Twitter is now the undisputed home of instant news. For millions, it is the way we find out what is happening in the world in real time. No access to a television mid-day and want to know the themes of President Obama’s inauguration speech almost as soon as they are spoken, or the immediate reactions to Beyonce’s performance and Michelle’s outfit? Search the hashtag #Inauguration. That Twitter is an entrance to the news funnel is even evident to journalists now (how hard they fought against it being seen so).
Well, the news value of Twitter is going to get a lot more punch in a development that hasn’t had a lot of pick up in either social or mainstream news sites.
On January 8th, ReadWrite Social reported rather breathlessly:
Twitter announced Tuesday new search capabilities that give it the upper hand as a breaking news destination over basically every other news organization on the planet, from newspapers to cable networks to websites and everything in between.
What writer Jon Mitchell is talking about is a shift announced on Twitter’s engineering blog in the way it analyzes tweets and trends. Here is what Twitter has done:
So an event happens, people instantly come to Twitter to search for the event, and we need to teach our systems what these queries mean as quickly as we can — because in just a few hours, the search spike will be gone.
How do we do this? We’ve built a real-time human computation engine to help us identify search queries as soon as they’re trending, send these queries to real humans to be judged, and then incorporate the human annotations into our back-end models.
The value for news gatherers is that the engine can better distinguish the relationship to actual events of a particular trending tweet term. The example used by Twitter is if the ‘BigBird’ is trending, the new computation engine can distinguish political references to Mitt Romney from comments about a children’s show.
For companies buying Twitter advertising, Twitter can more accurately target ads to reach people who are truly interested in the specific news trend.
And for me? As a Twitter news consumer, I can be a little more confident I am not wasting my time parsing Twitter streams to separate the relevant from the unrelated or inane — I hope.