With numerous media members and news makers tweeting multiple times a day and often breaking news, Twitter — the micro-blogging service — has become a major tool in the world of new media. Despite its growing popularity, however, Twitter does not yet drive a substantial amount of traffic to news websites according to a study of Nielsen data by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. Of the top 21 news websites — such as nytimes.com and cnn.com — for which there were data, Twitter emerged as referring links to just nine. And for all but one of those nine, Twitter sent only about 1% of total traffic. To be counted as a referral site in Nielsen calculations a site must send minimal traffic (0.2% of a website’s total audience, for example), but typically only 10 to 15 URLs emerge per news site. In all, referral sites make up 35% to 40% of a news site’s total traffic. As a percentage of total traffic, Twitter delivers the most readers to the website of the Los Angeles Times. Of its total unique audience, 3.53% come via Twitter. Other websites that receive substantial traffic from Twitter include the New York Times (1.21%), New York Post (1.16%) and the Huffington Post (1.16%). For a social media comparison, the New York Times got fully 6% of its total audience via Facebook, a much larger driver of traffic to news websites. While these Twitter numbers are clearly small, it is important to note that they reflect traffic coming directly from the website www.twitter.com. Third party applications, such as Tweetdeck, are not included in these Nielsen measures. Even if these third party applications were counted, however, the percentage of total traffic sent to a top news site via a Twitter-based link would still be small, especially in comparison with the traffic that comes through Google or to the news sites directly. Read More

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