Saturday, March 7, 2009

Twitter Bird

This story will either make mainstream media laugh out loud and shrug at the fools on the intertubes, or (and I think this is wiser) make them very, very nervous.

The thought of Twitter -- or, indeed, any medium other than the mainstream media -- delivering local news in an extremely timely fashion to folks who ordinarily would pick up a newspaper or tune in to the local news broadcasts should make those in the mainstream media very nervous. Newspapers especially claim local news as their unique turf and stake out this turf and the news they're able to provide as their staying power in this new era of news delivery. If Twitter (which I haven't investigated beyond a cursory fashion) were to capitalize on providing local news in a fashion that provides the utility and depth that the majority of the local audience craves, this concept -- delivered by whomever -- could be the final nail in newspapers' coffins.

The devil is in the details, however. I'm certain it would take a certain, undetermined critical mass of Twitter users to make the local news angle as all-encompassing as the local news mainstream media can provide. Some commenters on the thread to the story I've linked here point out that Twitter is being used to this effect now in some areas, where alters on crime and weather are certainly arriving on Twitter faster than they arrive on local news sites (and, of course, the crash-landing of the U.S. Air flight in the Hudson River earlier this year is well-known as a major news incident "reported" first on Twitter.

But there are some thorny details to be worked out -- the most important being is that critical mass. Sure, if crime and weather are your main interest, or if you have niche interests in, say, local sports, it's quite possible Twitter or other similar local news feeds could fit the bill rather nicely. And, as one commenter shrewdly points out, what Twitter provides, at least in the Twitter form now, is notes, not stories.

Then there are other issues -- credibility being one of them. I know from experience that mainstream media reporters do not corner the market on credibility, but neither do the internet ethers from whence these Twitter news updates are likely to come. And then there's the question of the best, most reliable reporters getting paid for their work. Getting paid. This is something Twitter still hasn't figured out yet.

But this makes me want to investigate Twitter more than any other concept. There's real potential here for somebody.

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