The 140-character magic from online social networking site Twitter is increasingly pushing the traditional news providers to the corner. The day when Twitter emerges as the first source of news is not far.
The crunching of a news headline and its URL into 140 words has become a compulsive trend now. From natural disasters to latest hacking attacks, news is first disseminated from the Twitter feeds.
In some cases, news is first flashed on Twitter. When Osama bin Laden was killed, much before U.S. President Barack Obama told the world, one Twitter user had already broken the news of his death on May 2. Many newspapers have tweeted it before the president himself announced.
Another major event, the Royal Wedding announcement came first on Twitter than any dedicated Royal correspondent broke it in a newspaper. The Twitter feed for the Prince of Wales gave out all the details like the date, the bride's arrival, and who would conduct the royal ceremony.
On July 6, in his Twitter townhall, President Obama pressed his economic agenda and criticized the Republicans. Though not known for brevity, he tweeted, One last point -- I know Twitter, I'm supposed to be short.
A CNN producer tweeted on March 16 that Hillary Clinton would NOT be in an Obama 2nd term cabinet. The Tweet was curtain raiser for a later interview on CNN with Clinton.
Celebrities now cannot miss tweeting their followers, lest they remain on top, whether popular singer Lady Gaga or Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen.
In an unprecedented trend, the Twitter has replaced the traditional players as the instant news provider, many times faster than the news television channels too.
But who says what on Twitter?
A study by Shaomei Wu of Cornell University, Jake M. Hofman, Winter A. Mason and Duncan J. Watts of Yahoo! Research, New York showed that the flow and consumption of information triggered different trends based on the elite users versus ordinary users.
Based on this classification, they reported a striking concentration of attention on Twitter -- roughly 50 percent of tweets consumed are generated by just 20,000 elite users.
The researchers took up a classic problem in media communications research, captured by the first part of Laswell’s maxim—“who says what to whom”—in the context of Twitter.
Although audience attention has indeed fragmented among a wider pool of content producers than classical models of mass media, attention remains highly concentrated, where roughly 0.05% of the population accounts for almost half of all posted URLs, they noted.
Even though media outlets are by far the most active users on Twitter, only about 15% of tweets received by ordinary users are received directly from the media, the study said.
While the media produces the most information, celebrities are the most followed. We also find significant homophily within categories: celebrities listen to celebrities, while bloggers listen to bloggers, they pointed out in the study. But the study is still making rounds and is subjected to profound evaluation.
Leaving aside the intricacies of Twitter, what we are witnessing is an entirely new mix of citizen journalism supported by traditional newsmakers.
It remains to be seen how far the elimination of news providers like newspapers and newswire agencies make news wholesome and realistic.