Tag Archives: Twitter

Electric Ink: the funny side of an industry in crisis

It seems the cutting edge debate between old-style inky-fingered hacks and bright new multimeeja journalists has now been turned into cosy Radio 4 situation comedy.

I’ve only just caught up with Electric Ink, which is now on its third episode, but all the tension between old-skool journalism and the weberati is there in a handy half-hour format:

“Twitter? So that’s a source too, is it?”

Well. Kinda.

And please will somebody out there set up PoliticalTart.com…

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Comments Unbound

For everyone who can’t get through the day without new and shiny material to look at, be reassured that there’s a lot going on here, but most of it is in the comments section, where readers and I are engaged in the savage cut and thrust of debate on matters ranging from why paid journalism is in trouble, to journalism’s vested interests and the power of Twitter.

Just so you know…

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8 reasons why journalists love Twitter…

 …much more than real people do

For some reason journalists have grabbed hold of Twitter as a starving man does a ham sandwich. But why? What is it about this slightly clunky, limited, and frankly difficult to negotiate web tool that we love so much?

Here are a few thoughts… 

  1. You can build up a seemingly huge following – as if you’ve got a big audience and are tweeting to thousands (Paul Bradshaw has 6733!). But the reality is relatively few are likely to be reading any one post. Just like newspapers! 

  2. It makes us feel all cutting edge –sending 140-character messages is just like SMS! Which the kids use! And using Twitpic turns it in to picture messaging! 

  3. It’s really quick and easy – spot a link while you’re web-surfing during a five-minute break and you can post it to Twitter in about 30 seconds. Do this two or three times an hour and you can look like a productive communications machine, while putting in less effort than going to make a cup of tea. Ooh – I just did one! 

  4. It requires almost no effort or thought – look at all those Tweets with a more or less pithy comment and a link to someone else’s hard work and research. Now that’s the journalistic ideal –leaving much more time to go to the bar. 

  5. The media loves it – which means if you Twitter on about the media, you be followed by loads of people in the media, who will Twitter about you Twittering about them. It’s the ultimate in networking! 

  6.  It’s the ultimate low-effort research tool – journalists these days seem to think research begins and ends with a Google search, which is why Twitter is a godsend for us. Use a search tool like TweetFeed and you can create your own Twitter stream of themed posts. Just pick your topic: Iranian election; Afghanistan; banking bailout, or – best of all – Twitter itself. It’s like instant research, but you don’t have to do any work! 

  7. It’s totally open – unlike, say, Facebook, where you have to actually ask to get in touch each time you want to stalk research people. Unless it’s the wife of “C”. Which was a bit weird. 
  8. It’s HUGE – excitingly leaked documents published by Techcrunch reveal that Twitter will have 1 billion users by 2013! That’s nearly everyone in the world [subs: pls chk]. In fact, no one will be doing anything else by then, so journalists have to get in on the ground floor!

In short, Twitter is like real journalism – but without the work. Now let me get out of this long-form blogging hell and Tweet something…

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Teenagers reject Twitter shock

Much media kerfuffle about the news that teenagers aren’t interested in Twitter. Well – crucially, that they’re not interested in using it from their mobile phone, which costs money.

The piece in question, from the Financial Times, reports on a research note from Morgan Stanley written by 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson. (The note is available via the FT’s Long Room site, which requires registration and vetting before you can get to it, sadly.)

Among other things, Matthew Ronson indicates that teenage media users hate advertising, finding it  “extremely annoying and pointless”.

They also can’t be bothered to read pages and pages of text, which is bad news for newspapers but, really, which we kind of knew already.

I was particularly interested by this:

Their time and money is spent instead on cinema, concerts and video game consoles which, he said, now double as a more attractive vehicle for chatting with friends than the phone.

This is another piece of, admittedly unscientific, evidence confirming my own suspicion that journalists are far behind the curve when it comes to understanding the rapidly evolving media world. 

These are teenagers. And they don’t use the phone

Well, actually teenagers still use the phone a lot. I know this. But I suspect that they are not wedded to the phone. Give them something else to use to chat to their mates – games consoles, Facebook, hyper-intelligent sunglasses – and they’ll use that. If it’s free. And convenient.

Not only does that make it difficult for us as journalist to reach teenagers with digital media when they are consumers, but it also makes it difficult for us to reach them as the subject of journalism.

I have taken issue before with the view that the only way to do your job as a journalist is to pick up the phone and call people. I’ll probably do it again.

But, really – it sounds so archaic to make prescriptions for journalism students like this when a whole generation is growing up for whom the old-style pick-up-a-receiver-and-chat phone conversation is just one in a range of communication options they choose. And not necessarily the most obvious, especially in future.

As for Twitter – it’s also important to realise that Twitter is beloved by journalists above all else – but doesn’t have so much traction with real people. 

It’s a great research tool, and is kind of useful for professional networking – and it’s kind of fun and easier to do than long-form blogging.

But Facebook, say, has much richer content and is much better for social networking. Which is why it’s more popular.

The blow for journalists is that, unlike Twitter, it’s a closed network. You only become someone’s Facebook friend by invitation (unless the network belongs to someone who works for MI5). 

