21 April 2009

Tittering over Twitter

Well, it was a good thought. The Telegraph experimented Monday with opening up its Budget 2009 page to live Twitter messages ... briefly.

Twitter users flocked to the site as word spread that comments including "#budget" were automatically being posted. But -- and this is hard to believe, but true nonetheless -- many of them did not actually want to talk about the budget.

The twittered messages (as reported in the Guardian, on the journalism.co.uk blog and elsewhere), included:

* "I love a party with a happy atmosphere, so let me take you there and you and I'll go dancing in the cool night air #budget."

* "Jacqui Smith ate my hamster ... and claimed it on expenses! You couldn't make it up! #budget"

* "Well that's the Telegraph's #budget twitterfeed boned. What shall we destroy next?"

The Telegraph gave things a quick rethink. The live feed vanished.

But the short-lived fun was more evidence of Twitter's rapid rise in popularity among UK users. Earlier this month, Hitwise reported that for the week ending 14 March 2009, the Twitter.com homepage received more hits than that of the Telegraph -- or the Guardian or the Times or the Sun. In fact, of the main newspaper homepages, only the Daily Mail received more UK Internet visits than Twitter, which also overtook Google News UK.

However, Twitter also giveth back some of what it taketh away. One of the major drivers of traffic to news websites now is ... Twitter. Hitwise reports that during February 2009, almost 10% of Twitter's downstream traffic went to news and media websites -- and more than 40% of that went to print sites.

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