We witnessed two major global events over the last bank holiday weekend, one rejoicing the start of a new life together with the marriage of William and Kate and the other being the breaking news that Bin Laden had been shot by Navy Seals.
The Royal Wedding attracted an audience of 2 billion people, a third of the world’s population whilst Osama’s death was the most concealed secret in recent history and was watched by a handful of Obama’s closest advisors. Interestingly though, Osama’s death was first revealed on twitter when a person from Abootabad was live tweeting the attack- “Helicopter hovering above Abbottabad at 1am (is a rare event),” he went on to document the death of the most wanted man.
But what we’re interested in is how this affected the social media?
Were people still only interested in celebrating the Royal Wedding or was this long forgotten when news broke about Osama? Would it make a difference that the Royal Wedding had been planned long in advance and therefore people were already updating their social networking profiles or would the sudden news of Osama create a sudden reaction and sense that the news needed to be spread?
A few moments after Obama announced the death of Osama, one-fifth of global Tweets contained the word ‘Obama’. In comparison the Royal Wedding only reached one-tenth of all updates. Google saw a one million percent increase in searches for “bin Laden” and Twitter said messages posted between 7:45 p.m. and 9:20 p.m. PT that night were the “highest sustained rates of Tweets ever,” with Twitter averaging 3,000 tweets per second during that time.
Royal Wedding received several mentions during the 6 month lead up but Osama was being paid very little attention. However on the day of the respective events the outcome was very different- Osama’s death far outweighed the wedding. Was this because it was sudden news or were people actually more interested? There’s no doubt the events are localized- the UK would have paid more attention to the wedding and the US would have been more interested in Osama’s death and therefore it may be that it’s the sheer population that accounts for the difference.
So what does this demonstrate? That news is best received on the social media when it is broken suddenly, or is it a because the content was more shocking? A previous record was when Michael Jackson suddenly died- Twitter witnessed 456 tweets per second. So what does this say about Twitter? Is it therefore a platform that is used to break sudden news and share it very quickly. The Osama news was the first time Twitter demonstrated that it was more reliable and accurate and the first source of breaking news. Major news stations were reacting to Twitter and behind its coverage. Is this the moment Twitter truly became the first port of any breaking news?