Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow developed a software algorithm to track Twitter activity, which they used to study 51 million tweets over 11 weeks in summer 2011 and compare with output from news outlets for the same period.
The results? Twitter only breaks news before newswires “in rare incidences,” but for major events the researchers found little evidence that Twitter can replace traditional news outlets.
The scientists did find that Twitter outperformed newswires in terms of speed when it came to sport and disaster-related events, in addition to minor news items featured on Twitter but ignored by the mainstream media.
An important note, highlighted by Dr. Miles Osborne of Edinburgh, is that even in cases when Twitter doesn’t beat a newswire in breaking an item, the platform still provides a) very valuable local perspective and b) a viral spreading mechanism.
The study, supported by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, will be presented at the 7th International AAAI Conference On Weblogs And Social Media, in Boston this week.
Are you surprised to hear that traditional newswires – BBC, CNN, Reuters, New York Times – still beat Twitter in breaking news?
(Image via Shutterstock)