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Pew: Twitter's Your Place for News

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, December 9 2010

Chart source: The Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project

For the first time, the Pew Internet & American Life Project asked Internet users last month specifically about whether they use Twitter (rather than bundling Twitter into a more generalized ask that included "another service to share updates about yourself...), and got back a rate of 8% of Internet users in the U.S. who do, in fact, enjoy some Twitter usage, either frequently or every now and again. When it comes to the general population of Americans, Internet users and otherwise, it turns out that about 6% of Americans on Twitter, according to Pew.

That rate of six in a hundred of Americans as Twitter users might be about what you'd expect when you think about who you see in your own lives using Twitter, but there are some other, more interesting bits that jump out. Pew's researchers pick out a few. African-American and Latino Internet users are twice as likely to use Twitter than their White counterparts. A similar statistics is at work when it comes to urban vs. rural America -- folks living in urban America are also about twice as likely to tweet and read tweets as people living in rural parts of the country. And young people ages 18 to 29 are considerably more likely to tweet than their older peers.

But there's another, more behavioral bit buried in the Pew report that's particularly eye-catching. And that's that more than half -- 55% -- of folks who use Twitter use it to share links to news stories. Those could, one imagine, be links from everything from the New York Times to a local blog. The sharing of "news news" is, in fact, one of the most common uses of the service. It trails only the posting of updates about personal life or your work life, and it beats out the posting of "general life observations."

Twitter, rather famously, started around the central question of "What are you doing?." But about thirteen months ago they switch, at least on the Twitter.com user interface, to a more general enquiry of "What's happening?," in recognition of the fact that their users were actively adapted the platform to something different than its creators initially intended. What's happening, it turns out, is that people are indeed reading the news, processing it, and then sharing it with people they know and people they don't, all on Twitter.

Here's the full research update from Pew.

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