Saturday, April 18, 2009

Twitter's impact on media only beginning

Posted by Craig Kanalley on 4/18/2009
There's been quite a debate among journalism circles whether Twitter is just a fad or if it will be around for the long haul. I believe the latter.

If not Twitter itself, a service near identical to it - one based on microblogging - will influence the media for years to come.

Part of the reason for Twitter's success is that its relationship with media is reciprocal. It helps the media by providing story leads, "breaking tweets" (had to get a plug in there), and a real-world stream of what people are saying all over the world. Meanwhile, the media is using it to get its own message out and it is covering the site constantly, oftentimes for its own marketing purposes.

One really interesting aspect of this all is that more and more people are leaving traditional news sources for Twitter. It may sound silly, but as Jimmy Fallon said on Larry King Live tonight, Twitter in itself is a lot "like a newspaper," with a real-time stream of only the headlines you want to see.

Also today, Evan Williams, CEO of Twitter, said on Oprah that his service "democratizes media," giving everyone a chance to participate. It's all about the ground-up, grassroots, and the people first, rather than big corporations spinning the news and disseminating it.

This is nothing against traditional media - at all. It has an important role. I'm just saying I think Twitter's here for the long haul, so media needs to continue to adapt and utilize it as frequently as possible to stay in the game. If it lets up, Twitter can fill the void by providing news fast from all over the world all by itself. There are plenty of blogs doing that already (albeit some are not credible), and they're popping up across the site.

You know, I have to end with the whole Ashton Kutcher-CNN "Twitter race" to 1 million followers. I followed it closely -- how could I not? - everyone was talking about it. As far as Kutcher goes, I used to never think much of the guy. Most of my opinion was based on Punk'd, and I just thought the guy was really immature. But I have to give him props. He did his homework and his speech after he reached 1 million followers first said it all - the guy knows where media is going:

"We have shown the world that the new wave is here, it is present, and it is ready to explode. You guys are all of it because I can't follow me, so I don't even count."

"We can and will create our media. We can and will edit our media. We can and will broadcast our media. We can and will censor our own media ourselves. We are over a million. CNN is still trying to get there, and that's just the way that goes."


Kutcher also said something very interesting in a previous Web address - that gatekeeping is still necessary, only it's all headed to the Web, no longer on the television screen or in the newspaper.

It's also worth noting that in his one millionth follower speech, he called Ted Turner "a pioneer in media," saying, "You had the foresight to see digital media was going to be the future even before all of us could see that."

To Twitter, he said, "You guys have created a platform that I believe will change the face of media."

He gave credit where credit is due. And he made a major statement on where the media in general is going.

It's going 140 characters at a time.

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