Over at Kunstler's blog
, I left the following program note on Monday.
Today's post is about Cyber Monday, and tomorrow's is about the stink of retail desperation. As for the rest of the week, I know I'll be marking my third anniversary of writing for Examiner.com and starting another month on Saturday.
As you can read, that's only four posts for six days, which means I didn't know what I'd be writing about on two of them, although I had a few ideas. Yesterday, my readers gave me a push, as Social media shaping policy
was the most read post of the day with 39 views during the 24 hours before 8:30 PM yesterday. It was also the third most viewed entry of the past seven days with 66 views. Since I just happen to have some social media stories handy and was thinking of posting them anyway, that made my choice of topic tonight easy.
I'll begin with research on social media itself, starting with this study about how news spreads on Twitter.
University of Arizona: UA Study Examines How News Spreads on TwitterA study of the Twitter activity of 12 major news agencies shows varying levels of success for the social network as a news-sharing tool, based on factors like article lifespan and number of retweets.
By Alexis Blue, University Communications
October 15, 2012
Nearly every major news organization has a Twitter account these days, but just how effective is the microblogging website at spreading news? That’s the question University of Arizona professor Sudha Ram set out to answer in a recent study of a dozen major news organizations that use the social media website as one tool for sharing their content.
The answer, according to Ram’s research, varies widely by news agency, and there may not be one universally applicable strategy for maximizing Twitter effectiveness. However, news agencies can learn a lot by looking at how their news diffuses once it is posted on Twitter, said Ram, McClelland Professor of Management Information Systems in the UA’s Eller College of Management.
Ram, who recently presented her findings at the International Workshop on Business Applications of Social Network Analysis in Istanbul, examined, over a six-month period, the Twitter activity of 12 major news organizations focused on U.S. news, global news, technology news or financial news.
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.
Ram, working with Devi Bhattacharya, an MIS doctoral student at the UA, tracked what happened to a news article after it was tweeted by a news organization. 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, who is also a professor of computer science at the UA. “What 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 and Bhattacharya rendered the data they collected from each organization visually as images showing how the news is diffused. The network visualizations appear something like fireworks, with dots representing individual twitter users and cascade streams from those dots depicting retweets. The images reveal different diffusion patterns for the different agencies, which can provide clues to those organizations about how their news is spreading and what they might want to focus on to be successful, Ram said.
“This gives them good feedback, and it’s kind of a performance report for them,” Bhattacharya said. “It gives them an idea about the reading habits of people online and how they like to consume news.”
Here are three of her images showing the propagations of tweets from Forbes, the New York Times, and Reuters, along with the captions accompanying each image.
A study by UA professor Sudha Ram shows, through network visualizations, varying patterns of news diffusion on Twitter for a dozen different news agencies. Shown here is...the Twitter Activity Network for Forbes.
The Twitter Activity Network for The New York Times shows a high number of users participating in long chains of tweeting and retweeting.
The Twitter Activity Network for Reuters shows a high number of users posting direct retweets of news agencies' tweets.
Those are just three of the news organizations studied. What about the rest?
Of the organizations analyzed, BBC had the maximum reach in terms of affected users and retweet levels. BBC articles also had the highest chance of survival on Twitter, with 0.1 percent of articles surviving, through continual retweets, for three or more days. The BBC’s high numbers were likely due in large part to the fact that the main "bbcnews" Twitter account also is supported by two other agency accounts – "bbcbreaking" and "bbcworld," Ram said. The New York Times and Mashable had the second highest reach. Articles from Forbes, Wired and Bloomberg had the shortest Twitter lifespans.
I suspect that the differences in the dispersal patterns of news tweets has as much or more to do with the nature of the readers/viewers of the respective news services and their attachment to the organization as it does with the reliability or reputation of the news services themselves or their use of Twitter. The BBC and New York Times are held in generally high regard by their readers/viewers/listeners as among the most respected news sources in their countries and that might have as much to do with the longevity of their tweets as the evergreen nature of their stories. On the other hand, the techies and financial people might find the news from Wired, Forbes, and Bloomberg to have a very limited shelf life, as well as the publications themselves being less established than the Beeb and Gray Lady.
Now, why that 72-hour benchmark used above?
Overall, Ram said the data showed that articles on Twitter dissipate fairly quickly, with retweeting typically ending between 10 and 72 hours after an article is originally shared.
I've seen that 72 hour lifespan before; it's the time limit for a story to be considered newsworthy on Examiner.com. Looks like Ram has found empirical evidence in support of that rule of thumb.
So, what's the point of all this, besides academic curiosity?
Ram says she hopes to do more extensive research on news sharing and develop partnerships with news agencies to help them answer specific questions about their social media practices and performance.
“The idea is really to see if we can make some predictions,” Ram said. “What are some attributes of these networks that will help us make predictions? Is it number of followers? Is it engagement of followers? Is it what time you tweet? Is it who else is tweeting at the same time? Which are the more useful attributes that will help us predict, and therefore will help us give organizations suggestions on how to be more effective in spreading their news? Because ultimately their goal is more people reading their articles and talking about them.”
Cool. Since I use social media to share the articles I write for Examiner.com, I could use any tips from Ram's research.
Follow over the jump for more social media stories originally posted on Overnight News Digest on Daily Kos.