On Twitter and Real-time Microblogging Analytics in News Journalism

Well, the tweets continue to flow these days, and microblogs such as Twitter, Facebook, identi.ca and others continue to make the news. This, however, has historically been treated with kid gloves by news journalists and news gathering organizations.

In news journalism, news items containing any mention of an application of Twitter tend to veer towards “soft news” in which the subject matter is, at best, distracting rather than potentially impactful upon the general public. This trend in news journalism tends to change around the time of serious crises or major events, where the coverage expounds upon how Twitter is being used by victims, participants or other parties involved with the event. Statistics are hardly presented as meaningful or necessary news items, compared to other television news segments such as “Sports”, “Weather”, “Business” and the occasional “Polls” which are subsumed under the general coverage of “Politics”.

However, this has gradually begun to change in light of the development of better tools and applications for the measurement of Microblogs. In particular, one of the more recent innovations on Twitter analytics has been the Dashboard, which has been applied by at least one organization.

Al Jazeera English’s Dashboard

Al Jazeera English, the English-language sister of the famed Doha-based cable channel, made a strong name for itself in its coverage of the 2010-2011 protests and internal regime changes in West Asia and North Africa, having kept its eyes and cameras trained on such densely-populated hotspots as Cairo’s Tahrir Square. However, such coverage only received its well-deserved boost in recognition and visibility through the usage of social media in order to promote its live streaming video of the channel. The organization bought a “Promoted Tweet” ad containing the hashtags “#Libya”, “#Yemen”, “#Egypt” and “#Tunisia” in order to propel readers to the AJE’s website.

The organization further elevated its harnessing of social media after the Egyptian government of Hosni Mubarak was replaced. Beginning in February, Al Jazeera English set up a Twitter Analytics dashboard which measures and graphically displays the frequency of tweets containing any mention of “Egypt”, “Libya”, “Bahrain” or “Yemen” in real time.

While not the first to create a Twitter analytics dashboard, it is one of the first news organizations to display such a sophisticated tool on its website as an aggregation of the public mindshare and interest concerning an ongoing event.

But is AJE’s real-time analytics dashboard a sign of things to come for news journalism, not just for means of reporting the news but also for sources of such news as well?

The Next Segment of “Numbers”

I can imagine that AJE, CNN or some other news organization will come to further enhance their Sci/Tech news desks and staff  in order to not only give reviews and observations on technology, but also numbers, graphics and hard data (or “The Numbers”) which can be aggregated from such sources as Twitter.

One such application of The Numbers for this newer incarnation of the Sci/Tech news desk is the aggregation and comparison of the top websites currently being linked (directly or indirectly) from Twitter posts. Another application is the “ReTweet value” of such links, or whether content hosted on the linked websites are more or less likely to be retweeted. Finally, yet another application of The Numbers is the zeitgeist of top terms and hashtags, their interrelationship with each other, and how they currently fare in comparison with other search terms.

When broadcast on specialty news channels, such information could be shown as a news ticker or “scorebar” in order to retain a constant flow of information to the viewing audience.

Why Pay Attention to these “Numbers”?

There is a growing body of reasons for why we should pay more attention to the Web as a focus of news and information.

For marketers, campaigners and other advocates, the Web as both a source and shuttle for mass media-oriented information is especially relevant; in search of the current “Cool” hotspot(s) of communication, seeking out the websites which are most frequently linked on social networking services and planting a subtle, attractive advertisement which can be spread in a viral manner is a gamble which has to be made carefully.

For individuals who are charged or employed to keep track of incoming messages being posted regarding a sensitive or timely issue, viewing which linked websites rank the highest in the number of incoming links provides a broader implications and effects of such events.

There are many more ways in which this Analytical data can be observed and used, and there is a greater opportunity for Sci/Tech news television to become better fleshed out and substantive. All thanks to Twitter and real-time social media analytics.


Author: Harry Underwood

Website designer, blogger. Columbus, GA. #LGBT #p2 #wordpress

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