Tuesday, July 7, 2009

June 2009: The Month Twitter Found a Niche

What do Michael Jackson and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad have in common? They both had a major role in the global news media taking note of Twitter last month. In the months leading up to June, Twitter had grown from 1.7 million unique visitors in May 2008 to over 19.7 million in May 2009. Then on June 15, 2009, the Iranian authorities blocked reports from international correspondents who were reporting about the ensuing protests against the contested Presidential election. Once the conventional reporters were silenced the news media turned to Iranian citizen journalists who used Twitter and other social networking media to give real time accounts of the rioting, protests and violence. The opposition party candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi had accumulated over 100,000 supporters on Facebook. During the protest activities tweets were posted at rates as high as 221,000/hour. YouTube saw 3,000 Iranian videos uploaded and 2.2 million blog entries were posted.

Just 10 days (June 25, 2009) after the Twitter spike in Iran, Michael Jackson died. As the unexpected news shot across the globe several major websites crashed under the weight of the web traffic. Michael Jackson "tweets" were almost 30% of all "tweets" in the hours after the news was first reported. Messages were posted at a rate of 5,000/minute at its peak. News media outlets again turned to Twitter for immediate reactions from celebrities and citizen journalists. The true impact of Michael Jackson's death on Twitter is still unfolding as the world watches the coverage of the Michael Jackson Memorial.

It is unclear what the financial impact these events will have on Twitter but what is clear is that the news media is dramatically being impacted by Twitter. Traditionally, if a big news story breaks, the public would turn on their television. Now, they are just as likely to turn to Twitter or other social networking media first.