Politics Twitter — Snurb, 21 November 2017
ATNIX: Australian Twitter News Index, September/October 2017

Twitter news sharing patterns for Australian news sites in recent months point to the considerable public attention directed at a handful of key issues.

The September/October period is once again notable for a number of major ABC News stories that attracted attention on Twitter well above the long-term average. The first of these, trending from 30 September onwards, remains relevant to the current Queensland election campaign: the ABC’s Four Corners investigation into Indian fossil fuels giant Adani resulted in a very strong Twitter response.

As is typical for such long-form investigative reporting, ABC News pushed out a number of news articles relating to the story, many of which received a strong response. From Saturday 30 September to Tuesday 3 October,  Four Corners’ trailer alone (since removed from the ABC News site) was shared in some 7,300 tweets; the full video of the report received another 3,700 shares.

Additional spin-off articles on Adani’s ties to overseas tax havens and on a former Indian minister’s warnings about Adani received 3,300 and 2,100 shares, respectively, while even the main Four Corners homepage on the ABC site was shared in 2,200 tweets over these four days. During this time, these five links were the most shared ABC News URLs by a substantial margin; the first non-Adani story received only some 600 shares.

For such a comparatively old-fashioned news format as Four Corners, with its long-form video reports, this is a major achievement in the current news environment. The nearly 21,000 tweets which shared these five URLs over the entirety of September and October, as well as further sharing on Facebook and through other channels, mean that the Adani controversy has remained central to public debate, especially in Queensland. The events of the first weeks of the Queensland state election campaign also demonstrate the challenge that the Adani project continues to represent for both major parties.

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Over these two months, ABC News’ Adani coverage is eclipsed only by one other major story: its report that Hillary Clinton blames Julian Assange for his part in Donald Trump’s election win receives some 7,100 shares on 16 October and nearly 11,000 shares over the entire period, making it the single most shared ABC News article during September and October.

Contrary to the Adani coverage, which is likely to have found a predominantly domestic audience, here a further international distribution (which is common for many Assange and WikiLeaks stories) is no doubt at least partly responsible for the widespread sharing of this piece.

Meanwhile, attention to Sydney Morning Herald content follows business-as-usual patterns over the same period. Here, day-to-day coverage of federal politics remains most prominent: the SMH’s leading articles for September and October report that federal Liberal MP Stuart Robert may have been elected improperly (2,400 shares); that the National Party has voted to remove subsidies for renewables (1,900 shares); and that coal is unpopular even in electorates with coal-fired power stations (1,900 shares).

These trending stories document the confluence of several major issues and crises in current domestic and international news, from Queensland’s Adani controversy  through the ongoing dual citizenship saga to the investigations into the Trump White House and its ties to Russia. On Twitter and elsewhere, news is booming – even if many commercial news outlets are still struggling to make ends meet.

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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