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Blog post
June 24, 2019

Twitter Dominating The Mediascape

3 news stories that appeared on Twitter before mainstream media

With 316 million users sending half a billion messages everyday, the importance of Twitter from a communications point of view can’t be ignored. Regardless of the industry your organisation operates in, there’s an enormous user base ready and willing to engage with brands that play their cards right.  

Social media analytics may be able to help you identify your key influencers and report the types of content they engage with, usage trends among your target audience and a range of other metrics that can ultimately increase your brand’s exposure.  

However, it’s not only consumers who are using Twitter on a daily basis. The platform’s instantaneous nature, combined with the fact that anybody can effectively ‘report’ on the goings on around them at any time, means that Twitter has rapidly emerged as an indispensable tool in the news world. Increasingly, journalists, reporters and other media professionals are using the micro blogging service to get the scoop on stories as and when they break.  

“Journalists use Twitter ever day to research stories and locate sources”

In fact, the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism at the University of Oxford did a comprehensive examination of 135 journalists to determine just how pervasive Twitter use has become in the news room. The study found that of the 135 participants, 80 used social media on a daily basis to conduct research, develop contacts, search for interviewees and sniff out potential sources.  

This particular piece of research was carried out in 2010, and it’s easy to imagine that the media relies even more heavily on social platforms today.  

These statistics support the notion that the scope of news sources is widening, and this affects all communication professionals who are looking for ways to help their organisation’s news pieces gain traction. While professional press release distribution services are still usually the most effective way of getting information into the public eye in a timely manner, there have been a few instances when major news stories broke out on Twitter before they were picked up by major media outlets.  

Here are three of the most notable:  

1. Boston Bombing

On April 15, 2013, the Boston Marathon ended in tragic fashion when multiple bombs were set off near the finishing line, killing three and injuring more than 260 others, according to CBS News. With so many at the scene of the explosions – perhaps with smartphones already in hand, ready to take snaps of the runners – it may come as little surprise to learn that news of the event first broke on Twitter.

In fact, the social media platform proved itself as a valid journalistic tool throughout the disaster, with reporters on the ground publishing constant updates of what was happening in the city. The event quickly saturated news sources, as social media monitoring services could have showed. The number of Boston-related tweets hit six million on the day of the disaster.

Staff members of the Boston Globe, the city’s newspaper, were taking part in the marathon and they quickly transitioned from running into news coverage, according to Twitter, further demonstrating the flexible and dynamic nature of the platform. The newspaper sent out 150 tweets on the day of the bombing (up from an average of 40 tweets per day), with both their social account and website commanding an incredible amount of traffic in the days that followed. 

2. Whitney Houston’s death  

Singer and actress Whitney Houston’s passed away on February 11, 2012. Celebrity deaths naturally attract a lot of attention, and as a result the events are often covered extensively by media outlets. What was different about Whitney Houston’s death, however, is that the news first broke on Twitter.  

Business Insider explained that Brittany J. Pullard (@BarBeeBrit), a frequent figure in the Hollywood nightclub scene, tweeted the news of the pop star’s death an hour before Whitney Houston’s publicist issued an official statement confirming the tragic event. You can see the tweet below:  

Is Whitney Houston really dead?

— Brittany J Pullard (@BarBeeBritt) February 12, 2012

Details never surfaced about how Ms Pullard gained knowledge of Whitney Houston’s death, but the news quickly went viral once pop culture heavyweights such as Katy Perry, Lil Wayne and Nicki Minaj retweeted the official press release.  

3. Twitter goes public

While most companies announce their stock market launch via conventional press release distribution channels, Twitter did something a little different. Leveraging the very technology that has enabled it to succeed, on September 12, 2013 the company tweeted that it had filed for an initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission. 

We’ve confidentially submitted an S-1 to the SEC for a planned IPO. This Tweet does not constitute an offer of any securities for sale.

— Twitter (@twitter) September 12, 2013

This highlighted the ever-changing relationship between new and old media and was another step forward for Twitter proving itself as a legitimate and valuable news source.

In summary, Twitter continues to play an important role in the lives of both consumers and journalists. Communications professionals who make use of media monitoring tools may be able to identify their key influencers and increase the chance of their news stories gaining traction in the digital sphere.  

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This month, we chat to Shirish Kulkarni, Director of Monnow Media about effective storytelling. He shares his research about why the way we tell stories needs to change to make news more engaging, inclusive and informative. 

