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Traveling at the Speed of News

September 1, 2009

It’s interesting to reflect on the rates of change in the speed of information travel in the networked society where the degrees of separation between the audience and the reporter have been reduced to approximately 1.  For example, in the 19th Century, information started picking up the pace moving from 1.4 mph to about 250 mph thanks to changes in travel technology.

For instance, in 1805 the news of the Battle of Trafalgar took 17 days to travel the 1100 miles to London; that’s a speed of 2.7 mph. By 1891 when the Nobi earthquake occurred in Japan, it only took the news one day to travel 5916 miles, a speed of 246 mph.

Today, as Jason Kottke observes, networks have allowed information to take another leap forward with rates exceeding 38,000 mph.

The 2008 Sichaun earthquake occurred 5100 miles from London with the first Twitter update in English occurring about 7 minutes after the quake started. Assuming the message was read a minute later by someone in London, that’s 38,250 mph.

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