Studies find journalists use Twitter for broadcast

The final research paper at the ISOJ focused on how newsrooms were using Twitter.

Dale Blasingame from Texas State University, San Marcos, looked at how Twitter was changing TV news.

He started by saying that a web first approach in newsrooms is no longer enough due to the instant dissemination of news via Twitter.

Twitter allows both professionals and citizens to “jump the gate” and send news directly to audiences, challenging the traditional gatekeeping role of the journalist.

Blasingame studied coded almost 2,300 tweets from San Antonio newsrooms on a shooting incident.

He said it this case study showed how Twitter could be used as a tool to deliver news, but added “it would be foolish to suggest this happens on a daily basis.”

In terms of his analysis of tweets, the most were promotional in nature, followed by breaking news.

The results were worse for official station Twitter accounts. One station account just sent promotional links for web stories automatically.

Blasingame recommended that newsrooms should restrain promotional tweets to just 20% of all their messages.

Student uses of Twitter

Next up, Carrie Brown, University of Memphis, together with Elizabeth Hendrickson, University of Tennessee and Jeremy Littau, Lehigh University, presented a study on how Twitter could help journalists reach underserved communities.

Brown qualified the study as exploratory and largely descriptive, but it provides a useful starting point.

One group she studied was young people, students between 19 – 29. She found many of them know each other and post about what they are doing or banter during class. Twitter was used as a social tool for informal communication

Students saw Twitter as a pseudo-anonymous space, with lots of use for Twitter for fun and entertainment. A few were using it for professional networking.

But students also talked about getting information on Twitter, stumbling across news.

Brown also found that students were very receptive to getting news on Twitter from journalists. In the survey, students reported more engagement with the news.

But some wanted more of a relationship with journalists on Twitter, rather than just broadcast headlines.

Littau said students wanted connectivity, information, expression and entertainment from Twitter. But African-American students expressed more of a preference for information and expression than Caucasian students.

Shovelling tweets

Marcus Messner, Virginia Commonwealth University, with Maureen Linke and Asriel Eford, presented research on how traditional news media in the US were adopting Twitter and social bookmarking.

For their study, they looked at the top 99 newspapers and top 100 TV stations in the US. By 2010, 198 of them had Twitter accounts. These were the main Twitter feeds from the news organisation, rather than from individual reporters.

As for social bookmarking, 36% offered this in 2009 and 92% by 2010. Facebook has become almost fully adopted by the news media, with Twitter adoption jumping from a third in 2009 to more than 90% in 2010.

In terms of Twitter use, one in three news media did not tweet in 2009, falling to one in four by 2010.

Most of the tweets were news related.  Personal communication accounted for just 5.7% in 2009 and 3.5% in 2010.

Messner said the tweets were largely used as promotional tools for web stories, with few differences between newspapers and television.

He concluded that Twitter has been fully adopted by the US news media but not used to its full potential.

“Most tweets are still shovelware,” he said, “they are not engagement of the community.” He urged news organisations to look at Twitter as a social space, rather than just another publication platform.

International perspective on Twitter

The final paper came from a team of researchers who looked at the use of social media in 27 news outlets in 7 Iberian and Latin American countries.

Presenting the findings Elvira García de Torres (Universidad CEU Cardenal Herrera, Spain) found that most messages on Twitter and Facebook were based on headline links.

Only 5.6% were conversational on Facebook. Only five newspapers engaged in a conversation with users on the news.

As might be expected, the researchers found that conversational messages have more potential to engage audiences.

The team found few requests for information from users, but also that journalists received little response from the audience.  Journalists did see some value in going to Facebook to find photos of people.

Surprising, the researchers found there were no rules, or no planning in the newsroom, around the use of social media.

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