Isentia’s Insights Director, Ngaire Crawford also shares some of the trends we’re seeing across social and traditional media, and how we’re seeing the notion of ‘effective’ storytelling change for our clients.

https://youtu.be/tz8LuhjuzBA

Ngaire Crawford talks about the storytelling trends across social and traditional media

3:41 - Mainstream media is talking about:

  1. Back to end-to-end COVID coverage with a regular cadence of updates
  2. Anti-maskers are in the spotlight and the phrase “Bunnings Karen” has returned over 6000 media items
  3. A slight increase in global coverage related to second waves of the virus.
  4. Considerable reduction in racial inequality discussions
  5. Across New Zealand where COVID isn’t quite the main focus, there is a lot of coverage about elections and electioneering.

 

5:12 - Across social media, there is a lot of division:

  • Between openly calling out misinformation, and perpetuating misinformation.
  • Between those ‘doing the right thing’ and those who are not. This is more about calling out individuals rather than organisations.

6:12  - On Google Trends, people across Australia and New Zealand are looking for search terms:

  1. Kerry Nash (Bunnings Karen)
  2. A lot of TV shows and celebrity content (Kanye West etc)
  3. Sports (NZ)

 

7:06 - In terms of storytelling, it’s important to understand the context in which you are communicating. The things to consider:

  • Impact of video - divisiveness can breed “recipients” or “evidence” based culture. Video is the easiest way for messages to spread quickly and for media to lift the story. Consider this from a risk perspective (media and customer service training) as well as your content - it might not the time for beautifully produced videos just yet.
  •  
  • Echo chambers - heightened emotional states can mean that audiences seek out information that confirms information they want to believe. Keep an eye on misformation that’s relevant to you and your organisation.
  •  
  • Media as a moral high-ground: Anti-maskers, “fake news” etc can cause a really visceral reaction from the public, and from news media. Unfortunately, this misunderstands the context of those arguments.

9:37 - The narratives to watch at the moment:

  • Rules fatigue: People are getting tired of being told what to do, it’s a natural reaction (psychological reactance) but it’s something to be really mindful of when communicating right now. There is a heightened emotional state, especially for those who are entering a second lockdown.

Shirish Kulkarni talks effective storytelling

10:26 - Over the past year I’ve conducted research on how we can better tell news stories, and my findings can be applied across the communications industry. We are all storytellers in one way or another.

11:00 - We’re hardwired for stories, at an anthropological and neuroscientific level, stories help orientate us within the world. They are a virtual reality simulator helping us practice for real life.

11:53 - Typically, news stories do the opposite of traditional storytelling (i.e have a beginning and an end to the story). Instead, we (journalists) use the inverted pyramid structure where the top line is the conclusion and then filters down to the least interesting or least important information. 

12:39 - The concept of the inverted pyramid structure dates back to the days of the telegraph, the original newswire. It was expensive, unreliable and it made sense to put the most important information at the beginning, just in case you lost the end of it. Although we don’t use the technology of the telegraph anymore, we still use the habits formed by that technology which continue to define journalism and communications.

13:03  - We conducted research with 1300 participants and the results showed users prefer stories that work in a straightforward and linear structure, much like traditional stories.  More information was picked up as it fits with how we are hard-wired to navigate the world.

13:28 - Journalists are failing because they are ignoring what users need from the news. In an attempt to reverse that, I came up with six key principles that should be at the forefront of our minds when telling our stories.

  1. Content - is it useful or relevant and does it help us understand the world better?
  2. Context - are we providing enough context? News largely focuses on breaking or moving news but that's often to the detriment of context, analysis and understanding. 
  3. Users have agency - they are not just passive victims of the news, they can be part of creating solutions and want the opportunity to choose how to engage with the news.
  4. Tone - we need to consider the tone we are using. We tend to fall back on journalist language which is old fashioned and formulae.
  5. Diversity and inclusion  - are crucial when storytelling. It’s about telling different stories, ones that reflect the richness of our societies. This is very important.
  6. Inverted pyramid - is this the best structure to tell a narrative? What are the alternatives? What we are doing isn't working so we’ve got nothing to lose by trying something different.

 

17:24 - Based on these principles, I created a number of prototypes and tested them with users. When compared with a BBC news article, users overwhelmingly preferred our prototype. They picked up more information in less time and found it easier to navigate. This proves there is a better way of telling stories, we just need to be prepared to think differently and put users at the centre of our thinking.

