Much of the popular and trending news that pops up on Twitter gets little respect from traditional news media outlets, which only cover about half of it, researchers say. In addition, when both Twitter and traditional media are covering a news story, most of the time, it was on the social media site first, they say.
The study by the Universidad Carlos III de Madrid and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich focused on Twitter "trending topics" because, like traditional news stories, they garner the attention of large numbers of people.
"They are events that a large number of users are interested in and, in this regard, we can say that they are news items selected democratically by Twitter users in a country," the researchers write in the journal PLOS One.
To analyze how Twitter content is disseminated among varying nations, the researchers compiled over 300,000 examples of "trending topics."
They then turned to Google News to detect which of those "trending topics" subsequently showed up on traditional media outlets.
They looked at four countries — the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Spain — using the online version of each country's major newspaper for reference.
The researchers reported that around 50 percent of the news mentioned in trending topics on Twitter appears in traditional news media outlets, but the other half usually does not in spite of it garnering the attention of a great number of users on Twitter.
They then compared the publication timing of the Twitter "trending topics" with related stories appearing in each country's major daily newspaper.
"If we look at the news that is reported by both sources, more than 60 percent of it appears first on Twitter, while less than 10 percent appears first in the traditional media," the researchers say, explaining that the rest usually appeared nearly simultaneously or at least on the same date.
Those figures were obtained for Spain; in the U.S., UK and Canada, the analysis found around 70 percent of news made its first appearance on Twitter, they say.