Scientists at the Universities of Edinburgh and Glasgow say a study tracking Twitter activity suggests Twitter can sometimes break news before news wires, but there is little evidence it can replace traditional news outlets in covering major events.
Twitter's main benefits for news are bringing additional follow-on coverage of events and for sharing news items of interest to niche audiences -- or items with a short lifespan, such as local sports results -- they said.
The researchers used a software algorithm to track 51 million tweets over 11 weeks in summer 2011 and compared these with output from news outlets for the same period.
"Twitter and traditional news outlets each have their strengths in terms of delivering news," researcher Miles Osborne said in a University of Edinburgh release Friday.
Neither Twitter nor news wires was regularly faster than the other in breaking high-profile news, researchers said, noting Twitter's advantage was found usually in sport and disaster-related events.
"However, Twitter can bring added value by spreading the word on events that we might not otherwise hear about, and for bringing local perspectives on major news items," Osborne said.