Twitter Study Reveals Global News Readership Patterns: Which Countries Tweet Most About Sports, Politics, World News?

By Philip Ross on September 26, 2013 12:41 PM EDT

twitter study
Researchers studying Twitter readership patterns reveal which countries like their sports news and which ones prefer their politics. (Photo: Flickr/mdgovpics)

It's probably not surprising that over the past 20 years, online and digital news consumption has surpassed that of newspapers and radio. According to Pew Research, one-third of adults younger than age 30 get their news from social networking sites like Twitter. We still want our news - we just like it in 140 characters or less.

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And social demographers are having a field day with the abundance of readily available data that social media provides. These days, seeing who's reading what and where, not to mention how they're talking about it, is as easy as clicking on a hash-tag.

"Social media have proved a bonanza to linguists, because it gives us access to people writing and speaking in a very natural way," Muffy Siegel, a linguist at Temple University in Philadelphia, told The Washington Post in 2011. "We didn't have access to people's social interactions this way before without sneaking up on them with tape recorders."

One recent study of Twitter looked into global news readership patterns, revealing which countries tweet the most about sports, politics and more. Researchers Marco Toledo Bastos and Gabriela Zago monitored tweeted links from eight of the largest national newspapers in five countries to see to see who prefers to read what. Indian Express reports that the researchers analyzed nearly 3 million tweets - 395,000 from Brazil, 793,000 from Spain, 123,00 from Germany, 538,000 from the UK and 994,000 from the U.S.

Their findings, published in the open access journal SAGE Open, reveal differences in news preferences around parts of the world. So who reads what?

According to Bastos' and Zagos' study, Spanish Twitter users are drawn to local and national news; Brits and Americans like their opinion and world news; Brazilians are more likely to read about arts and sports, and Germans prefer politics and economy news.

"Audiences now have the opportunity to express their agency, not only as readers of texts but also as a fundamental piece that decides which news articles are replicated and which news section gets the most attention across social networking sites," the researchers wrote.

Bastos' and Zagos' study isn't the first to look at tweet patterns across global spaces. In August, Twitter released a series of maps that showed where people are tweeting from the most (however, that's only using data from people who geo-tag their posts).

Of course, studies of tweet patterns aren't indicative of the global community as a whole. Not everyone is on social media, so the data is already skewed -most of the geo-tagged Twitter posts were in developed countries of the global North where more people have access to computers and cell phones with internet.

There's also been some interesting research done into the linguistics of Twitter users. For example, one study into regional diversity in the U.S. looked at hundreds of thousands of tweets across the states to see differences in language.

People in Southern California were more likely to use "Coo" in a tweet, whereas people in northern California opted for "Koo" (we're assuming both are short for "cool"). And if you're from New York, you're most likely to use "suttin" to stand in for "something."  

Read more from iScience Times:

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Is Facebook Depressing? Study Suggests That World's Most Popular Social Network Makes Users Sad [REPORT]

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