Politics Twitter — Snurb, 24 July 2017
ATNIX: Australian Twitter News Index, June 2017

Last month’s Australian Twitter News Index (ATNIX) saw a comparative return to a focus on domestic matters. Twitter users predominantly shared links to Australian news media stories that dealt with federal politics and related issues. June largely continues that trend, with one notable exception: unsurprisingly, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s secretly recorded attempt at impersonating Donald Trump at the midwinter press ball also attracted considerable international attention.

As the news outlet that broke the story, via veteran political editor Laurie Oakes, Nine News profits most prominently here: its post of the leaked video racks up more than 11,000 tweets during 15 and 16 June alone. Overall sharing of Nine’s news content rapidly returns to long-term average of 1,000 to 1,500 tweets per day, however: isolated scoops clearly do not have the capacity to affect well-established patterns of audience attention for more than a few days.

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Other widely shared stories during June include ABC News’ exposé on food made from dog meat being sold to unsuspecting tourists in Bali (3,100 tweets), its reports of charges laid against Cardinal George Pell over historic sex offences (2,000 tweets), and its inventive visualisation of the results of the 2016 Australian Census (1,900 tweets).

At the Sydney Morning Herald, meanwhile, the charges against George Pell similarly resulted in a strong response (3,300 tweets), but its publication of an open letter by Martina Navratilova criticising Margaret Court’s homophobia also generated considerable interest (1,900 tweets), as did a report on Foreign Minister Julie Bishop’s suspected links with Chinese donors (1,700 tweets).

Our Hitwise data on the total number of visits to the leading Australian news and opinion sites depicts a similar picture of stability. Here, too, Nine News receives a brief boost as it posts the leaked video of Turnbull in mid-June; even so, ABC News just manages to pull ahead of Nine and claim third spot in the overall ranking of most visited Australian news sites for the month.

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This strong showing for the national broadcaster also reflects a much longer-term trend: in recent years, total site visits to The Age and the Daily Mail have declined slightly, while visits to Nine News have stagnated; conversely, ABC News has continued to grow and is likely to claim its place as the third most visited Australian news site for good.

Over the short term, except for Turnbull’s Trump impersonation it is remarkable that in spite of the considerable global instability caused by Brexit, Trump, the concerns over Syria and North Korea, and various other trouble spots, the news stories from Australian outlets that are widely shared in the Twittersphere deal largely with domestic matters again.

This indicates, at least in part, that we have now incorporated these daily uncertainties into our everyday lives, and no longer feel a need to share new news stories about them on a day-by-day basis. At the same time, though, those of us who still monitor these situations closely are also more likely to share news from closer to the source – for example, from outlets based in the U.S. or U.K. – rather than wait for Australian media to recapitulate the latest developments.

Standard background information: ATNIX is based on tracking all tweets which contain links pointing to the URLs of a large selection of leading Australian news and opinion sites (even if those links have been shortened at some point). Datasets for those sites which cover more than just news and opinion (abc.net.au, sbs.com.au, ninemsn.com.au) are filtered to exclude the non-news sections of those sites (e.g. abc.net.au/tv, catchup.ninemsn.com.au). Data on Australian Internet users’ news browsing patterns are provided courtesy of Hitwise, a division of Connexity. This research is supported by the ARC Future Fellowship project “Understanding Intermedia Information Flows in the Australian Online Public Sphere”.

About the Author

Dr Axel Bruns leads the QUT Social Media Research Group. He is an ARC Future Fellow and Professor in the Creative Industries Faculty at Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia. Bruns is the author of Blogs, Wikipedia, Second Life and Beyond: From Production to Produsage (2008) and Gatewatching: Collaborative Online News Production (2005), and a co-editor of Twitter and Society, A Companion to New Media Dynamics and Uses of Blogs (2006). He is a Chief Investigator in the ARC Centre of Excellence for Creative Industries and Innovation. His research Website is at snurb.info, and he tweets as @snurb_dot_info.

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