For the first time in British history, yesterday Clarence House broke the news about the birth of the Royal baby on their Twitter account (@ClarenceHouse) at the same time the announcement was made to world’s press. Such is the power of this social media platform it is now globally recognised as relevant a news outlet as traditional press agencies.
Within seconds of the 8.35pm announcement Twitter was a flush with well-wishers and public comment. The initial tweet by Clarence House alone was retweeted 15,323 times and favourite 5,125 times with subsequent tweets garnering a proportion of the same attention. At its most fervent, Twitter was reporting that mentions of the birth were peaking at 25,300 tweets per minute and to date the #RoyalBaby has been used over 900,000 times. Even now, 24 hours after the announcement the #RoyalBaby is still ranking in the top 5 of the UK’s trending topics.
Whilst this sounds like an incredible amount of coverage, the announcement of the birth of the 3rd in line to the throne ranks as positively average when compared with other announcements of public interest made in the last 12 months.
Earlier today Mashable reported that both the election of Pope Francis I in March and the re-election of Barack Obama as the 44th U.S President in November made the Royal announcement look positively minor. Never one to be out done, tweets about Barack Obama logged a record breaking 237,000 tweets per minute last year, while news of the Pope’s election registered an average of 132,000.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I am not saying that this is a popularity contest between news items, all have significant public relevance. Instead I am highlighting that as a medium Twitter is incredibly influential in the distribution of news.
I read somewhere once that Twitter is the shortest distance between us and the things we are interested in. We can use it to connect with people who share similar interests or to garner different opinions on a shared topic.
Whilst the stats about Barack and Baby Cambridge are impressive, I think they are merely a glimpse at the potential press power of Twitter.
Will we see more public news being announced via social media in the future?
I have no doubt.
Will social media replace press agencies?
Perhaps in time.
Will the rise of social media as a trusted news platform change how we access, absorb and digestive news?
It already is.