This means Twitter is much more like old-style broadcast journalism. Which is why you read and hear so much about it from journalists, when its traction in the real world is probably much less.

[HT: Judith Townend]

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Does journalism need a new crowdsourcing tool?

It strikes me there’s a kind of assumption around journalism that it somehow needs bespoke tools to do its job in the new digital media world. But actually I think it should stick to its existing strengths.

WritingcloudIn the spirit of research, I’ve just visited the Royal College of Art summer graduation show to check out the cutting edge communications work.

I was quite excited (in a geeky way) to see Guillaume Drapier’s WritingCloud project there. It was pitched as a way of bringing the world of professional journalism together with the blogosphere.

The result would be to enrich the research process and build engagement with bloggers – in place of the sometimes antagonistic relationship the two seem to have nowadays.

WritingCloud is a free web-based platform that allows writers to ask questions and direct them to readers with an interest or expertise in the subject. Readers – or “helpers”, as they are called on the site – receive a stream of questions in their particular field and can then submit answers or other research material. Material can be text, photos or video. Helpers get a credit with a link back to their blog for their trouble.

writingcloudFor his MA project, Drapier created a four-page tabloid newspaper using his collaborative platform. You can see the workings behind it on the WritingCloud blog here. He also used social media, such as a Facebook group.

At first glance, I thought it sounded just the ticket – journalism has to break out of its traditional top-down hierarchy in order to function in the not-so new-media digital world.

But on closer inspection, there are a number of flaws.

  • It has to build its network from scratch. This is yet another platform for users to have to get excited about, register on and start to use. But life is short – I think this will be an uphill struggle.
  • What’s the compelling USP? The idea of putting journos and bloggers in touch is good on the face of it. But why would the helpers register? Is the promise of a possible link on a news story that compelling? Seems a little like hard work. Does it make you want to register and monitor all the journo questions? I don’t think so.
  • It’s too standalone. Related to the above. I registered on WritingCloud to see how it worked. It seems you need to monitor questions and answers via the site. Now, I know this is a student project and so is pretty embryonic. But there’s no provision for email alerts or SMS synching or anything that might mesh this with the wider online world.

That’s the real problem with this idea. Even though its premise is that it’s really cutting edge, it something of the flavour of yesteryear – when the web was much more insular; when you had to download proprietary bits and pieces to make some standalone service work.

And it’s interesting that Guillaume didn’t actually use the WritingCloud site to generate the material for his graduation newspaper. Instead, according to his blog, he asked questions on existing internet forums:
answers.yahoo.comwww.convinceme.net and www.onlinedebate.net.

That’s logical for a limited timeframe student project. But it also indicates the structural flaw in this exercise – it’s much better to go to where people are networking already, rather than try to build one yourself.

Also, people will be networking there for a reason – so you can piggyback off that, rather than trying to be all compelling yourself with your new web platform.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t want to rubbish this project. I admire its mission to bring the audience for journalism into its production. But I think what it’s trying to do is now, kind of by definition, not what the web is about.

I really like the idea of a “writing cloud” – a kind of soup of ideas, opinions, facts and research that can coalesce into, effectively, journalism. But you know what? We have that already. It’s called Twitter, and YouTube and Flickr and (maybe, if we can figure out how to map it on to journalism) Facebook. And journalists and others are already using Twitter, and other social media, as an effective crowdsourcing tool.

At its root, journalism is basically hanging around gossiping with people. And that’s what journalists, bloggers et al are still doing – except that the hanging around is now being done at forums like Twitter, rather than in a dingy Soho bar.

I suspect the key to success in the online world is not to create brand new tools, but to make better use of the existing ones.

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Twitterfeed update

So – no sign of the post I was expecting on my Twitter account, but Twitterfeed managed to pull out my previous post about the Yemeni air crash

Something’s working – I’m just not sure what it is.

[Twitterfeed update UPDATE: Of course, this post has made it in. Which looks silly…]

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RSS is dead – long live Twitterfeed

The Online Journalism Blog says RSS is dead and newspapers should abandon their useless RSS news feeds for Twitter

As the OJB is such an authority, when it says “jump”, I obviously ask “how high?”. And then, sheeplike, I swap my no-doubt useless RSS feed for a link to my Twitter account

How easy will this be? Actually, not so hard. A few seconds’ search brought me to Twitterfeed.com, which, with suspiciously impeccable timing, offers to do this very thing for me.

The process is easy enough:

  1. Sign up to Twitterfeed
  2. Click on “Create New Feed”
  3. Click the link to “Connect your feed to your Twitter account”
  4. Throw security to the wind and reveal your Twitter username and password (go on, how sensitive are your Tweets? Really?)
  5. Navigate back to Twitterfeed (NB: the screen hung up on me at that point, but when I logged back on to Twitterfeed it had made the link successfully)
  6. Give your feed a name
  7. Enter the feed URL
  8. Click “Create feed”

It’s a few minutes’ effort – but will it actually work?

Truth to tell, I have no idea – the only way to find out is navigate to Twitter and see. If you see an extract from this post there, it’s a runner.

And then I can add a feed from my Twitter account to Freelance Unbound, which means you can read Twitter posts of blog posts of Twitter posts of blog posts until you have to lie down in a darkened room and not go near the internet again for some time.

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