A new report from Yahoo! Research has used Twitter in an attempt to answer Lasswell’s maxim: “who says what to whom in what channel with what effect”.
The report, Who Says What to Whom on Twitter | Yahoo! Research, found that 50% of all tweets consumed are generated by just 20,000 elite users.
For the purposes of the study, they classified Twitter users into “elite” or “ordinary”, breaking elite users into the categories media, celebrities, organisations and bloggers.
One of the more interesting things looked at in the report is the lifespan of content, and what they found with media-related tweets.
“We find that different categories of users emphasize different types of content, and that different content types exhibit dramatically different characteric lifespans, ranging from less than a day to months.”
In its conclusion, the report found that “media-originated URLs are disproportiantely represented among short-lived URLs”.
We also find that different types of content exhibit very different lifespans: media-originated URLs are disproportionately represented among short-lived URLs while those originated by bloggers tend to be overrepresented among long-lived URLs. Finally, we find that the longest-lived URLs are dominated by content such as videos and music, which are continually being rediscovered by Twitter users and appear to persist indefinitely.
That can be seen in this figure, generated by unshortening 35,000 URLs that “lived” at least 200 days, and mapping them to 21,034 domains.
Read the abstract and get the PDF of the report here:
Who Says What to Whom on Twitter | Yahoo! Research
With all the talk about whether the content of newspapers is of a quality the public will be willing to pay for online, it took a search of our paper’s archives recently to remind me that … it is. It’s not necessarily the quality of the individual story (although that’s obviously there), but of the narrative – the archive – that presents an ongoing and valuable commodity.
A mistake of mainstream media has been to ignore and devalue that content.
So if there’s going to be a paywall, maybe it should be for archived content. Not just archived material that you can do a text search on, but a powerful database of related, interwoven “smart” content. At the moment that’s largely unavailable. Allow users to follow the background story, or stories, that give context to the current revision, whether that history is contained in text, image, audio or video content.
As such, it equally applies to any media, or content creator, but this particular post approaches it from the mindset of print.
I had reason to search NewsText, a database of newspaper archives, for the entire history of the Queensland Government’s lobbyist issue, where former government ministers were representing lobbying firms on development projects. During the search I saw clearly the linear progression and connectedness of these articles across months, even years, all presented chronologically. It’s there without tags or related story linking, just a regular text search. Where the authors were different, and in some cases even the publication, the full story still unfolded.
But that linear value is completely lost, both in the newspaper because it isn’t possible, and online when it isn’t utilised. In the newspaper it’s only possible to read each article as a standalone piece, without reference or even knowledge of the wealth of background to the story, or the ongoing work a publication or journalist has devoted to covering that story.
There is the capability to do it online but, in most cases, it’s not being done. People can currently pay for this archival content, with access to historical textual news searches through services like NewsText or Lexis Nexis, but the ability to do that should be provided online from the originating news source.
And why not monetise it?
It’s not like it’s a service offered now and, like academic articles, it could provide a story précis or the context in which the search terms are contained. Some kind of context would help the consumer decide if they want to pay for the entire article, or a sequence of related articles and/or other media content.
If it’s done it shouldn’t be prohibitive to pay for articles. Ease of access is the barrier to overcome, and anything over just a few cents per article would quickly become prohibitively expensive.
You only pay $1.69 AU ($0.99 US) for a song on iTunes, and the whole point of that purchase is to have a product you can use (listen to) again and again. Most people who purchase an article don’t intend to use it over and over again. It’s a one time, single use purchase – generally for reference only and a cheap price should reflect that.
It’s wrong that newspapers and other content creators didn’t start doing this much earlier, or adopt the best practices of somebody who has figured it out. It’s not just another “related articles” plugin, although it includes that, but a seriously robust system that makes the archive useful. Content on news media sites is archived online but, if it wasn’t for Google, it would be nigh on impossible to actually find it.
Everyone has failed at converting content to the web and leveraging the value of their archives. Not just mainstream media. Everybody.
