Digital Media

Results Of The NPR Twitter User Survey

Earlier this summer, we released the results of our survey of NPR fans on Facebook, and we promised we'd follow it up with a survey of our Twitter followers. The results are now in.

We conducted the Twitter survey from August 25 to September 9, 2010. The survey was promoted primarily through NPR's flagship Twitter accounts, including @nprnews and @nprpolitics, as well as several show accounts and staff accounts. A total of 12,227 respondents began the survey and 10,244 of them completed it. Among the respondents, 54% were women while 46% were men. And with a median age of 35, they also skewed younger than both NPR radio listeners (median age: 50) and NPR Facebook fans (median age: 40).

Among the highlights of our Twitter user survey:

NPR Twitter followers are regular users of Twitter. 75% of them said they use Twitter more than once a day, while 13% said they used it about once a day. Eight percent said they use Twitter once a week or less.

NPR Twitter followers interact with NPR content on a daily basis. Nearly one-third of respondents (32%) said they access NPR content between one and two hours a day, while 26% said they do so for less than an hour per day. Nearly one in five (19%) said they consume 2-3 hours of NPR content per day, while 24% consume 3 or more hours a day. These numbers are very similar to the amount of time our Facebook fans said they consume NPR content.

Our Twitter followers listen to NPR over the radio a little less than our Facebook fans, but more of them use our digital platforms. Two-thirds of NPR Twitter followers (67%) say they listen to NPR radio broadcasts, in contrast with 76% of our Facebook fans. Our Twitter followers use npr.org at a similar rate as our Facebook fans: 59% for Twitter and 58% for Facebook.

The numbers, however, are more dramatic when looking at NPR's digital services and platforms. When it comes to NPR podcasts, 39% of Twitter followers said they use them, compared with 29% of Facebook fans. For the NPR iPhone app, it's 32% for Twitter and 19% for Facebook. For Android phones, it's 11% among Twitter users and 5% on Facebook. And for the NPR iPad app, it's 7% of Twitter users vs. 3% of Facebook users. These numbers seem to reaffirm the conventional wisdom that Twitter users are gadget hounds, as well as news junkies.

One last thing to note about platform use is that 28% of our Twitter users say they also access NPR on Facebook, while only 8% of our Facebook users say they use Twitter for the same purpose. This stat certainly reflects the reach of Facebook and its sheer size, with more than 500 million users. While Twitter's 100+ million users is nothing to sneeze at, the gap between the two remains significant.

NPR Twitter followers get most or all of their news online – even more so than NPR Facebook fans. More than three-quarters of respondents in the Twitter survey (77%) said they get most or all of their news online. This is even higher than what we found in the Facebook survey, in which 61% answered the same way. In contrast, more Facebook users seem to be casual consumers of news online, with 38% saying they get some of their news over the Internet, compared with 23% of Twitter users. These results suggest a greater affinity to online news consumption among Twitter users, especially given how the medium's rapid-fire, short-form messages are ideal for transmitting news headlines and links.

NPR Twitter followers want more hard-hitting, breaking news. As we did in the Facebook survey, we asked respondents whether they wanted to see NPR posting more tweets related to various topics. On Facebook, the topic that got the highest percentage of people wanting more of it was "offbeat news," followed by "hard news/breaking news," "events that are in progress," "international news" and "stories about interesting people." Among Twitter users, however, "hard news/breaking news" rated the highest, quickly followed by "events that are in progress." In contrast, "offbeat stories" came in at third place on Twitter, compared with first place on Facebook. For many other topics, including interesting people, the environment and health, interest by Twitter users was lower than Facebook users by around a dozen points. Again, this seems to reinforce the notion that Twitter excels as a platform for distributing breaking news, while longer-form content is more consumable on Facebook, which doesn't limit the length of messages to just 140 characters.

NPR Twitter users are even more news-centric than NPR Facebook fans, including consuming news from sources other than NPR. Even though we found a high affinity for news among our Facebook users, that affinity appears to be even higher among Twitter users. We asked users in both surveys to rate several statements on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being "strongly disagree" and 5 as "strongly agree." When asked if their platform of choice was a major way for them to receive NPR news and information, Twitter and Facebook users tied, with an average answer of 4.0 on the 1-5 scale. When we asked them if their platform was a major way for them to receive news and information from news organizations in general, though, Twitter users were ahead of Facebook users 4.0 vs. 3.2 respectively.

Twitter users click through NPR links less often than Facebook users. When using the same 1-5 scale for the statement "I often click through to NPR stories" posted on their particular platform, Facebook users averaged 4.3, in contrast to 3.9 on Twitter. Of course, each response is purely an individual's perception of how they click through to our stories. In reality, the numbers are even more pronounced, according to our website analytics. While we have over three million Twitter followers across multiple NPR accounts, they typically drive less than a fifth of the amount of referral traffic than our 1.25 million Facebook users do during any given month. So while Twitter may be an ideal way of getting headlines to our users, it doesn't necessarily translate to the same amount of traffic as Facebook does.

NPR Twitter fans follow between two and five NPR accounts. More than half of respondents (55%) said they follow 2-5 NPR accounts, including individual shows, blogs, NPR staff and news topics. Three in 10 ten (31%) said they follow only one NPR Twitter account, while 7% follow 6-10 and 6% follow 10 or more NPR accounts. More than nine in 10 respondents (92%) said they followed general or topical NPR Twitter accounts, such as @nprnews, @nprpolitics or @nprmusic. In contrast, 36% said they followed show accounts like @morningedition or @nprfreshair, while 26% said they followed staff accounts like @nprinskeep or @nprscottsimon. One simple reason for this discrepancy, though, may be because the Twitter survey was promoted more heavily on topical accounts than it was on show or staff accounts, and our topical accounts are generally larger than our show and staff accounts.

Following more NPR accounts equals a richer experience. We asked Twitter users to rate a series of statements on the 1-5 scale. Heavy users of NPR Twitter accounts (following 10+ accounts) were more likely to click through links posted Twitter than more casual followers of NPR Twitter accounts (1-5 accounts): 4.2 vs. 3.9 on a 1-5 scale respectively. Medium users of NPR Twitter accounts (6-10 accounts) agreed the most with the statement "I feel a closer connection to NPR as a result of following NPR on Twitter" more than users who follow a greater number or a fewer number of NPR accounts. These medium users were also more likely to say they retweet or reply to our tweets.

Our Twitter followers believe NPR accounts tweet just the right amount. Two-thirds of respondents (65%) said that NPR sends out "just the right amount" of tweets. Only 6% felt NPR tweets too much, while 14% said we tweet too little. Not surprisingly, there was some variance depending on how many NPR accounts you follow, or the type of account. Seven percent of light followers of NPR (1-5 accounts) said we tweet too much, compared to 3% of users who were medium (6-10 accounts) or heavy (10+) followers of NPR. Similarly, 7% of followers of our topical accounts felt we tweeted too much, compared to 4% of followers of our show accounts and 3% of our staff accounts.

Andy Carvin (@acarvin) is Senior Strategist at NPR.

Data Analyst Meredith Heard contributed to this post.

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