Q&A

18:40 - How do you think the media coverage of COVID-19 applies to your research?

Media has a crucial role. The only justification to have journalism is to provide reliable and useful information. There’s a big thing about news being about entertainment and there’s a focus on the drama of news rather than the information of news. What do we need to know? We are users as well as the audience and this should be taken into consideration when wanting to drive engagement.

23:46 - Do you have any tips for making the linear narrative structure more effective especially through face to face presentations rather than emails?

What really worked for us was using a "narrative accordion". We had 5 questions, and the answers could be expanded and read based on the user's interest. It didn't matter whether the question was at the beginning or end as it was up to the interest of the user. Simplify what you’re saying, and question whether it’s useful to your users.  

28:15 - What have you learned about younger generations and their behaviours?

People have an incorrect characterisation of young people and get their needs completely wrong. There is a perception you can’t make a video longer than two minutes for the younger generation because they have a short attention span and are unable to comprehend what is being said. This generation is the most emotionally and culturally intelligent generation we have ever had. Young people aren’t put off by complexity or depth, they are craving it. Don’t underestimate them.

If you would like to view other Webinar Isentia Conversations: Communicating through Change:

Isentia Conversations: with Katherine Newton at RU OK?

Isentia Conversations: with Bec Brown at The Comms Department

Isentia Conversations: with Rochelle Courtenay at Share the Dignity

Isentia Conversations: with Rachel Clements at Centre for Corporate Health

Isentia Conversations: with Helen McMurdo at MTV

Isentia Conversations: with Daniel Flynn at Thank You

Isentia Conversations: with Campbell Fuller at Insurance Council of Australia

Isentia Conversations: with Craig Dowling from Mercury 

Isentia Conversations: with Stella Fuller from Bright Sunday

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Blog
Isentia Conversations with Shirish Kulkarni from Monnow Media

We chat to Shirish Kulkarni, Director of Monnow Media about effective storytelling. He shares his research about why the way we tell stories needs to change to make news more engaging, inclusive and informative.

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A look into the changing consumption of news, and believability

It’s not a new statement to say we’ve shifted the way we consume or engage with news. However, it’s often forgotten that this shift isn’t occurring at a ‘moment in time’, it continues. While whether we click, scroll or turn a page, how we choose to consume our media is also more interesting when considering how this changes the behaviors or trust surrounding this activity.

‘When we are no longer able to change a situation- we are challenged to change ourselves ‘– Viktor E. Frankl

Much like the saying ‘you are what you read’, is our chosen method of consumption a reflection of our identity and which does our level trust in what we read, depend on the format.

While it may be easy to image an older generation still pouring over the news within a double page spread, every generation is playing its part in this shift. Looking at Australia specifically, the younger generation is still driving the most change but is this perhaps only a result of never relying on ‘one’ channel for news.

We look into how the landscape has changed, and what else can be unearthed.

Key findings in the shift of the media landscape   

  • The growth of stories format and the shift to online videos, audios, images and live streams
  • Digital rival’s TV for news consumption
  • Social media has replaced ‘serious news’ with the trending, the viral and the buzzworthy
  • The news cycle is now 24/7
  • There has been a significant increase in fake news and a shift in the amount of trust people have in news
  • Australians get their news from the following sources:
  • Facebook 41%
  • FB Messenger 11%
  • WhatsApp 10%
  • Instagram 9%
  • Snapchat 5%
  • 6 out of 10 New Zealanders read news content online and audiences spend almost 3 hours per watching broadcast TV

Trending news

With unlimited access to news and a 24/7 news cycle, people have to find a way to process the information. News happens instantaneously now and what happens today is often forgotten tomorrow.  In the world of social media, most scroll through their newsfeed and only stop to look at topics and buzzworthy or trending stories that are relevant to their current situation. Not only that, watching short video clips that provide main headlines and brief conclusions are on the rise.

Fake news

A recent study conducted by the News and Media Research Centre revealed that 73% of Australian news consumers have experience a range of fake news including:

  • Poor journalism (40%).
  • Politically or commercially fabricated news (25%)
  • Stories pushing a political agenda (38%);
  • Advertorial (33%);
  • Satire (25%); and
  • The use of the term ‘fake news’ to discredit the media (37%)

Those who mainly use online news as their news source were more susceptible to encountering fake news compared to print and TV and as a result, their trust in the news has diminished.

