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Twitter Tops The List Of Social Media Platforms To Break News

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May, 2011, Abottabad IT consultant Sohaib Athar tweets:

“Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1AM (is a rare event).”

— Sohaib Athar (@ReallyVirtual) May 1, 2011

This was approximately nine hours before the news hit the world.


“There’s a plane in the Hudson. I’m on the ferry going to pick up the people. Crazy.”

This was the twitpic of Janis Krum which alerted world about the infamous Hudson River plane crash.

EARTH QUAKE in Beijing?? Yup… @keso I felt it too!!

— dtan (@dtan) May 12, 2008

This tweet along with many others, alerted the world about the devastating earthquake that shook China in 2008, long before Geological Survey of United States had a comment on it. Same stand was taken by the people during the 2011 Virginia earthquake; people started twitting when they felt their houses were shaking; more than 40,000 earthquakes related tweets were sent within the minutes of the occurrence took place.

There are many more examples like the above breaking news which Twitter had hosted on their platform since the time of its activation. So we will be in our dreamland if we still think that traditional journalism is the one and only source for getting “real” news. The American Press Institute, Twitter and a research company called DB5 produced a study which has given new insight on the relationship between news use and Twittersphere. The study, involving 4,700 social media users, finds out that Twitter users are more inclined to news than other social media users. The comparatively young users of Twitter tend to log in more than once a day depending up on the flow of news. The study also notices that Twitter users participate more actively when it comes to breaking news. Today’s youth believe in contribution both in content as well as opinion. We will come back to the results and numbers later in this article. Let us try to see how does this phenomenon of using Twitter for breaking news affect traditional journalism.


With the advancement of internet, mobile, mobile apps and social media networks news has started to find us, the users, instead of us finding the news. Not only that. We very much like to ‘sort’ and read only those news which we feel connected to. Thus, while creating profiles on social media platforms, we provide choices; or, the platforms themselves are made in such a way so that they are capable to decide on our choices studying our behaviour while we use them as to which news we would like to read. From the moment we get up in the morning till the moment we fall asleep, a constant flow of news feed invades our brain, cluttering it to the point of frenzy, and we react only instinctively. However, that is a different story altogether! This constant flow of news was possible because of people; because people took the charge of spreading news in their hand. If you are present in the venue while something big is happening, if you happen to have account on any social media platform as well as a smart phone, you share the event, hence ‘reporting’ it; journalism freed from the clutches of an age-old discipline and rigorous training; for better or for worse!

2015 was a time when Twitter introduced revolutionary changes keeping all those things in mind. During October 2015, Twitter’s product manager Madhu Muthukumar announced the launching of Moments, a new curation tool which tracks the best of what is taking place at a given moment in the world. The tag line of Moments carries the full weight of the tool: If it happens in the world, it happens on Twitter. It also shows Twitter’s approach towards breaking news; they are dead serious about it!


For now, Moments is available only to the people in the US across Android, iPhone, and the desktop web. However, it functions like a Tweet; a Moment can be shared anywhere. Outside of US, people can enjoy the same experience if they discover a link to Moment in a Tweet or DM, or anywhere else. If you tap on the new lightning bolt tab on your phone a list of Moments will open up which are most important at that given moment. The list gets updated continuously as the day passes through time. One can also swipe through to topics including “Entertainment” and “Sports” to find more stories from the past few days.


As we have promised that we will get back to the important numbers again, now is the time to fulfill it! Why so? Because the study reveals the users’ approach towards Twitter as a platform for breaking news. The study done by the American Press Institute, Twitter and DB5 reveals more than we had bargained for.

 # Approximately 9 out of 10 Twitter users involved in the study (86%) use twitter for news. 74% of these users are habituated to check Twitter for news on a day-to-day basis.

# 40% of the user confirms that they use Twitter more to be alerted for a breaking news rather than news generally.

# Twitter users are more likely to discover new journalists and writer as they tend to follow individual writers, journalists and commentators. We are talking about a majority of 73% users here.

#  94% of Twitter news users tend to scroll their timeline or browse through tweets of those they follow in comparison to the 30% who tends to search for news or to the 34% who gets news from trending topics.

# A vast majority, 82% of the users use their phone for Twitter.

# Similarly, a vast majority of non-Twitter users come across with tweets in a daily basis while watching TV (45%), from friends (33%), news articles that they read (27%) or on the newspaper they follow (8%). Non-Twitter users also tend to check out (22%) without being logged in. A 12 % of the non-Twitter users come across with a tweet from searching.

These percentages reflect the trust that Twitter has managed to build over the time. The most-heard accusation against social media networks like Twitter is that one can never know whether it is “real” news or just a “rumor” when it comes to serve “News”! Now, the accusation itself provides the answer: news is live – it is a process; in this era of democratic distribution of news and knowledge a tweet has every potential to become breaking news, within minutes from its post.


Twitter practices citizen journalism to its height. Citizen journalism or participatory journalism explore the idea of untrained citizens involving in the process of collecting, reporting and circulating news.  When a tweet breaks news it goes through many stages from being trusted by people at once to being confirmed by any mainstream media after a certain period of time. In the case of Osama Bin Laden (or many more instances so to say!) being hunted down, people took it as “news” simply because Brian Stelter retweeted the message. He is someone trusted by many Twitter users. This was way before CNN confirmed the news.

The reason behind Twitter topping the list of social media platform to break news is that Twitter users trust the platform and their fellow Tweeps as a source of reliable news. It is because mostly the users will be involved in the news that they are breaking (take the case of earthquakes in China or Virginia). This direct connection to fellow humans around the world provides transparency and thus, honesty, which were the key factors of journalism to begin with. Twitter is just taking it to a new level.

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