Last night at about 11:44 p.m. (8:44 Pacific) I was clicking around the TV when my roommate, who was on his computer, reported people were tweeting about a series of three earthquakes that went off in Los Angeles. Naturally I flipped the TV to CNN, then CNBC, FOX, and all the major news channels. Nothing. The quakes began at 8:39 p.m. Pacific.
Online the scenario was the same — well, as far as news sites go there wasn’t anything to report yet. Twitter, it seems, had beat them all to the punch. Oh and in case you were wondering, there’s a #hashtag for earthquakes and yesterday the frequency of that tag’s usage spiked (see graph), indicating there was a lot of conversation on the subject.
When the first report came in, we heard the quake was a magnitude 5.1. Later that number was reduced to a 4.7 and though it was inaccurate consider any time you’ve watched the news during a disaster — the reporting is almost always slightly flawed. All things considered, Twitter was able to sort things out fairly well. Oh and, not that we’d expect them to, but we haven’t found a story yet that reads, “as first reported on Twitter.” Maybe there’s a few out there — but who knows.
Nonetheless had CNN or anyone else for that matter been listening in to Twitter, they could have preemptively put up a story that would attract Google searchers to their site. For example, “Earthquakes in LA” would have been a fine headline — it’s probably what people were typing into Google (if they were searching at all).
And then they could have tweeted their link and it would have bounced around the Twittersphere because when there are no links to share, that’s what people do — they send around the only one there is. Tons of people click on it and that, my friends, is how you harness the power of twitter.