Twitter as news delivery system

Patrick Ruffini at Tech President has a great post about Twitter starting to become a news-delivery system, a post I came across because it was linked to by Josh Catone over at Read/Write Web, who says Twitter is becoming a “platform for serious discourse.” Not all of what we see on Twitter is serious discourse, mind you — there are still people who insist on telling me everything they’re doing (yes, I’m talking about you, Scoble) and there are performance issues, but Patrick and Josh both have a point.

Like Patrick, and probably lots of other people, I started noticing Twitter becoming a news-delivery system when a news event came along — like the fires in California, or the death of Heath Ledger — and probably noticed it the most during the U.S. primaries. The volume of Twitter posts during the debates and the voting was incredible, and it was like a front-row seat to the action, or a really smart water-cooler discussion. Some people were watching CNN, some watching other shows, some were at actual events; it was a sea of information and opinion.

Josh has a great rundown of why Twitter works for news, including the fact that it’s fast, it’s open, and it’s two-way — and Patrick makes many of the same points. Like Mitch Joel, I have found out about news events through Twitter, including several takeovers, financial results and other stories. And journalists are taking note, including Steve Outing and Jack Lail, as well as Bruno Giussani. Newspapers are feeding their news alerts straight to Twitter, and reporters are starting to do likewise. It’s fascinating to watch a new medium evolve the way Twitter has.

15 thoughts on “Twitter as news delivery system

  1. There are some problems with Twitter as a news delivery system.

    Unlike a typical newspaper CMS platform, there's no undo and no delete with Twitter – try to edit an incorrect assertion, try to retract an opinion and you'll find you can't.

    You can publish a follow-up post, but between Twitter users' attention flitting from one stream to another and Twitter's frequent downtimes, there's a good chance your follow-up post won't be seen, especially at times of high usage.

    Unless you change the default preference, all the content you publish on Twitter is republished as a public RSS feed, indexable by search engines and republishable by anyone with an RSS widget. Plan on tweaking that series of twitterings into a pro story later and selling it to a magazine? Good luck: the magazine already has it if they really want it.

    You retain the copyright to the content you publish on Twitter, but you have to delete your Twitter profile – and all the associated content with that profile – to remove just one message. Big decision to make after you've built up a following of thousands of users.

    If you were to publish something incorrect, and needed to retract it to avoid legal action, you'd have to hope the entity taking the action was satisfied with a follow-up retraction post, since the only way to remove your post from Google would be to delete your entire Twitter account and content, and lose all the hard work and time you'd put into building a following. Not a great choice to make for an up-and-coming news blogger.

    Here's my recent post about how Twitter really needs to lift its game on privacy and content management soon.

    • …here's a fun game: restrict a Google search to the public Twitter stream and then search on a phrase such as “so horny“… bet the Twitter users in question didn't think about this before they were so open about it!

    • Those are all good points, Alan — and a good reason why Twitter doesn't
      replace a CMS, or any kind of regular media outlet for that matter. But it
      is an interesting extension to one, I would argue.

  2. Great post Matthew. There are moments when I'm not sure who to follow (and who to ignore) in twitter, but I find the more people I follow, the more there tends to be more news coming my way.

    David Weinberger had a Blog posting recently about the Accidental Journalist – I think this falls right into that bucket.

    • Thanks Mitch. There is definitely still plenty of noise, but at the same
      time the signal is going up I think — depending on who you follow 🙂 And
      David's “accidental journalist” is the perfect term for it.

  3. Another content-free post whose sole purpose is to get you on TechMeme. And btw, some of us like Scoble just the way he is. No need for your to suffer, just unfollow.

  4. Great post Matthew. There are moments when I'm not sure who to follow (and who to ignore) in twitter, but I find the more people I follow, the more there tends to be more news coming my way.

    David Weinberger had a Blog posting recently about the Accidental Journalist – I think this falls right into that bucket.

  5. Those are all good points, Alan — and a good reason why Twitter doesn't
    replace a CMS, or any kind of regular media outlet for that matter. But it
    is an interesting extension to one, I would argue.

  6. Thanks Mitch. There is definitely still plenty of noise, but at the same
    time the signal is going up I think — depending on who you follow 🙂 And
    David's “accidental journalist” is the perfect term for it.

  7. Another content-free post whose sole purpose is to get you on TechMeme. And btw, some of us like Scoble just the way he is. No need for your to suffer, just unfollow.

  8. Pingback: The appeal of Twitter — part XVII - - mathewingram.com/work

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