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Twitter not quicker than newswires on breaking news say researchers after studying 51 million tweets

By Gavriel Hollander

Twitter is not set to replace traditional newswires as a source for breaking news, researchers have found.

Academics from the University of Edinburgh and University of Glasgow examined 27 high-profile news events in 2011, researchers discovered that newswires broke the news first 15 times, with Twitter leading eight times and a further four events covered almost simultaneously.

For some events, such as the capture of Tripoli by Syrian rebels and the arrest of Serbian war criminal Goran Hadzic, the first mentions on Twitter occurred more than 15 minutes after newswires broke the news.

The analysis of 51 million tweets further found that Twitter was better for breaking off-diary news, such as natural disasters or “hyper-local” news.

It was quicker off the mark than newswires in its reporting of a car bomb explosion in Oslo and the start of the London riots.

But the study concluded that “while Twitter can break news before newswires in limited cases, for major events there is little evidence that it can replace newswire providers".

Miles Osborne, part of the research team at Edinburgh’s School of Informatics, said: “There’s a myth in social media circles that Twitter leads in breaking news. Where that’s true is in things of very transient value.

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“In terms of the value that Twitter has for news is as an aggregator. It is better at providing commentary and feedback on events.” 

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