The number of stories labelled ‘fake news’ seems to be increasing almost as quickly as our concern about it. The term has been used for everything from hoaxes and satire, to contentious articles, and genuinely false information. After a data search was conducted for the number of fake news mentions across broadcast, press and online across ANZ, it was discovered Australia had a significantly higher mention rate over a 6-month period in comparison to New Zealand especially across broadcast. Over November, December and January we saw a large spike in fake news mentions across the ANZ region, especially across online - this could be as a result of Facebook being in the spotlight around fake news stories on their platform and several inquests happening during this time.

With this data it can be assumed that with so much fake news being reported, our trust in news will be affected.

Trust in news

'Trust in the news is up — but there's still only a 50-50 chance you'll trust me on that', ABC News Online

The trust in news on social media remains low however trust is highest in established news brands, public broadcasters and print newspapers. Consumers seek quality, credibility and reputation when seeking out the news and albeit its use has been declining since 2016, television is still the most popular platform for news consumption. Although there is mistrust, consumption of news on social media is very much on the rise and although there has been a steady hold with the decline in traditional formats, it could be considered ‘a new balancing act’ as it becomes the norm for digital news consumption behaviours to coexist alongside more traditional means.

Shift in demographics

A study conducted by Western Sydney University outlines younger Australians are the ones driving change in terms of news consumption and below are some interesting facts from the study:

  • YouTube is their preferred social media platform (37 per cent), Facebook (15 per cent) Instagram (10 per cent) and Snapchat (6 per cent)
  • They do not trust news organisations and are not reading print newspapers
  • They engage with news stories as it makes them feel happy and motivated and knowledgeable
  • They think news organisations don’t understand young people’s lives and don’t cover the issues that matter to them.
  • Social media is a popular news source, but they are not confident about spotting fake news online

Paywalls

Trust leads to payment for news and those who pay for print newspapers or online news sources are much more likely to trust news than people who don’t pay for it. Australians remain overwhelmingly reluctant to pay for online news as there is so much information readily available for free. But when they do pay, they expect more than just the headlines – with trust in the brand and in-depth news analysis being the primary reasons that they would be willing to pay. Interestingly, although print runs are decreasing, their overall readership is not. The combined print and online readership of newspapers has been growing steadily over the past few years. One of the main reasons for the increased discussions around paywalls are due to businesses having a loss in net profit. As a result of this, businesses are introducing an online paywall, to “win back” their lost net profit. After some analysis, we found mentions around paywall to be increasing month on month in New Zealand as it is becoming more of a topical conversation in the land of the long white cloud. Comparatively, Australia are also discussing paywall however the more prominent conversations were earlier this year (February and March) and have been declining since. Could paywalls and digital subscription services be the future of receiving online content and news?

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Blog
How to keep the pace in the digital age

A look into the changing consumption of news, and believability

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Alert the media! Audiences are more informed than ever but can there be too much of a good thing? Experts say that the internet has democratised free speech, but when there is too much content to choose from, we're left overwhelmed, trying to escape a boundless house haunted by trolls, clickbait and conspiracy theorists.

 Isentia’s webinar, Misinformation: Stopping the Spread, brought together three expert communicators, journalists, data analysts and fighters of fake news to discuss how PR and comms professionals can best navigate misinformation.   

Follow these tips so your audiences find your communications and social media strategy is informed and reliable.

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1. Conserve public opinion that uses facts 

While the internet, including social media, can be a hub of helpful information from DIY projects, recipes and tips to fight misinformation… It's also an open platform for anyone to post and publicise anything. Pulsar CEO and Cofounder Fran D'Orazio encourages comms professionals to promote public opinion that's built on a contextually rich foundation so that the everyday scroller sees more than a title and a tagline. 

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2. Call out misinformation, even your own

Content creator @sydneyraz, known for his "things to know before you're in your 30s" content, corrected his misinformation post from 2021, where he said you could store your avocados in water to stop them browning. Reputable news outlets, food experts and the FDA responded to his original post, saying this avo hack could actually put you at risk of salmonella and listeria poisoning. Unless misinformation is called out and unreliable content is debunked, media consumers will struggle to know what is correct and who to trust.

3. Seek out the experts

If your misinformation senses are tingling, don't hesitate to send content and questions to groups with expertise in this area. Initiatives like RMIT Factlab and The Disinformation Project investigate misinformation on media platforms. RMIT Factlab takes misinformation Meta has identified, and then fact checks it. They then write an article, post it on their site, and provide it to Meta, who attaches the URL to the original fake news post - offering the opportunity for people to read the truth first. Throughout this process, Meta, using its algorithms, downgrades fake news, so it's not seen as often. "It is better to work with them [Meta], so some misinformation is downgraded, rather than not having a relationship with them," says Sushi Das, Assistant Director of RMIT Factlab. 

