Few people frequently turn to Twitter for breaking news

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CNBC | Pew

Sixteen percent of Twitter users “say they turn to Twitter frequently for breaking news,” a poll by Associated Press and CNBC says. “That said, 44 percent of users do so at least some of the time.” And yet far fewer Americans get news from Twitter (8 percent) than from Facebook (30 percent), separate analysis the Pew Research Center released Monday says.

Forty-five percent of those who use Twitter to get news are 18-29 years old — more than the 30 percent of Twitter users overall who are in that demographic, Pew previously reported. Both organizations found a similar number of Americans use the service — one in five, CNBC-AP finds, 16 percent, Pew says.

Millennials’ appetite for news is perhaps not great news for publishers that count on Twitter users to share their links: That generation and Gen-Xers are less likely than previous generations to follow news as closely, Pew reported last month. Older people “simply enjoy the news more than the young do,” Andy Kohut wrote.

Pew also found that 85 percent of Twitter news consumers use the service on mobile devices, while only 64 percent of Facebook news consumers do. It analyzed tweets connected to major news events over the last few years, identifying two related themes with a big lesson for how news organizations cover Twitter reaction: Twitter conversations shift and evolve over time, and Twitter sentiment isn’t a reliable proxy for public opinion.

As Poynter’s Kelly McBride noted after Nina Davuluri became the first Indian-American to be crowned Miss America, it’s misleading to zero in on only one Twitter sentiment in reaction to a news event because the most extreme tweets likely aren’t representative of Twitter users overall.

Pew suggests that even if one can reliably measure that a majority of tweets support a certain position (such as strict gun control in the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting), that doesn’t necessarily reflect public opinion. Vocal minorities can have an outsized impact if news organizations seize on their tweets as evidence of a larger trend.

Twitter plans an initial public offering Wednesday.

Related: News organizations’ brands matter little to Facebook users, study finds