Study: Four Percent of Tweets are News; Forty Percent are Noise

By August 14, 2009

The thing that stops many new Twitter users in their tracks is the visual chaos. Twitter is a messy place, with short verbal blasts and links flying in all directions, a far cry from the minimalist restraint of Facebook profiles. Pear Analytics studied Twitter’s noise-to-message ratio, analyzing 2,000 public tweets generated between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. CST over a two-week period. They placed tweet content into five categories: News (minus tech news, which Pear took out of the category), Spam, Self Promotion (corporate self promotion, not the kind you see on Facebook), Pointless Babble (the kind you see on Facebook), Conversational (tweets that turn into conversation) and those with Pass Along Value (anything retweeted).

Parsing out the tweets, Pear found that:

News accounts for 3.60 percent of total tweets.
Spam accounts for 3.75 percent.
Self Promotion accounts for 5.85 percent
Pass Along Value accounts for 8.70 percent.
Conversational accounts for 37.55 percent
Pointless Babble accounts for 40.55 percent.

“We thought the News category would have more weight than dead last, since this seems to be contrary to Twitter’s new position of being the premier source of news and events,” according to the study’s white paper (PDF).

The white paper also cites a recent Gizmodo article “If Only 100 People Were in Twitter,” showing David McCandless’s nice visualization of the Twittersphere from the upcoming book The Visual Miscellaneum.

McCandless’s visualization is fun, as it suggests how Twitter’s demographic mirror real-life groups: out of 100 people, 70 are barely or not active, 5 are the social elite (having more than 100 followers), and 5 are loud mouths who create most of the noise, accountable for 75 percent of total tweets.

Legal mentions © L’Atelier BNP Paribas