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Keywords:

  • Twitter;
  • topics;
  • international aspects;
  • cross cultural aspects;
  • news media

The worldwide span of the microblogging service Twitter provides an opportunity to make international comparisons of trending topics of interest, such as news stories. Previous international comparisons of news interests have tended to use surveys and may bypass topics not well covered in the mainstream media. This study uses 9 months of English-language Tweets from the United Kingdom, United States, India, South Africa, New Zealand, and Australia. Based upon the top 50 trending keywords in each country from the 0.5 billion Tweets collected, festivals or religious events are the most common, followed by media events, politics, human interest, and sports. U.S. trending topics have the most interest in the other countries and Indian trending topics the least. Conversely, India is the most interested in other countries’ trending topics and the United States the least. This gives evidence of an international hierarchy of perceived importance or relevance with some issues, such as the international interest in U.S. Thanksgiving celebrations, apparently not being directly driven by the media. This hierarchy echoes, and may be caused by, similar news coverage trends. Although the current imbalanced international news coverage does not seem to be out of step with public news interests, the political implication is that the Twitter-using public reflects, and hence seems to implicitly accept, international imbalances in news media agenda setting rather than combating them. This is an issue for those believing that these imbalances make the media too powerful.