4. Share truth

Kate-Hannah of the Disinformation Project recommends equipping people with tools like counterspeech to use in discourse spaces. Think about how stories and fact-checking tools can divert a negative conversation and direct it onto the main issue or reveal more context. Empathy, humour and reminding perpetrators of ill-informed public messaging of the consequences to spreading hate or dangerous speech, are some communication strategies to use.

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5. Ensure a source is reliable 

"Everybody is sort of a publisher now," says Sushi Das. We all deserve to feel like we're in a safe space, but the ungovernable realm of the online world puts safety into question. We are all tapping into our smart devices for news content but the key is having high standards of the publishers and creators whose content you consume. Traditional media is still held to account with regulations to follow and trained journalists on staff - posing a strong force against misinformation. With standards, regulations and trained journalists, their outputs are a strong force against exposure to misinformation. The moment a news story goes online, the context is at risk of being blurred, whether a filter is used or not.

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6. Bring context into the mix

What does context look like in a world still learning to understand the vague guidelines governing online spaces? The devil truly is in the details or the lack of them. Pulsar's recent partnership with Newsguard, "the Internet's trust tool," helps them rate outlets producing news content based on such specific details: their standards of accountability, do they gather info responsibly, and correct their own errors? The results contribute to a credibility score. Data powered by Pulsar show which brands are most susceptible to having misinformation about them distributed online - showing that every sector is vulnerable.

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7. Consider framing

There are multiple ways to frame a conversation or narrative. Kate-Hannah says, "there is a responsibility to tell the truth, but in ways that help people make good decisions." People need to be reading the news, not switching off. When reading or producing news content consider how you want readers to feel, but also what you want them to do with that information. Hannah during the webinar, referred to an instance in New Zealand where exposure in the city of Whangarei to Covid-19 spurred people to get tested even in the intense heat. Hannah holds journalists to account for their negative framing of that event, and offers an alternative, that those lining up to get tested in those conditions are ensuring the safety of their community.        

8. Prioritise what issues you’re going to speak to 

Fran D'Orazio says there is a big job in predicting what narratives will spin out of control, "if you try and attack all the different fronts that get opened on the web, it's difficult to make an impact." Brands must choose what battles to fight and prioritise who should be answered. Develop a response framework for your brand to use when it’s found to be in the middle of a misinformed online dispute. Answer these questions, who are those agitators that need a response and what should they, along with their followers, take away from your response? 

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9. Anticipate rather than confront 

Anticipate the impact of a narrative on particular audiences. If you confront an audience already exposed to a misinformation narrative, they are unlikely to change their mind. If you anticipate them and introduce that audience to a truthful record, you may manage to immunise them once they encounter the myths. 

10. Improve your media and news literacy

It may be your first impulse to hit that share button but "stop and think before you share anything. That share button is a trigger." Sushi Das says, "everyone needs to be aware of themselves." Question what you see and how the content makes you feel. Don't just read a headline and share it with your communities; use resources like First Draft and NewsWhip to better verify what you and your audiences are consuming online. 

Extensive research into misinformation is showing that people are getting splintered into different realities based on the news they consume and the algorithms that continue the pattern of content. By developing our media literacy and sharing the truth with our communities, experts say we can change people's minds before they engage with falsehoods. It Just goes to show, don't keep an avocado in water…or accept everything you see online as fact.

 If you see something that is mis or disinformation, send them to initiatives like, info@thedisinfoproject.org or RMIT Factlab.

Watch Isentia's webinar, "Misinformation: Stopping the Spread", for more.

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Blog
Building a Communications Strategy in the era of Misinformation
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Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. As time passes by, we can see a definitive shift taking place, with each of these brands increasingly becoming part of conversations taking place around the world.

This Global Report, powered by Isentia and Pulsar's data, analyses international trends and zeroes in how credit card incentives are discussed in Singapore.

Fill up the form below to download the whitepaper and read more.

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Whitepaper
[Pulsar Report] Transactions & Reactions: The Online Credit Card Conversation

Credit keeps the world economy moving, with Visa, MasterCard and American Express brand names easily identifiable. This Global report sheds light on international trends and zeroing in on how credit card incentives are discussed in Singapore.

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