Twitter has a reputation for spreading news quickly among its millions of users, and according to recent research, nearly one in 10 U.S. adults uses it for that purpose. But not everyone is getting in on it: Twitter news-readers tend to be young, college-educated and well-off.
Pew Research's survey of 5,000 people and countless tweets showed that 16 percent of the U.S. population uses Twitter, which is either a lot or a little depending on how one looks at it. On one hand, that's more than 50 million people — but compared with Facebook, it's not much; an earlier survey by Pew showed 64 percent of the U.S. is on the ubiquitous social network.
Roughly half of that 16 percent reported that they get at least some news from Twitter, and as one might expect, they fit a stereotype of the tech-savvy early adopter.
Twitter news consumers skewed far younger than the general population: Nearly half were 18-29, as opposed to less than a quarter overall. And 40 percent reported a bachelor's degree or higher, compared with 29 percent at large, and far fewer reported their education stopping after high school. Similarly, they reported higher income: more earning above $75,000 and fewer earning below $30,000.
It's an up-and-coming set, but also fickle in their affections. Being early adopters and always in on the newest apps and services, they could easily start getting their mobile news elsewhere — especially if recent concerns about in-stream ads aren't addressed.
The Pew study also examined the many tweets relating to various national news events of the last couple years: the Newtown, Conn., school shooting, same-sex marriage in the Supreme Court, and so on. Their findings could be summarized by saying that Twitter does help people stay up to date and create conversation, but isn't necessarily an accurate bellwether when it comes to public sentiment.
More detailed information, including how Twitter on the whole reacted to recent news events, can be found at the Pew Research page.
Devin Coldewey is a contributing writer for NBC News Digital. His personal website is coldewey.cc.
First published November 4 2013, 3:49 PM