Noticeable drop in Twitter activity from UK journalists following two quarters of double digit growth

Noticeable drop in Twitter activity from UK journalists following two quarters of double digit growth

The number of tweets posted by journalists from UK media outlets fell by almost 25 per cent in the first three months of 2012 – 80,000 fewer than the previous quarter – according to Portland’s NewsTweet Index released today.

The third Portland Newstweet Index saw a decline in the Twitter activity of journalists at leading media outlets with Sky News, The Guardian and The Telegraph each registering a 40 per cent reduction in activity. Channel 4 News was the only outlet to significantly buck the trend with a 25 per cent increase on the three months ending December 2011.

This is the first quarterly decline in the total number of tweets sent by journalists at UK broadcast and broadsheet media outlets, ending a run of double digit growth.

With the Guardian’s journalists sending over 35,000 fewer tweets, the BBC has become the most active outlet on Twitter after registering a more modest eight per cent drop.

Mark Flanagan, Partner for Digital Communications at Portland, commented:

“It remains to be seen whether this quarter’s decline in Twitter activity is a momentary blip in a very fluid environment or a worrying effect of the restrictions on journalist’s activity. If the number of tweets from traditional outlets fails to rebound it will create space in the twittersphere for journalists with more freedom. The big players will have to decide what is most important to them, safeguarding their reputation or maintaining relevance.”

In February, Sky News and the BBC both developed guidelines on how their journalists should engage on Twitter. Sky’s guidelines required journalists to pass tweets outside their brief to their colleagues leading on the issue and banned them from re-tweeting external content. The BBC introduced rules asking its journalists to tell newsdesks at the same time as breaking news on Twitter.

Alberto Nardelli, co-founder and chief executive of Tweetminster said:

“Twitter has reinvigorated journalism, and will no doubt continue to do so. In recent years it’s become clear that the public enjoys interacting with the news rather than having it simply broadcast to them. The fact that the UK has ten million Twitter users, the fourth largest Twitter community in the world underlines this. More and more stories will be broken on Twitter; the only question is who will break them.”

The Portland NewsTweet Index which also ranks the UK’s 50 most influential journalists on Twitter, saw Mehdi Hasan @ns_mehdihasan enter the list at number two. His coverage of the quarter’s key news stories struck a chord with his followers, encouraging a level of re-tweets and mentions second only to Paul Waugh @paulwaugh, Editor at PoliticsHome, who retained his position as the most influential journalist on Twitter.

To download a clickable graphic of the full Portland NewsTweet Index Top 50, click here

The ongoing economic turmoil loomed large in journalist’s tweets with issues on tax, prices and banks prevailing across the outlets. Leveson continued to be a popular topic, especially at the FT, where it stimulated nearly three times the number of tweets as banking, the next most popular topic.

The NewsTweet Index is published by Portland in partnership with Twitter analysts at Tweetminster. By studying the content, impact and quantity of tweets generated by UK journalists on Twtter, the NewsTweet Index illuminates the trends and personalities which are shaping Britain’s media Twittersphere. The Index includes:

• The Top 50 Media Tweeters
• Which Publication is dominating Twitter
• Which stories have been most heavily covered in the media

The second Portland NewsTweet Index was published in February 2012 and can be found here


To generate the Portland NewsTweet Index, Tweetminster gathered and analysed over 260,000 tweets from UK media outlets and journalists in January, February and March 2012. To assess the influence of individual journalists, each was allocated a score based on the number of mentions and retweets they received during the quarter, with extra weighting given to mentions by other influential media tweeters. Link analysis was used to study the content distributed by each media outlet by topic – please note that the Times paywall makes it impossible to assess the newspaper’s output in this way, so they do not feature in our topic analysis.

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