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Political Agenda-Setting on Twitter in Norway

The third speaker in this ECREA 2012 session (I'm afraid Blogsy swallowed my notes on John Downey's very interesting presentation on the BBC's coverage of the Arab Spring – sorry) is Ingrid Dahlen Rogstad, whose interest is in the role of Twitter in political agenda-setting in Norway. Can new mediaspheres challenge the dominance of conventional media gatekeeping practices? This is also a question about how new media and mainstream mediaspheres overlap, of course.

Ingrid engaged in a manual coding of mainstream and online media news as well as of the 1,500 most retweeted tweets during a specific time period; she found considerable overlap between the two spheres for politics, but not for other news areas.

To some extent, Twitter is able to set its own agenda here, rather than just following that of the mainstream media – while there is considerable overlap in the political topics discussed, the relative importance of these topics is different – Twitter is more focussed on national politics, perhaps also because debate is prominent here and more local topics can be debated more effectively by a greater number of users.

Stories neglected by the mainstream media but covered on Twitter are largely of a local and national nature, and concern issues which are of particularly interest to higher socioeconomic groups; shared interest exists in political conflicts. Some 33% of all tweets investigated linked directly to mainstream news content, but this also leaves a considerable amount of space to more Twitter-centric agenda-setting processes.

Debate is especially important on Twitter; in this, Twitter may contribute to the creation of an expanded elite of political commentators. Mainstream media are beginning to track such activities, and are adjusting their activities to Twitter discussion to some extent.