Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Fox News’s Twitter Triggers: Crime, Murder, Casey Anthony

How does Fox News get Twitter users to its Web site? By talking about violence and crime.

At least that’s what worked for the news channel on a single day this spring. That’s according to SocialFlow, a start-up that specializes in Twitter analysis and distribution.

SocialFlow says that on May 25, these were the top five keywords that drove traffic from the @FoxNews Twitter account to its site:

  • Crime
  • Casey Anthony
  • Murder
  • Obama
  • IMF Chief

The Anthony trial dominated lots of news outlets and Twitter conversations for a few months, so it’s not a huge surprise to see related terms generating attention among Fox’s online audience.

But FoxNews Twitter followers were interested in other scary stuff beyond the Anthony trial. Other popular keywords included “boy found dead,” “kidnapper” and “global terror.”

All of this data comes from a report SocialFlow has produced that looks at what works on Twitter for several different news sites. Here’s how Fox News’s top five keywords compared to the ones that worked for the New York Times, Al Jazeera English and the Economist. (Fox News, like this Web site, is owned by News Corp.)

And here’s a “word cloud” that includes more terms that worked on that single day:

The point of the SocialFlow report isn’t to draw any conclusions about different news sites’ audiences — you can do that on your own. SocialFlow is really trying to illustrate that different news sites’ Twitter audiences respond to different stuff, at different times, in different ways.

And SocialFlow says it can figure that stuff out, and then help sites’ Twitter feeds decide what and when to publish. (Disclosure: AllThingsD has recently started with working with SocialFlow for Twitter feeds like this one.)

SocialFlow is yet another Twitter-centric project from Betaworks, the New York-based investment group and start-up hatchery, which uses data from both Twitter and Bitly, the Betaworks-created URL shortener/data warehouse.

It seems to me that if SocialFlow works as advertised, it’s exactly the kind of the thing that Twitter would want to own for itself, to bolster its nascent advertising program. My hunch is we’ll come back to this one later.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work