The Pew Research Center for Excellence in Journalism
(PEJ) and George Washington University’s School of Media and Public affairs produced an in depth study
that was released on Nov. 14. It offers insight into how the mainstream media is using social networking site Twitter, and examined 13 news organizations of which 3,600 tweets generated by them were carefully evaluated.
The immediate impact of Twitter on these organizations revealed that the platform is not fully exploited to achieve its news and viral potential. The data that was taken from February 14th through the 20th earlier this year and shows 93 percent of news outlets Tweets linked back to their own websites. Nevertheless, news organizations were far less likely to utilize Twitter as a curating or even reporting tool, but not excluding exceptions as they were mentioned throughout the report.
“The biggest finding that we saw was the degree to which news organizations and newsrooms that we studied here are using Twitter primarily to push out their own material,” said Deputy Director of PEJ Amy Mitchell. “What we saw rarely was either the practice of sharing and tagging along content from somebody else or another institution; or soliciting information sort of news gathering attempts through the Twitter experts…”
The deputy director went on to explain that Twitter has made significant strides and impact for the general public when information is disseminated and passed along. The content generated on this social network and its communication sophistication is a fundamental tool when there is a major breaking news event, for mobilizing protests, for natural disasters or the death of a prominent figure.
The following companies were divided up into categories from traditional to new media. For newspapers accounted for in their Twitter handles were the New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The Arizona Republic and The Blade. For broadcast channels ABC, CNN, MSNBC and Fox News were included. For radio there was only NPR and online media outlets the Huffington Post and the Daily Caller joined the list for this research.
The other findings in this study were the Retweet Function
, which was not heavily used by some of these prominent companies and varied by activity. For example the New York Times only generated original Tweets with no Retweets accounted for. Whereas Fox News and MSNBC tweeted less original content but heavily engaged the Retweet Function (44 percent of Fox’s tweets and 27 percent MSNBC tweets redistributed on the network).
Another feature that has been overlooked was the use of hashtags
. Perhaps each organization adopted and molded its own identity into the platform without really and fully experimenting how all the functions really operate within this social network. Could it be that this feature is useful or useless? Intimidating? In reality it’s innocuous in its functionality and could be serve a great news-gathering source for reporters.
The study is a short point in time and screenshot of how large and small media companies engaged Twitter in their daily reporting. The media landscape has changed and the social media explosion continues to reshape how we share and communicate news. For this purpose perhaps it’s worth answering questions like what is the purpose of it? What is being used for and what are we getting from it? It really varies by the institution. Clearly this study shows there is not a right or wrong way of doing social networking with Twitter. However, all the features on this platform should be fully deployed for better user engagement.