Sunday, April 19, 2009


So as I'm sure most people who read this are aware, there's a website which the internet savvy have been using for over a year, but that newspapers and celebrities have just discovered, called Twitter. The old-media, ofcourse, are up in arms, all 'look how crazy the internet is!' about it, while those of us who use it are all 'oh, yeah... I've been using twitter for ages. What about it?'.

Today I read this article by, of course, someone who writes for a newspaper, decrying Twitter and being all pearl-clutchy about 'what it all means', that everyone is 'oversharing' like we are.

Now, I don't LOVE twitter, I use it, I check it all the time, it's great, but I don't write this as some sort of 'omg don't talk bad abt twitter!!1!' defense of something I hold dear, but the fact that people don't seem to get why twitter is popular really fucking baffles me. It's a website that you type whatever you want, answering the question 'what are you doing right now?'. That's what it is, what it does, and that is all.
Newspapers are that on a grand scale- what is happening right now, but written out, edited, bound up and printed and sold, and read after the facts have happened. Twitter is like pure news, albeit from normal people, not foreign correspondants, and usually minutiae rather than breaking news-worthy news, but it is news, nonetheless.
If some huge thing were to happen right now somewhere in the world, I would most likely hear about it first through twitter, through real people who I follow, through their eyes or opinions. I could ask them direct questions, and they could answer them. I could try to help them if they were in danger, as other people following them could. Twitter is the same as the news, just on a microscopic scale, where we choose who reports to us, and we have a direct line of communication to the people reporting.

Sure, there's a fair amount of 'omg I lost my keys', but when you are connecting to actual human beings and not some other giant conglomerate, that's what you expect. I follow people because they are my friends, either from online or off, and a few celebrities who actually seem interesting. I don't have to actively buy into any of this. It's just communications between friends, like meeting up or emails or phone calls, but again, on a tiny scale.

Old-media people (especially newspapers) seem to have such a huge problem getting their minds around the idea of anything being self-published and subsequently actually becoming popular. In the offline world, you have to have the backup of some sort of media company to really make a success of filmaking, writing, or even designing and art, especially to make money. But online, those same structures of deciding who or what is going to be famous, successful, lauded are just not there. Sure, something on the front of the LA Times' website is going to get a lot of hits, but so is something on the front of, where it might endure and turn into an internet meme. There are structures, sure, but they're not controlled by old fat guys in a fancy office anymore.

And so it seems like with anything coming from the internet, it's translated to print media with a rye smirk, a snigger. 'God the internet is so full of freaks!', that denigrates everyone who actively uses the internet to the status of weirdo. While I'm the first to admit that the internet does have a lot of weirdos on it, there are a hell of a lot of weirdos in the real world, and it's not fair to assume that everyone in the real world is insane by tarring them with the same brush.

I don't exactly know the point I'm trying to make, other than old media needs to really re-think their attitudes if they ever want to remain relevant, and the internet gets bored of things very quickly, but it also never forgets.


NusaCat said...

That's what happens when someone who has to write something to earn her paycheck is running out of ideas to write about. Publish or perish is reality in her case.

Jim B said...

It looks like some people just can't stand competition for attention.

One advantage of limiting a tweet to 140 characters is that one has to make every character count and so one has to keep it simple.

Jake said...

i just mainly use it to see what alan carr and russell brand are up to ::P

PhilH said...

She hasn't got a clue.

She's 3899 characters over the limit.

Richard said...

I find it sort of odd that print media would be threatened by twitter. As you say, twitter is great for keeping up to date with friends, and hearing how they are experiencing whatever is going on. With news companies, there's more of an emphasis on 'the big picture' with takes on the situation from people with expertise in the relevant subject - unlikely to be offered by friends, or indeed anyone in less than 140 characters.

Papers are afforded more time and space (and have more expertise/motivation) to gather and distill the information and offer a far better overall understanding of a situation than your friends/twits (not sure what the adjective for someone that uses twitter is...) would give. For me, both forms of communication are beneficial and actually work well together, fulfilling different needs, and helping to qualify the other's information.

Also: hello.

6p00d8341cd88a53ef said...

There are some examples of good crossovers from the established media. A couple of weeks ago when some of my kids were trying to demonstrate against NATO in Strasbourg the established media headlines on the Saturday morning were about tear gas already. The only place I could find any current news was from Hamish Macdonald an Aljazeera English correspondent who was tweeting from the city centre.

Another good example is Maxime Verhagen the Dutch Minister for Foreign Affairs. He reports a lot about where he is, who he is meeting and what he is doing. And he is good about responding to questions and comments.

6p00d8341cd88a53ef said...

Ja, sorry, I am Andrew B. TypePad OpenID does not work very well with Blogger.

Andrew B