Twitter and Facebook are Rapidly Rising Across All Major US Demographic Groups as Primary News Platforms

"Media in Central Park New York City", Image by Ernst Moeksis

“Media in Central Park New York City”, Image by Ernst Moeksis

Cutting across five fundamental demographic segments, Twitter and Facebook are now the primary sources for news among the US population. This was the central finding of a new report issued on July 14, 2015 by the Pew Research Center for Journalism and Media entitled News Use on Facebook and Twitter Is on the Rise by Michael Barthel, Elisa Shearer, Jeffrey Gottfried and Amy Mitchell. The full text and supporting graphics appear in an 18-page PDF file on the Pew website is entitled The Evolving Role of News on Twitter and Facebook. I highly recommended clicking through to read the full report.

A number of concise summaries of it quickly appeared online. I found the one written by Joseph Lichtman on NeimanLab.com (a site about Internet journalism at Harvard University), entitled New Pew Data: More Americans are Getting News on Facebook and Twitter, also on July 14th to be an informative briefing on it. I will, well, try to sum up this summary, add some annotations and pose some questions.

First, for some initial perspective, on January 21, 2015, a Subway Fold Post entitled  The Transformation of News Distribution by Social Media Platforms in 2015, examined how the nature of news media was being dramatically impacted by social media. This new Pew Research Institute report focuses on the changing demographics of Facebook and Twitter users for news consumption.

This new study found that 63% of both Twitter and Facebook users are now getting their news from these leading social media platforms. As compared to a similar Pew survey in 2013, this is a 52% increase for Twitter and a 47% increase for Facebook. Of those following a live news event as it occurs, the split is more pronounced as 59% of Twitter users and 31% of Facebook users are engaged in viewing such coverage.

According to Amy Mitchell, one of the report’s authors and Pew’s Director of Journalism Research, each social media site “adapt to their role” and provide “unique features”. As well, they ways in which US users connect in different ways “have implications” for how they “learn about their world” and partake in their democracy.

In order enhance their growing commitment to live coverage, both sites have recently rolled out innovative new services. Twitter has a full-featured multimedia app called Project Lightening to facilitate following news in real-time. Facebook is likewise expanding its news operations with their recent announced of the launch of Instant Articles, a rapid news co-publishing app in cooperation with nine of the world’s leading news organizations.

Further parsing the survey’s demographic data for US adults generated the following findings:

  • Sources of News: 10% get their news on Twitter while 41% get their news on Facebook, with an overlap of 8% using both. This is also due to the fact that Facebook has a much larger user base than Twitter. Furthermore, while the total US user bases of both platforms currently remains steady, the percentages of those users therein seeking news on both is itself increasing.
  • Comparative Trends in Five Key Demographics: The very enlightening chart at the bottom of Page 2 of the report breaks down Twitter’s and Facebook’s percentages and percentage increases between 2013 and 2015 for gender, race, age, education level, and incomes.
  • Relative Importance of Platforms: These results are further qualified in that those surveyed reported that Americans still see both of these platforms overall as “secondary news sources” and “not a very important way” to stay current.
  • Age Groups: When age levels were added, this changes to nearly 50% of those between 18 and 35 years finding Twitter and Facebook to be “the most important” sources of news. Moving on to those over 35 years, the numbers declined to 34% of Facebook users and 31% of Twitter users responding that these platforms were among the “most important” news sources.
  • Content Types Sought and Engaged: Facebook users were more likely to click on political content than Twitter users to the extent of 32% to 25%, respectively. The revealing charts in the middle of Page 3 demonstrate that Twitter users see and pursue a wider variety of 11 key news topics. As well, the percentage tallies of gender differences by topic and by platform are also presented.

