Posted by: rcieri | November 21, 2008

Twitter and the Media: Tweeting with a purpose


CNNs breaking news twitter page had amassed more than 57,000 followers.

CNN's breaking news Twitter page had amassed more than 57,000 followers.

Logging onto can seem as useless as the minute-by-minute, 140-character bursts of your neighbor’s daily life that it sometimes produces, but the social networking site has recently been utilized to communicate a more important message – the news.


With a generation whose attention spans don’t last much longer than a Youtube video, the so-called “tweets” can be just the boost needed to drive traffic to a news organization’s website.

Cnnbrk, the username for CNN’s “breaking news” twitter page, currently has more than 57,000 “followers,” users who receive the once- or twice- daily updates that the organization puts out. Each tweet on the page, as well as the user’s profile, has a link to, just in case the user didn’t know where to find the rest of the story.

Some CNN anchors even have their own twitter pages, and Rick Sanchez’s afternoon broadcast features the anchor actually reading tweets.

The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and dozens of other national and local news organizations are following in suit, some with dozens of updates a day, and others limiting their tweets to only the top headlines.

With a 140-character limit on tweets, the website has been capitalizing on the Twitter user’s desire to add links into updates., for instance, uses these in every update it makes to take users to the webpage with the related story. is the compressor of choice for the Associated Press’s Twitter page.

During the presidential election earlier this month, the impatient public demanded updates on the numbers as they happened, and consequently, the tweets poured in from the Washington Post, and even local newspapers like Elon University’s “The Pendulum” and the Greensboro, N.C. “News & Record.”

Twitter also has inherently become a natural medium for citizen-journalism, as it allows all users to publish news as it happens to them.  With even less effort than it takes to type up a blog post, anyone can get the news out to millions of people in seconds.

Janna Anderson, an Elon University communications professor, is the director of a project called Imagining the Internet, is on Twitter following specific people rather than news sources for her news.

“I’m following a number of technology people and media experts; I’m getting a steady stream of data from interesting people like Tim O’Reilly, the man who coined the term Web 2.0, and Jay Rosen, a new-media columnist,” she said.

Even organizations whose main purposes are not news have started turning to Twitter for a quick method to communicate with the public. The American Red Cross has used Twitter in disaster situations such as the California Wildfires this week.

Even more creative uses of this intended social networking site can only be expected to follow.


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