Twitter advocates often claim that the social network breaks news faster than newswires. But a study conducted by researchers at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow found that Twitter generally followed wire services, though it did beat them sometimes.
Comparing Twitter to wire service news outlets covering 27 major news events over 77 days in 2011, the study found that Twitter led newswires eight times, whereas newswires led the social network 15 times. News of four events broke at the same time in the two formats.
“This indicates that, contrary to popular belief, neither stream dominates the other in terms of high-profile breaking news,” the Scottish researchers concluded.
When it came to smaller news stories that were mentioned in wire news and on Twitter, Twitter beat the wires only one percent of the time.
The social network was most likely to edge out traditional news services to news related to sports or natural disasters.
However, the researchers found that Twitter offered more depth of coverage of events of fleeting significance (such as a particular highlight in a sporting event) or one of interest to a small group of people.
The report stopped short of proclaiming crowd-sourced news dead.
“[T]he greater coverage of hyper-local news observed within Twitter supports the idea that it can be used for localized use-cases such as community policing or local search,” the researchers said.
They also suggested that Twitter is useful for communicating “commentary and feedback on events.”