Whispering tweet nothings
War is brewing between the two camps. On one side they are leaping into the unknown with enthusiasm, excitement and open minds. On the other, they are sceptical, cynical and simply refusing to budge.
No, I’m not talking about I’m a Celebrity. I’m not even talking about the pre-Budget report. I’m talking about Twitter, which has divided my City colleagues more than any issue of politics or philosophy has managed to.
For the uninitiated, Twitter is a microblogging platform that allows users to post 140-character messages in response to the question “What are you doing?”. Those in the anti-Twitter camp have argued that it’s a pointless gimmick, and one in particular has suggested that shouting out third-person announcements whilst walking down the street would prove more productive. But those in the pro-Twitter camp insist that it’s a useful journalistic tool, an evolutionary step for blogging, and a role model for instantaneous news delivery.
If Facebook‘s $500 million bid for Twitter is anything to go by, social media guru Mark Zuckerberg falls into the latter category. I am joining him, and not only because TwitterBerry has kept me entertained through many a long lecture train journey. I believe that Twitter is a useful utility that adds to, rather than subtracts from, the craft of journalism.
As Mindy McAdams points out, if you follow the right people, they tip you off – whether about an article, an event or a breaking news story. If you follow enough of the right people, therefore, Twitter serves as a personalised news feed which delivers its content in short, sharp, succinct bursts. And according to researchers at Northwestern University, short and tweet is exactly what today’s web wanderers want.
Traditional media outlets are utilising Twitter’s snappy snippets to help them adapt to the net’s shortening news cycle. The BBC’s online coverage of the US election was complimented by Twitter feeds, and yesterday, Channel 4’s newsroom blogger promoted a poll on Twitter to decide what song should accompany pre-Budget report coverage. And if the BBC, Channel 4, Zuckerberg and I aren’t illustrious enough patrons, what about Barack Obama, Gordon Brown and even Britney Spears?
Zuckerberg’s multimillion dollar tweet takeover bid was rejected this week. If I were Twitter’s top dog, I would have torn up his cheque too, but the decision has already set disapproving tongues wagging in the technology press. However, in today’s Daily Telegraph, Claudine Beaumont conceded that:
if they can find a way to turn enthusiasm into cash, Twitter’s decision to remain independent could yet prove to be one of the best it’s ever made.
This cash conversion may already be in the pipeline. Chris Brauer told us yesterday that Twitter’s business plan is based on selling integrated feeds to television news channels, to be beamed around the world via satellite, 24 hours a day. The presenter reading out a stack of e-mails will be superceded by what Brauer called a “swirling discussion” of viewer comments and dynamic breaking news.
Tweet dreams, Facebook.
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