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News Breaks First Online: Osama bin Laden & the Web


44 percent of people found out about bin Laden's death online.

Forty-four percent of people learned that Navy SEALs from the United States had killed Osama bin Laden during a raid in Pakistan from an online source, according to an unscientific poll of almost 6,000 people by CNET.

The poll asked people how they found out about the news, which broke on the night of Sunday, May 1.  Here is the breakdown according to the poll:

  • Twitter – 13 percent
  • Facebook – 14 percent
  • Website- 17 percent
  • TV – 31 percent
  • Radio – 6 percent
  • Word of mouth – 20 percent

The radio numbers are likely lower than you would expect due to the time of the announcement (shortly before 10 p.m. on a Sunday night).  But the online numbers are impressive, especially since the news broke during prime time TV viewing hours.

Twitter and Facebook accounted for 27 percent.  That means more than a quarter of the people learned about bin Laden’s death from friends and sources on social networks.

One of the first social updates about the news came on Twitter when Keith Urbahn, chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, tweeted “So I’m told by a reputable person they have killed Osama bin Laden.  Hot damn.”  Urbahn’s tweet came about an hour before President Obama addressed the nation live on television.

The news exploded on Twitter with the service recording nearly 5,000 tweets per second – the majority of the tweets spreading the news about bin Laden’s demise.

How people found out about the death has even spawned a Facebook page called “How Did You Find Out That Osama bin Laden is DEAD?”

News continues to evolve, but breaking news really only has two primary sources these days: the web and television.  We’re likely only months away from when a third or even half of people will get their news first from Facebook and Twitter.

And already the web is besting TV.

What about you?  How did you learn about the Osama bin Laden news?

Me?  I was one of the few that learned the news from the radio on Monday morning (NPR to be specific) during my commute to work.  But I took the time to pull over and look up the news on my iPhone and then post it on Twitter and Facebook.

Links:

CNET’s “Bin Laden, Twitter, and the Frenzy of Noise”

Osama bin Laden DEAD Facebook page

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