Twitter is Both An Opportunity and a Threat to Media Companies

From an Op-Ed piece written by Roger Cohen in yesterday’s New York Times.

Twitter’s pitch is “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world.” That’s what it does — up to a point. It’s many things, including a formidable alerting system for a breaking story; a means of organization; a monitor of global interest levels (Iran trended highest for weeks until Michael Jackson’s death) and of media performance; a bank of essential links; a rich archive; and a community (“Twitter is my best friend.”)

But is it journalism? No. In fact journalism in many ways is the antithesis of the “Here Comes Everybody” — Clay Shirky’s good phrase — deluge of raw material that new social media deliver. For journalism is distillation. It is a choice of material, whether in words or image, made in pursuit of presenting the truest and fairest, most vivid and complete representation of a situation.

What it means: Twitter is a tool. Asking if it’s ”journalism” is not relevant. The real interesting question is: “Is Twitter a media in itself or a broadcast mechanism?”. The answer is obviously both, as you see people/companies on Twitter writing original material (albeit in 140-character format) or linking to original material. Which is why Twitter is both an opportunity and a threat to media companies. I think the danger for existing media companies is to see Twitter as a pure media and use it as such. For example, if you’re a content producing company or individual (journalist, blogger, etc.), any content you put on Twitter might slowly build your brand on Twitter but there’s no permanency to it (you don’t control that content, you can’t easily take it elsewhere if you get tired of Twitter, etc.). I don’t think your home base should be Twitter (or Facebook for that matter). It should be your own Web site, your blog, your own brand (or one of the ”brands” under the umbrella brand of your current employer). I guess it takes a marketing guy to call journalists “brands”! :-) And it’s very difficult to fight the inertia of putting everything in your Twitter. It’s so easy! I’m guilty of putting/sharing a lot of interesting content on Twitter and that doesn’t build-up my personal and company brand on this blog. Ideally, you should publish in your site/blog/personal web page and broadcast to Twitter. I’d be interested to hear from my readers about tools they use to do that.

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