Rise of Twitter during the French Presidential Elections

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The role of Twitter during the French Presidential elections

Digital-born and legacy news media are competing to control the most central positions in the flow of online news. In this RISJ Factsheet, we examine how this competition unfolds during the French presidential election. 

New research from the Reuters Institute shows that legacy news media outlets tended to dominate the political discussion on Twitter compared to digital-born outlets during the election. The research also finds that frequent tweeting and having high numbers of followers does not necessarily lead to high levels of engagement, a trend found across both digital-born and legacy media outlets.

The Reuters Institute Factsheet The Digital-Born and Legacy News Media on Twitter during the French Presidential Elections analysed a sample of 2.96 million tweets collected between 2 April and 8 May. 2.24 million of the tweets were retweets, with 718,000 original tweets. The focus was on news-related tweets, identified by collecting all tweets from a predetermined collection of Twitter handles and by collecting additional tweets containing relevant hashtags. The impact of 27 digital-born outlets and 71 legacy media outlets was studied.

The researchers noted that French digital-born news media are more prominent than in other countries in Europe. Whilst television still remains the most important and widely used source of news in France, print newspapers have a lower reach than in other countries in Europe and people are increasingly turning to social media for news.

The lead author, Dr Sílvia Majó-Vázquez, says: “According to our analysis there is a mix of legacy and digital-born outlets among the most influential news providers on Twitter during the French presidential campaign, which speaks for the importance that both types of media have in the current political scenario.”

Furthermore, Twitter plays an important role beyond being a source of news; political campaigns use the platform to increase support and initiate discussion with the general public, with journalists and news media also paying attention.

Read the full report here.