Twitter Doesn't Do Everything Well

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Can Twitter replace newspaper and magazine articles?

Jeff Jarvis over at BuzzMachine has an excellent post about Twitter and its ability to deliver the news titled, The article as luxury or byproduct. Jarvis’ main point is focused on the idea that because we now have a connected world that is increasingly mobile and allows information to travel in real-time, the concept of news has shifted from a product to a process. In the Blog post, he says: "they [articles] are no longer necessary for every event. They were a necessary form for newspapers and news shows but not the free flow, the never-starting, never-ending stream of digital. Sometimes, a quick update is sufficient; other times a collection of videos can do the trick. Other times, articles are good." It’s an interesting concept for those who play in media to tinker with. Think about it this way: in a traditional platform (say newspapers and magazines), the news is delivered in a product (beginning, middle and end). The product has a handful of players (it’s mostly an Editor and the reporter with some help from the copy desk). In a world that is connected through new media platforms (like Twitter) everything changes.

Twitters turns the news (and information) upside-down.

In a flurry of 140-characters at a time, news is now delivered by the people it’s happening to or by those who are watching it unfold before their eyes. It’s happening from multiple "reporters" who are all bringing their own perspectives and biases to the situation. This is only complicated by how the public gets this news. The public must be following the right people and be able to filter this information in a way that gives it meaning and balance. This isn’t always easy, and as the river of tweets flows, an hour away from a screen might see this news piece come and go. Mathew Ingram over at GigaOm (a former national newspaper journalist) adds his perspective with the Blog post, No, Twitter Is Not a Replacement For Journalism (a post that Jarvis takes opinion with). Twitter is amazingly powerful for reporting something that is happening (and it’s a strong argument for why the news is becoming more of a process and less of a product), but Twitter is amazingly weak in replicating the experience we have when we read an article (something Jarvis states multiple times in his Blog post).

It’s not a zero-sum game.

Why do we feel the need to have one thing replace another? I often say, "everything is ‘with,’ not ‘instead of’." It’s possible that Twitter is the evolution of how news and journalism is sourced, gathered and developed, but it is equally true that delivering depth, perspective and focus will only come from the depth of an article. On top of that, there is a lot of conversation around the power and merit of long-form content in the digital channels as well (see: “Smart editorial, smart readers, and smart ad solutions”: Slate makes a case for long-form on the web from the Nieman Journalism Lab). It’s clear that the online world offers an opportunity for all types of news, journalism, articles and stories to flourish.

There are things that Twitter and YouTube do extremely well, and there are many other things that it doesn’t do well at all.


  1. Everything has a place, but to completely replace the major news outlets is a little bit of a stretch for me. Twitter undoubtedly has a place in mass distribution of a msg, thousands of cases of this occur per minute but when it comes to true journalistic msg the platform is too limited.
    What seems to have missed the mark thus far is the reliance on mass media outlets to promote the editorial conversation on their platform. Transitioning this msg to a location like Twitter would massively open the audience, increase the discussion and I think ultimately drive up the impressions and revenue for the publisher.
    The Globe seems to get some decent traction on the site, but I can only image what type of PV #’s they could pull on their editorial if they incited some viral debates linking back to the piece.

  2. Quality – perhaps not… yet. Technological feasibility is working against the quality and depth of a story typically found in a well thought-out piece. But, who knows how the online social channels will shift from Ability to Quality.
    On the flip-side. News isn’t news once it reaches prime time or the glossy spread. It becomes afterthoughts, opinions and retelling of a story.
    Twitter is, and should be, the evolution of how news and journalism is gathered. But it (Twitter) falls short when it comes to development and delivery of the story.

  3. I always try to compliment my news intake with extra information. Twitter can help me do this small form of reasearch (it’s usually blogs that I end up reading). It stays social. Somewhat like a “to-do” café.

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