Posted December 17, 2009 5:28 pm by with 1 comment

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Twitter icon2009 cannot be over quick enough for the newspaper business. The year was full of bad news, followed by worse news, which in some cases, ended in business ending news. The prognosis for the future is not real rosy either so what can the reeling industry do? One thing is to erect pay walls but we’ve heard enough on that one. One thing that the industry can do is embrace social media and in particular, Twitter, to get the attention of the digitally inclined.

The Bivings Report decided to do conduct an imperfect study of the use of Twitter by the newspaper industry. To their credit The Bivings Report themselves noted that the study was imperfect which shows some considerable integrity and makes their findings of greater interest to someone like myself. Their blog states:

…..we decided to closely analyze 300 profiles from the top 100 newspapers in the country as a way of getting a sense, in aggregate, of how the media is utilizing Twitter. Among the things we look at in the study are whether newspapers link to their Twitter accounts from their website, how often and the manner in which the accounts are updated and whether newspapers are using their Twitter profiles to interact with readers or to simply promote their site content. While the study isn’t perfect, the results provide a compelling jumping-off point for additional thought and discussion.

So the results are just that: thought provoking. Here is a sample.

  • Only 62% of the newspapers included links to at least one of their accounts from their website – A head scratcher for sure. Why wouldn’t you promote your use of Twitter?
  • 56% of newspapers maintained a directory of their Twitter accounts on their website – Another curious thing since most major newspapers can have several accounts for individual reporters etc. Wouldn’t it make sense to make it easy t find these people. The study noted that the LA Times does a nice job of this.
  • The average account has 3,447 followers if you removed 4 statistical outliers who had over 100,000 followers. Include the outliers and the average jumps to over 17,000 per account. Gotta love statistics!
  • The Twitter profiles of the newspapers send out an average of 11 tweets per day. Tweet frequency varies from 1.1 (The Boston Globe’s Big Picture, The Denver Post’s Woody Paige, and The Akron Beacon Journal) to 95.5 tweets/day (The Boston Herald).
  • 51% of Twitter accounts were updated primarily through Twitter’s web interface.

The findings also showed that the interactivity of the newspaper Twitter users was not very high but it also was not completely void. The fear of most is that the newspapers were simply automating tweets but that didn’t appear to be the case.

So this certainly shows some areas of hope for newspapers since they seem to be adopting Twitter as a resource to reach potential readers. It also shows that there is a ways to go before the full impact of a service like Twitter may be felt in the newspaper industry.

Do you follow any newspapers? Do you care to do so if you are not currently? What would be your expectation of a newspaper’s Twitter feed? Give us your opinions as quickly as possible so we can put the print edition of Marketing Pilgrim to bed. Oh that’s right, we don’t do that. Sorry.