Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
June 1, 2011 8:57 PM

Twitter Doesn't Do Everything Well

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.

By Mitch Joel