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Have you Ever Used Micro-Blog Services?*

19% - 18 to 24-year-olds
20% - 25 to 34-year-olds
10% - 35 to 44-year-olds
5% - 45 – 54-year-olds
4% - 55 – 64-year-olds
2% - 65 and older

Despite the demographics breakdown, in sheer numbers, the median age of a typical Twitter user is 31, substantially older than the median age of MySpace (27) or Facebook (26) and closer to the professional network LinkedIn (40).

In fact, Twitter is fast becoming an interesting back channel for business media editors. Many b2b publications maintain their own branded Twitter feeds, such as InformationWeek, Financial Times and Wooden Horse, and generally they post links to new stories from their sites. While this is a rudimentary use of Twitter as another RSS-like distribution channel, the strategy does play into the habits of micro-blog readers who can subscribe to these updates. According to Pew, Twitter users employ microblogging as a way to learn about and swap pieces of information, usually in the form of shared links. In other words, much more than a casual channel of personal updates (“Whassup?” and “I am eating falafel”), Twitter is evolving into a valuable social media engine. The typical Twitterite (76%) read newspapers online, compared to 60% of the general Internet population, and 14% read newspaper content on their phones, versus 7% of typical onliners.

More interesting to business information publishers is Twitter’s growing importance as a way to connect with one another and an audience of like-minded professionals. PCMag.com’s Lance Ulanoff frequently queries his “followers” about what they would like to see in new technology. Former PCWorld editor-in-chief and Technologizer blogger Harry McCracken blends the personal and professional. IDG veteran Colin Crawford posts questions and news.
Don’t be distracted by the top-line data floating around the Web eco-system today about Twitter’s youth-oriented, social butterfly demographic. There is real business already going on here, especially among b2b publishers.

As the Pew Internet & American Life Project reported yesterday, use of micro-blogging personal update services like Twitter rose noticeably in just the last few months. About 11% of online adults now use these services, up from 9% in November. Clearly, Twitter is a youth-driven phenomenon, with penetration rates of up to 20% in the under-35 demo.

Editors are starting to follow BusinessWeek editor-in-chief John Byrne’s lead and use Twitter as a news and tip-gathering source. As Byrne goes into meetings with top business executives he often queries his followers for questions they would like to ask or he solicits his audience for ideas. “It is, without question, driving a lot more interaction with users,” Byrne tells minonline. “Our writers and editors now have more than 40 Twitter accounts, and they are regularly using Twitter for reporting purposes.” His writers covered the inauguration using Twitter posts from the Washington bureau chief. BusinessWeek.com put a twitter feed onto its main site for users to post ideas on how President Obama should direct the stimulus package.

Byrne also uses Twitter as another place to post links to new stories at BWO. “Twitter is showing up as one of our top referral domains,” he says. “It is still quite low in traffic terms, but the user response has been overwhelmingly good.”

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