Social Media Optimisation, or SMO, is gaining momentum as the new content distribution buzzword. Content is increasingly shared, and news content particularly is delivered through social networking sites. Will SMO replace SEO, search engine optimisation, as the way news organisations get their content seen by a wider audience?
A New York Times article last week tried to explain the future of news distribution by describing how ‘the young’ share news online via social networks.
SMO, or Social Media Optimisation, is one of the most important stories of the new media campaign – for several reasons.
- MSM (main stream media) are beginning to understand that social content distribution is a serious threat to their current distribution methods
- MSM in the main were disrespectfully late in adopting SEO, and
- It’s only now, well into the Facebook boom, that people are starting to take notice of the value of SMO.
While SEO, Search Engine Optimisation, will remain very important to news gathering and searching methods, it could soon be superceded by a much more important player in news distribution channels and strategies – Social Media Optimisation, or SMO.
How do people share information online? How do they find it? How does social media facilitate this?
What the New York Times article shows is the acceptance, if only partial, of the concept of SMO – that news is no longer force-fed, it is now shared, social, viral, and word of mouth.
Young people expect to see video with campaign stories
New York Times
â€œAnd they’ll find it elsewhere if you don’t give it to them, and then that’s the link that’s going to be passed around over e-mail and instant message,â€œ says Huffington Post’s Danny Shea. Brian Stelter writes: â€œYounger voters tend to be not just consumers of news and current events but conduits as well — sending out e-mailed links and videos to friends and their social networks. And in turn, they rely on friends and online connections for news to come to them. In essence, they are replacing the professional filter — reading the Washington Post, clicking on CNN.com — with a social one.â€œ
Like it or not, for traditional news media the news is a commodity that must sell. For it to sell and make money, it must be traded, clicked, monetised, and advertised. When content went online, MSM (mainstream media) very slowly caught up to the idea of SEO – making content user and search engine friendly.
Arguments from MSM – and let me be brutally honest here – dinosaurs, have been that using SEO techniques in news media is simply bowing to a digital master. Many in MSM have for too long bucked at what they call ‘writing headlines for a machine’.
That argument represents a fundamental lack of knowledge about how the future of information distribution will be shaped, and does not bode well for the necessary rapid uptake of SMO – integration with Facebook, Myspace, Twitter, Pownce, Tumblr, Stumbleupon, and numerous other variety of social networking startups.
People use the internet to search for information. When doing so, people looking for a story about the conclusion of the divorce trial between Heather Mills and Paul McCartney would most likely use the search terms, heather mills divorce, or paul mccartney divorce, or heather mills paul mccartney divorce, or even add the word settlement to any of those searches. They will not search using a print headline like â€œDamnation of Her Ladyshipâ€œ or â€œLady Liarâ€œ, from the Daily Mail and Daily Mirror respectively, both on March 19.
People use a search engine to find what they are looking for, so writing page or article titles that assists them to do that is by no means writing headlines for a machine – it is writing headlines that will help real people find information using a machine.
But as MSM has only recently grasped the importance of doing this, and just as they catch up and start optimising content for search, the rules of the game gradually begin to change again.
MSM need to not be left behind this time. News in the new world of digital media is shared. Social media is word of mouth advertising. Social media is recommending a product to a friend, and whether that be viral video or a news story, it is a link to content of mutual interest, shared among a community of friends, a seperate community of family, another community of professional contacts, and innumerable other communities that gather around hobbies.
That MySpace, or Facebook, may be the flavour of the social networking month and gone tomorrow as another new social networking site enters the friend-swapping fray, is no good reason to neglect to stay in the game. If you’re only just starting to embrace MySpace as the skyrocketing Facebook begins to face new competition from bebo, you’re two full lengths behind the leaders.
The only saving grace for MSM in the past is that they have generally formed a pack that lag behind the innovators. Be warned though, as soon as your competition gets a clue and embraces the reality of online content sharing and community building in their news distribution strategy – you’ll find out just how lazy you’ve been when you lose community respect and relevance.
When the editors and owners hit the panic button and ask, â€œWhat the hell have you been doing? We’ve been left behind!â€œ – What will you say?
