Twitter Shouts: Huntsman's Out!

At Gnip, one of the most fascinating aspects of social media is ‘speed’ – specifically in regards to news stories. We continue to see a trend towards the ‘breaking’ of news stories on platforms like Twitter. Both the speed at which a story is broken as well as the speed at which that story catches on show the incredible power of this medium for information exchange. And as we’ve pointed out before, different social media streams offer different analytical value – Twitter versus a news feed for example.

Last night proved a great example of this as word of  Jon Huntsman’s withdrawal from the GOP presidential race crept out. Interestingly, the news was broken by Peter Hamby, a CNN Political Reporter–on Twitter. While CNN followed up on this news a few minutes later, it seems the reporter (or the network) realized the inherent ‘newswire’ value of breaking this news as fast as possible…and used Twitter as part of their strategy to do so!

This Tweet was followed with what we’ve begun to see as the normal ‘Twitter’ spike for breaking news – the chart below, built by our Data Scientist Scott, shows how quickly Huntsman withdrawl was retweeted and passed along. When looked at in comparison to an aggregate news feed (in this case, NewsGator’s Datawire Firehose, which is a content aggregator derived from crowdsourced rss feeds and contains many articles from traditional media providers), some interesting comparisons are brought to light.
Comparing the pulse of Twitter and NewsGator articles breaking Huntsman's withdrawal from the GOP primary race.
Comparing tweets of “huntsman” and news articles breaking Jon Huntsman’s withdrawal from GOP primary race. The blue curves show the “Social Activity Pulse” that characterizes the growth and decay of media activity around this topic. By fitting the rate of articles or tweets to a function we can compare standard measure such as time-to-peak, store half-life etc. (More on this in a future post.) The peak in Twitter is reached about the same time as the first story arrives from NewsGator, over 10 minutes after the story broke on Twitter.

Both streams show a similar curve in story adoption, peak and tail. What’s different is the timeframe of the content. Twitter’s data spikes about 10 minutes earlier than NewsGator’s. NewsGator’s content is more in-depth, as it contains news stories and blog posts, but as we’ve seen in other cases, Twitter is the place where news breaks these days.