News Organizations Still Just Use Twitter for Self-Promotion (Study)

They aren't re-tweeting much or engaging their readers, a Pew study finds

It turns out newspapers may be just as traditional with Twitter as they are in other fields.

While users have discovered an array of unforeseen applications for the service, from fomenting social change to posting exhibitionist photos, newspapers still use it to market themselves.

Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism has released a new study in which it reports on 13 different news organizations, all of which primarily  “use Twitter in limited ways-primarily as an added means to disseminate their own material.”

Tracking everything from the New York Times and CNN to the Arizona Republic and the Daily Caller, Pew found that while the number of Tweets varied from outlet to outlet, 93 percent of the total Tweets linked back to an outlet’s website.

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The leading tweeter is the Washington Post, which, by Pew’s count, has 98 employees on Twitter and tweeted 664 times in a week.

These figures pertain more to the outlets’ official Twitter accounts, rather than those of individual reporters. However, the study comes to similar conclusions about them. It found that a low percentage of tweets were for information gathering or re-tweets, but that “the idea that Twitter is the venue where professionals share details of their personal lives was true to some degree among the reporters studied.”

Perhaps none of this is particularly revelatory, though the closed-off nature of how news outlets use of Twitter is surprising.

It should be noted that the study is limited in application since it studied only 13 outlets over the course of a week. Twitter usage would seem to be variable, but it still produces some nuggets.

Like the fact that, by Pew’s count, the Washington Post has more reporters on Twitter than the New York Times and the USA Today has more on it than the Huffington Post.

Or that Fox News engages its readership far more than the New York Times.

“Although the main Fox News feed had light activity on Twitter, fully one-fifth of its limited tweets (10 of the 48 tweets in the period examined) directly solicited information from followers,” the study found.

Should the Times be more-Fox like? That would be an interesting conversation with new Times editor Jill Abramson.