A new study by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press found that only an estimated 3 percent of the American public regularly gets news on Twitter.
This seems to confirm that Twitter, especially as a news-gathering tool, is somewhat of a niche platform.
The number of actual Twitter users who use the site to get news went up, according to the study: “In the new survey, 27% say they get news regularly on Twitter while another 28% say they sometimes do this. In 2010, only 17% said they regularly got news on Twitter, while 15% said they sometimes got news on Twitter.”
The study also reported that 36 percent of Twitter users follow journalists from their accounts.
This seems generally consistent with my use of Twitter, though I’m not an entirely neutral subject as a journalism student. I do follow some people I know on Twitter, but I follow a lot of journalists who I do not know too.
Facebook, in my use, is a platform for connecting with my friends about purely social subjects. Twitter, however, is a site to gather news from people or sources I respect and value but may have never met.
Another interesting stat from the study focuses on retweeting the news. According to the report, “As is the case with social networks users, more Twitter users follow news on the site than use it to share news. About one-in-ten Twitter users (9%) regularly tweet or re-tweet news headlines; a similar percentage of social network users (10%) shares news on social network sites.”
This is important for news organizations. Though Twitter may provide exposure and generate conversations with readers, based on these figures, it is unlikely to spark viral sharing of individual headlines.
Twitter is certainly growing in popularity, but it still hasn’t completely caught on. Being on a college campus in a city, it’s easy to lose perspective and see the site as ubiquitous.
It’s not, and the Pew study is a reminder of that. But Twitter is frequented by journalists, and its importance in news-gathering and sharing still seems inevitable.