EXCLUSIVE. Newswire services versus Twitter in the Digital Era. Do we still need journalists and breaking news?

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Hard to believe that nowadays anything can happen without Twitter to tweet in real time about it, while the event is still unfolding.

Not everybody on the planet is active on Twitter and in the virtual world yet, but the number of users is rapidly growing and the exceptions of the future will be the ones who are not connected.

As smart phones are more and more accessible, placing us all in the virtual space where we can report live events we happen to witness, what would the future of the traditional newswires be?


A study released in 2013 by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence, surveying the activity of the two communications platforms over 27 events, sought answers to the most frequently asked questions among journalists:

  1. Do traditional newswire services and Twitter cover different events?
  2. Does Twitter transmit information more rapidly than the traditional newswires?
  3. What events are reported first by Twitter?

While all of the 27 major events were covered by both the newswire services and Twitter the two communications platforms registered different speeds in transmitting the information depending on the nature of the event. Twitter was 3 seconds faster in reporting the Atlantis shuttle landing, 19 seconds ahead of the newswires on the terrorist attack in Delhi, 31 seconds quicker when the earthquake hit Virginia, one second at the death of the first victim of the riots in London, 5 seconds when Google announced buying Motorola Mobility, 19 seconds on the explosion of the car bomb in Oslo, 48 seconds in announcing the death of three protestors in Great Britain and one minute and 5 seconds in the armed attack in Tottenham.

In four out of the 27 events, the two platforms reported simultaneously: the US raising the debt ceiling, the nuclear explosion in Marcoule, France, NSA announcement regarding water on Mars and the famine in Somalia.

The death of Betty Ford, the crash of flight 4896, the first artificial organ transplant, the Russian flight catastrophe with the entire Lokomotiv hokey team on board, the independence of South Sudan and the new state membership in the United Nations, the takeover of Tripoli Airport by the rebels and the ferry accident in Zanzibar were first reported by the traditional newswires, just a few seconds ahead of “Twitter Media Group”.

From 1,000 messages sent over Twitter and other media channels about the 27 selected events that the study has analyzed, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence concluded that:

First answer is that Twitter covers all events that are also reported by the traditional media, whereas the latter covers only partially news transmitted by the former. News exclusively “tweeted” are in general about sports events, limited in terms of audience and lifespan, reasons for which traditional media outlets cannot cover them fast enough.

The answer to the second question is that, in the case of major events, neither platform has a significant advance ahead of the other.

Thirdly, Twitter outpaces traditional media outlets in the case of sports events and natural disasters, the latter raising interest of public authorities in charge of crisis management in exploring how this communication platform could be used in life saving and rapid recovery interventions.

Experts of the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence concluded that both the traditional media outlets and Twitter would have their market share in the new digital era.

Of a different opinion are Google CEO Eric Schmidt and Google Ideas Director Jared Cohen, who have expressed in their book titled “The New Digital Age- Reshaping the Future of People, Nations and Business” a much more pessimistic opinion regarding the future of classical journalism. The two of them believe that Twitter will become the crown jewel of the rapid transfer of row information whereas investigative journalism and high-level interviews conducted by traditional media outlets will last a little bit longer.


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