Twitter “Barely Registers As A Referring Source” For News Websites

My bet is, you share a lot of links on Twitter. Of course, that’s no risky bet: if you’re active on Twitter, chances are you use it not only for waxing philosophical about traffic jams, but also to share and retweet news you find with your followers. But a contradictory new study has just been released which suggests all this link-sharing isn’t really worth much to the big-name news site out there.

The Navigating News Online study released today from Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism details what major news websites people visit, how they get there, and what lures them away. And, while you might have an “ah-ha!” moment and declare Twitter to be the new underdog traffic driver, you’d be very, very wrong.

No, rather than driving significant traffic to the likes of the Washington Post and the New York Times, Twitter barely registers as a traffic source at all.

There were 25 major newspaper websites examined in this study, and Twitter showed up as a referring source for only 9 of them. A surprise in and of itself. But of these 9, only one – just one – could consider Twitter a semi-significant source of traffic.

The LA Times received 3.53% of its traffic from Twitter, which was more than it received from Facebook (2.05%). However, this number was more than three times the traffic than the New York Times, the next highest on the list, received.

There were only four major news sites that saw more than 1% of their traffic come from Twitter. And compared to Facebook – which refers 8% of the Huffington Posts’s traffic, and over 5% of the NY Times, CNN, ABC News and the Examiners – these are low numbers indeed.

This study shows that something’s up with Twitter’s own claims to have more than 200 million registered users, and the perception that Twitter is a huge link-sharing playground. Of course, we all know that Twitter’s numbers are likely inflated (and likely less than 21 million), which would explain part of why Twitter isn’t a huge traffic driver to news sites. But still – people share a lot of links on Twitter, don’t they? More than Facebook, even? The question of how many links are being shared on Twitter – and, perhaps more importantly, how many people actually click on those links – is one that deserves further analysis.

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