference On Weblogs And Social Media, in Boston, US, next week.

Dr Miles Osborne, of the University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics, said that Twitter can bring added value by spreading the word on events that we might not otherwise hear about, and for bringing local perspectives on major news items.

Read the full study paper here

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