Typically when an American news organization provides live election night results, it comes over their Associated Press feed, a subscription that costs thousands and thousands of dollars a year to use. But on Saturday night, the night of the Nevada Caucus, Twitter was also used to deliver live results, directly from their source, the Nevada Republican Party.
The feed, @NVVoteCount, was a partnership between the Nevada Republican Party and Twitter. It used a standard data format — which is also how the AP delivers results to its subscribers. The key difference, of course, was that Twitter was used as the delivery mechanism.
Here’s an example:
B 02 TOTAL 766 IN 19 OF 19 GIN 144 PAU 119 ROM 362 SAN 140 NOV 1 (1/1)
— NV Caucus Results (@NVVoteCount) February 6, 2012
Meanwhile, human-readable tweets were being sent out on the Nevada Republican Party’s main feed, @nvgop. Example:
Current #NVCaucus results with 90.5% of precincts reporting: Gingrich: 21.2%, Paul: 18.9%, Romney: 49.5%, Santorum 10.2%, No Vote: 0.2%
— Nevada GOP (@nvgop) February 6, 2012
The AP had already conceded that its results, would be slower than this feed. But, they said, the results that the AP reported would be scrutinized for accuracy by AP journalists.
In tandem with the Twitter feed was a Google Map powered by the Nevada Republican Party’s results. It was the second time this map had been used with direct results (the first time was the Iowa Caucus on Jan. 3), but Saturday marked the first time that Twitter was used as well.
In this case, as it turns out, the AP’s results were actually faster than what was being delivered by Google, according to a Poynter analysis.
Using Twitter as a delivery mechanism for agate-type data is a new and unique possibility. It has the advantage of being very fast. But, Twitter does have some uptime issues from time to time, so solely relying on a feed like this—at this point in time—does have its risks.