Study Says Facebook is Better Than Twitter For Spreading News

An IT consultant in Pakistan (inadvertently) shared the first piece of information about the raid that led to Osama bin Laden’s death on Twitter, and the first person to announce the event did it through a tweet as well. According to the Project for Excellence in Journalism though, Twitter “barely registers” as a referral source to top news sites, while Facebook can often be “the second or third most important driver of traffic.”

This is completely anecdotal, but it seems that Twitter gets a lot more mentions in broadcast journalism, so we have to wonder if some part of this is just down to how news organizations use each site. Keith Urbahn, who tweeted “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden. Hot damn.” an hour before President Obama made the announcement, says he got the tip from a news producer. Most mainstream media outlets didn’t announce their speculations on the content of the President’s announcements for a while longer, but at the time Urbahn tweeted, there was nothing to link to.

In fact, a cursory glance at the Twitter accounts for quite a few journalists show brief updates and replies to followers without links to previous coverage.

Given the size of Facebook, it’s not difficult to believe that they’d be able to send a site more traffic than Twitter (all things being equal), but is Twitter really that much of a non-entity? We’d imagine that some portion of people who see headline grabbing tweets head to news websites or a search engine to confirm the information. It might not show up as a direct referral, but there is some impact. If you’ve ever wondered why “(insert living celebrity name here)  is dead” trends on Twitter first, then on Google’s Hot Searches list, there’s your explanation. When it comes to someone dying for real – bin Laden, for example, it’s difficult to believe there isn’t a similar effect that ultimately leads to more traffic for news sites, even though it’s traffic that’s not directly attributable.


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