November 18, 2011
A recent study by Pew tracked major media outlets on Twitter and found that most are using it to broadcast their content, not interact with readers.
Examining a week’s worth of tweets from 13 sites like the Washington Post and the New York Times, the study found that – on the publications’ main feeds, which averaged 33 tweets per day – 93% of tweets linked back to their site, 1% linked to outside content, and only 2% asked for information or feedback. (Fox News was more engaged, with 21% of tweets soliciting responses.)
“These findings reveal limited use of the institution’s public Twitter identity, one that generally takes less advantage of the interactive and reportorial nature of Twitter,” reports Pew.
The fact that mainstream media are using Twitter to broadcast rather than have two-way interactions could reflect the limitations of the platform itself. This includes the short tweet history available on Twitter.com and the difficulty of tracking conversations. Twitter’s new Activity tab could make it easier to monitor follower behavior, but bigger changes are needed to make Twitter a full conversation platform.
Still, the study suggests that news outlets need to foster more engagement to remain relevant. Although they may be interacting with readers elsewhere, like on Facebook or in article comments, Twitter is a major source of news these days.
Put more broadly, old media should continue moving into the interactive future. One promising initiative is the Washington Post’s personalized, social news platform called Trove. Otherwise, they could be disrupted by a media startup that fully leverages social networks to gather information and create a true conversation.
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