Sunday, November 1, 2009

The latest on status updates

A new study from the Pew Internet and American Life Project shows that the use of Twitter and other status-update services has more than doubled since the summer of 2008.

The study, “Twitter and Status Updating, Fall 2009,” shows that nearly 20 percent of people with Internet access use Twitter or another status update service.

Status updates are short messages broadcast to all users of a service. The messages can also be targeted more narrowly – to “friends” on the Facebook service, for example.

Twitter use has exploded in the past year. The Pew report said that besides its data, continuous surveys and real-time network data by comScore show that Twitter logged more than 17 million unique visitors in May, compared with 2 million per month in December 2008.

A sliver of Twitter users is responsible for most updates, according to research from Harvard Business School cited in the Pew report: “A random sample of 300,000 Twitter accounts found that the top 10% of prolific Twitter users accounted for over 90% of tweets,” Pew reported.

The Pew research found that 19 percent of Internet users send or receive updates on Twitter or another status-update service. That is up from 11 percent in December.

Other findings about those who use Facebook, Twitter and other status-update services:

- The median age for Twitter users is 31. For Facebook it is 33, up from 26 in May 2008.

- Women (21 percent) are more likely to tweet than men (17 percent).

- Blacks (26 percent) lead whites (19 percent) and Hispanics (18 percent).

- Ages 18-29 use those services (33 percent) most, followed by 30-49 (22 percent).

- College graduates and those with some college (both 21 percent) are heaviest users.

- Twitter use increased from 6 percent of Internet users in August 2008 to 19 percent last month.

Mobile users are increasingly more likely to send updates. About half of Internet users have wireless connections via laptops, cell phones and other devices. Of those with wireless connections, 25 percent do status updates, up from 14 percent in December 2008.

Pew interviews show that mobile users wish to stay in touch with others and post content online.

The Pew report triggered several news stories, including a report by Associated Press national writer Martha Irvine writing from Chicago with the headline: Grudgingly, young people finally flock to Twitter.”

“They think it's pointless, narcissistic. Some don't even know what it is,” the AP story begins.

“Even so, more young adults and teens — normally at the cutting edge of technology — are finally coming around to Twitter, using it for class or work, monitoring the minutiae of celebrities' lives.”

The AP story includes comment from David Silver, a media studies professor at the University of San Francisco who teaches a class on how to use Twitter and other services.

"Every semester, Twitter is the one technology that students are most resistant to,” he told AP. "But it's also the one they end up using the most."

- By John Strauss,

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