My own questions are as follows:

  • Might Twitter and Facebook benefit from additional cooperative ventures to further expand their comprehensiveness, target demographics, and enhanced data analytics for news categories by exploring additional projects with other organizations. For instance, and among many other possibilities, there are Dataminr who track and parse the entirety of the Twitterverse in real-time (as previously covered in these three Subway Fold posts); Quid who is tracking massive amount of online news (as previously covered in this Subway Fold post); and GDELT which is translating online news in real-time in 65 languages (as previously covered in this Subway Fold post).
  • What additional demographic categories would be helpful in future studies by Pew and other researchers as this market and its supporting technologies, particularly in an increasingly social and mobile web world, continue to evolve so quickly? For example, how might different online access speeds affect the distribution and audience segmentation of news distributed on social platforms?
  • Are these news consumption demographics limited only to Twitter and Facebook? For example, LinkedIn has gone to great lengths in the past few years to upgrade its content offerings. How might the results have differed if the Pew questionnaire had included LinkedIn and possibly others like Instagram?
  • How can this Pew study be used to improve the effectiveness of marketing and business development for news organizations for their sponsors, content strategist for their clients, and internal and external SEO professionals for their organizations?

GDELT 2.0 Launches Bringing Real-Time News Translation in 65 Languages

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Image by Library and Archives Canada

I only speak two languages: English and New York. Some visitors to NYC, especially those for the first time, often feel like they are hearing some otherworldly dialect of English being spoken here.

I am always amazed and a bit envious when I people are genuinely fluent in more than one language. I have friends and colleagues who can converse, write and even claim to think in multiple languages. Two of them immediately come to mind, one of whom who can speak 5 languages and the other can speak 6 languages. How do they do it?

Thus seeing an article posted on Gigaom.com entitled A Massive Database Now Translates News in 65 Languages in Real Time by Derrick Harris on  Feb. 19, 2015 immediately got my attention. I will sum up, annotate and add some comments to this remarkable story.

The Global Database of Events, Languages and Tone (GDELT) is an ongoing project that has amassed a database of 250 million “socioeconomic and geopolitical events” and supporting metadata from 1979 to the present. GDELT was conceived and built by Kalev Leetaru, and he continues to run it. The database resides in Google’s cloud service and provides free access and coding tools to query and analyze this massive quantum of data.

Just one representative of GDELT’s many projects are an interactive map (available on GDELT’s home page), of conflicts and protests around the world.  Support for this project is provided by The US Institute of Peace. an independent and nonpartisan American government institution.

Here is a deep and wide listing from GDELT’s blog that links directly to more than 300 of their other fascinating projects. Paging through and following even a sampling of these links will very likely help to spark your own imagination and creativity as to what can be done with this data and these tools.

On February 19, 2015 GDELT 2.0 was launched. In addition to a whole roster of new analytical tools, its most extraordinary new capability is real-time translation of news reports across 65 languages. The feeds of these reports are from non-Western and non-English sources. In effect, it is reporting from a different set of perspectives. The extensive details and parameters of this system are described in a February 19, 2015 blog post by Mr. Leetaru on GDELT’s website entitled GDELT Translingual: Translating the Planet.

Here is an accompanying blog post on the same day announcing and detailing many of the new tools and features entitled GDELT 2.0: Our Global World in Realtime. Among these is a capability called “Realtime Measurement of 2,300 Emotions and Themes” composed of  “24 emotional measurement packages that together assess more than 2,300 emotions and themes from every article in realtime”. This falls within the science of content analysis which attempts to ascertain the deeper meanings and perspectives within a whole range of multimedia types and large sets.

I highly recommend checking out the Gigaom.com story. But I believe that is only the start if GDELT interests you. I further suggest clicking through and fully exploring their site to get a fuller sense of this project’s far-reaching vision and capabilities. Next, for the truly ambitious, the data sets and toolkits are all available for downloading right on the site. I say let the brainstorming for more new projects begin!

Back on December 2, 2014 in a Subway Fold post entitled Startup is Visualizing and Interpreting Massive Quantities of Daily Online News Content, we took a look at  an exciting new startup call Quid that is doing  similar sounding deep mining and analysis of news. Taken together, they represent a very fertile field for new endeavors like GDELT and Quid as the sophistication of machine intelligence to parse, and the capacities to gather and store these vast troves of data continues to advance. For both profit and non-profit organizations, I expect that potential benefits from deep global news analysis, interpretation, translation, visualization and metrics will continue to draw increasing numbers of interested and ambitious media companies, entrepreneurs, academics and government agencies.