How effective is the microblogging website Twitter in spreading news,
since every media organisation of any consequence has an account these
That's the question Sudha Ram, from the University of Arizona,
set out to answer in a recent study of a dozen major news organisations
that use the social media website for sharing their content.
answer, according to Ram's research, varies widely by news agency and
there may not be one universally applicable strategy for maximising
However, news agencies can learn a lot by
looking at how their news diffuses once it is posted on Twitter, said
Ram, professor of management information systems (MIS) and computer
science at Arizona's Eller College of Management.
over a six-month period, the Twitter activity of 12 major news
organisations focused on US news, global news, technology news or
financial news, according to an Arizona statement.
All of the
agencies selected - the New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, NPR,
Reuters, Guardian, Forbes, Financial Times, Mashable, Arstechnica, Wired
and Bloomberg - regularly share news articles on Twitter, which allows
users to post 140-character messages as well as links to online content.
working with Devi Bhattacharya, an MIS doctoral student at Arizona,
tracked what happened to a news article after it was tweeted by a news
Together, they looked at how many people retweeted,
or reposted, the article on their own Twitter feeds, then how many times
it was subsequently retweeted from those accounts and so forth.
They were then able to evaluate the volume and extend of spread of an article on Twitter, as well as its overall lifespan.
"The goal for a news agency is to have a lot of people reading and following your articles," said Ram.
we've done is use network analysis, which is quite different from just
looking at the total number of tweets or total number of retweets.
You're starting to see, over time, how information is spreading," Ram
Ram and Bhattacharya rendered the data they collected from
each organisation visually as images. These appear something like
fireworks, with dots representing individual Twitter users and cascade
streams from those dots depicting retweets.