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How News Breaks On Twitter

Examining the Ups and Downs of Twitter's Role In Breaking News


Twitter News
Photo © iStockphoto.com

Back in 2006, Twitter sounded like a joke to most people. Not many people had recognized the huge communication potential that came along with the idea of posting nothing but a 140 character-long text message online.

Just six years later, Twitter has managed to attract over 140 million active users that generate over 340 million tweets per day and over 1.6 daily search queries. The microblogging site that nobody cared about in 2006 now claims to be worth $8 billion.

It’s grown so much that it’s basically become an integral medium for breaking news.

It Only Takes One Tweet

It’s not uncommon for a story to spread after just one person tweets about it--mainstream media outlet or not. If other people see it and push the message along, then it has real potential to go viral. That’s the real power of Twitter.

The Trouble with Credible Sources and Real-Time Web Reactions

While major news hubs and journalists work right around the clock to quickly push out accurate news across on the web, it’s not always those major news accounts that breaks the news first.

For instance, take the news regarding Whitney Houston’s death in February of 2012. It was actually Whitney Houston’s hairstylist’s niece that made the first tweet about an hour or so before the news was actually confirmed and tweeted out by major news outlets. The news spread like wildfire.

And that wasn’t the only time that a Twitter user beat traditional media outlets to the punch with big news. A Pakistani computer programmer actually love-tweeted the raid on Osama Bin Laden well before major news sources started reporting on it.

The funny thing about Twitter is that unless you see a media source like CNN or the NY Times tweeting about a particular news outlet, you really can’t confirm whether or not the source is credible. In the early stages of a developing story that first breaks on Twitter, you’re sort of left to decide for yourself whether it’s actually true or not.

Breaking News On Twitter: Truth or Hoax?

In the case of Whitney Houston’s death or the Osama Bin Laden raid, both stories were confirmed to be true. Of course, not all stories end up to be confirmed true. Some people just want more followers or more traffic to their blog, so they often resort to making up rumors about a celebrity death or something else that really gets people talking.

Last year, someone made a phony blog post about Jon Bon Jovi’s death. After it went viral, Bon Jovi ended up posting a photo of himself holding up a sign that said, “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey” along with the date, to prove that the rumor about his death was a hoax.

Similarly, rumors about the well-known adorable pup made Internet famous “Boo the dog” actually caught Twitter’s attention when word got out that the pup drowned in a duck pond. Someone even went as far as to make a Photoshopped photo of Boo lying dead in a pond surrounded by ducks. Hours later, the official Facebook page for Boo the dog confirmed that the rumors were false.

Trending Topics

When fresh news breaks, it often trends as a worldwide TT (trending topic) on Twitter. Unfortunately, news can trend even if it’s completely not true.

Don’t believe everything that gets tweeted on Twitter, no matter how shocking the news may be, even if it’s trending. News often does break on Twitter first, but for every story that gets confirmed, there are a bunch of false rumors flying around at the same time.

Final Thoughts

How does news break on Twitter? ...Very, very, fast.

As we’ve already seen countless times before, a story can gain good momentum even before major news outlets report them. Still, it’s a good idea to be wary of every rumor that starts trending on Twitter. Often times people really just want to cause a commotion for no real reason at all.

If you want to get the scoop on the latest news first, Twitter is a great tool to use.

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