Integration is not just newsrooms. Integration is leading innovation, or at the very least keeping up with it.
Traditional media no longer control the news distribution channels.
Seed your content. Link out. Allow your video to be embedded, linked to, displayed elsewhere.
In a rush to get this post out, I buried it in another article, Email Old News to Gen C.
It reappears now because it needed to be republished in its own right as a review of Twitter usage in Australian media and politics.
In Australia, very few news organisations use Twitter. As full disclosure, before I continue, I work at The Courier Mail, a News Limited paper.
Fairfax masthead sites
- Sydney Morning Herald – none, although there is a user account for an SMH columnist
https://twitter.com/samanthabrett – last and only update May 2007
- The Age – http://twitter.com/theage – last update May 2007
- Brisbane Times – none
- http://twitter.com/abcnewsbrisbane – regularly updated through day
- http://twitter.com/abcnews – regularly updated through day
- http://twitter.com/abcrn – ABC Radio National – deleted since December
- http://twitter.com/abctv – an example of a squatter. Two updates, one of which is “can’t believe this one wasn’t taken”.
News Limited masthead sites
- The Australian – https://twitter.com/theaustralian – never updated
- The Daily Telegraph – https://twitter.com/dailytelegraph – never updated
- The Herald Sun – http://twitter.com/heraldsun – never updated
- AdelaideNow – https://twitter.com/adelaidenow – never updated
- PerthNow – https://twitter.com/perthnow – never updated
- The Mercury – https://twitter.com/themercury – never updated
- NT News – none
- The Courier Mail – 20 Twitter accounts (as at January 31, 2008) updated whenever new content available on site
UPDATE: link to search for “cmail” Twitter accounts is broken after Twitter site redesigns. This URL will now reach the 20 Courier Mail cmail Twitter accounts: http://twitter.com/who_to_follow/search/cmail.
I am assuming the unused Twitter accounts above belong to these publications, but it’s entirely possible someone could simply be ‘squatting’ on the Twitter user names.
I set up Twitter accounts for all of The Courier Mail’s news sections in early October last year, making our newspaper one of the only two news outlets in Australia using Twitter (that I have found), and definitely one of the largest media contributors to Twitter by number of content categories, but not necessarily volume of content.
The Courier Mail’s current crop of 20 Twitter user accounts are providing free SMS/IM updates on topics ranging from sports, to business, to breaking news, all with tinyurl links to the original story content. I’m now trying to find time to play around with a Facebook page for The Courier Mail, although I rarely have any spare hours at home to spend doing that.
During the process of setting up these Twitter accounts, I did a search to see if other Australian news outlets were already using Twitter.
Of News Limited mastheads, apart from The Courier Mail, none of the other existing News Ltd Twitter users have posted.
Of Fairfax mastheads, only The Age has a single feed, last updated in May 2007.
The ABC has two feeds – one of which I follow to receive local news alerts on my mobile phone.
A search for “news” in Twitter yields a large number of results. Here are just a few (listed as their Twitter user name) that may be of interest – financialtimes, npr news, cbcnews, wired, ITN_NEWS, BBC, SkyNewsBusiness, indianews, SkyNews, and CNETNews.
In the UK, the BBC and Sky have a larger selection of Twitter updates that can be followed.
The 2007 federal election was approaching when I was working on the Courier Mail Twitter accounts so, having already written a story about politics and social networking, I had a look at what political parties had on Twitter.
At the time the results were:
Three updates in total, all on August 2, 2007, that are worth mentioning.
The Greens have established a twitter and are testing it.
04:11 PM August 02, 2007
Do you receive my Greens twitter?
04:26 PM August 02, 2007
Hrrrmmm, if I was 14 I’d know exactly what would happen
06:39 PM August 02, 2007
In 2008, however, the Greens seem to have got their act together with a Twitter page feeding from the Greens Blog website.
I also didn’t find this during the election last year , but https://twitter.com/kevinrudd is another spoof Twitter account.
The possibilities of Twitter as a quick and easy mass distribution method would be well utilised by politicians.