Twitter Still The Top Source For Breaking News, According To New Study

Despite financial woes, American Press Institute finds reason to hope

A new study finds that people use Twitter for breaking news on these topics and many others. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

A new study finds that people use Twitter for breaking news on these topics and many others. (Photo: Flickr Creative Commons)

The news hasn’t been kind to Twitter lately.

The social network’s stock has plummeted (even Jim Cramer is worried), and the user experience has been assailed by old and new media alike.

But a new study of 4,700 social media users by the American Press Institute shows that all is not lost in the world of the Tweetbot. Twitter still excels in one important area: breaking news.

As any journalist can tell you, timelines get quite crowded when news breaks, and the study offers empirical proof of this—70 percent of those surveyed said they had used Twitter in the last month to follow a news story in real time.

More than that, users actively participate during breaking news situations:

  • 80 percent of those who tracked news in the last month clicked through to links as they scrolled.
  • Only 39 percent of Twitter users normally do this.

There are a lot of ripple effects to this trend:

  • 55 percent of breaking news Twitter users retweeted a story.
  • 53 percent used a hashtag to find more information.
  • 40 percent of users tweeted their own reactions to the story.
  • 30 percent followed someone new.

Other sites also feel the benefit of Twitter’s reach:

  • Half of users went to a search engine to get more information about a topic.
  • 40 percent checked another news website.
  • 34 percent went to another social network.

Once the breaking news event is over, many users continue to engage with news:

  • 74 percent of users go on Twitter daily.
  • 64 percent said they both read and share articles on the site.

It’s not just breaking stories that make Twitter go crazy—anyone who’s followed the Super Bowl or the Oscars on social media knows tweeters bring valuable information to the table:

  • 79 percent of users scroll through their timeline during these events.
  • 60 percent actively tweet or retweet.
  • 45 percent click stories or hashtags.

The people who report the news also benefit from all this sharing:

  • 73 percent of those polled follow individual journalists.
  • 67 percent of tweeters encountered these journalists for the first time on Twitter.
  • 53 percent followed the writers’ work outside of Twitter after discovering them.

This study proves a theory that Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey has had for years—in a 2013 interview with CNBC, Mr. Dorsey said he knew the site was a viable source for news during the 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson,” when passengers live tweeted Capt. Chesley Sullenberger’s heroic plane landing.

Twitter Still The Top Source For Breaking News, According To New Study