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Twitter - cutting out the middleman?

Twitter - cutting out the middleman?

"No comment".

Business executives had become more and more adept at hiding behind this phrase, argues David Carr of The New York Times in an article published on Sunday. Not only that, but major figures in business are often obscured by "communications" teams that are anything but communicative. But now, suggests Carr, "Twitter has the potential to cut past all that clutter".

Carr writes that thanks to Twitter "there's a chance to get a glimpse into the thinking of otherwise unapproachable executives, and sometimes even have a real dialogue with them".

He uses Rupert Murdoch as an example. The News Corp executive joined the microblogging platform at the very end of last year, and has since made the headlines several times with Tweets that Carr calls "devoid of nuance, partisan in the extreme and prone to crankiness, all consistent with the Rupert Murdoch we have come to know".

Murdoch has used the platform to take sides on divisive issues. He voiced his strong support of SOPA and attacked President Obama for not supporting it, tweeting: "So Obama has thrown in his lot with Silicon Valley paymasters who threaten all software creators with piracy, plain thievery."

Commenting on the US Republican presidential primaries he urged Iowans to "think about Rick Santorum. Only candidate with genuine big vision for country".

Carr calls Murdoch's account "a fine opportunity for the rest of us to hear what's on the mind of a man who controls vast swaths of the global conversation". He is generally impressed by Murdoch's Tweets: "after a month of reading Mr. Murdoch's posts, I have to say there's something refreshing about the directness of the medium and, yes, the man using it."

But as public figures start self-publishing, journalists also face major challenges. Mathew Ingram wrote an article for GigaOm yesterday, reporting that Brian Stelter of The New York Times, had highlighted the more disruptive side of "sources going direct" at a social media conference at Columbia University. According to Ingram, Stelter called the problem the "generational issue of our time for journalists", adding that it "keeps me up at night".

Ingram doesn't give much context to Stelter's statements, but he tells us why he thinks about why sources "going direct" could cause major disruption: "it removes the need for the journalist as middleman or information gatekeeper," he writes, "In the past, a journalist could have made a pretty good name for themselves by simply getting access to Rupert Murdoch and quoting his thoughts on Barack Obama or Google -- but now, he is providing those himself."

Yet in the end, Ingram is confident the shift "should be good for serious journalism". In the long term, it will mean good journalists move away from trying to get scoops, and towards filtering information and providing context and analysis, he argues.

The growth of Twitter is not just providing a publishing platform for executives, but for brands too. PBS Mediashift released an article last week noting that brands have moved on from making adverts where the message is just "Buy our stuff". Now they are actively creating and self-publishing their own content. Author Amy Vernon picks out the example of HBO, which created a custom video app for Facebook called Immortalize to promote the show True Blood. The app allowed users to integrate themselves into a scene from the popular program and it "took off" on Facebook. Vernon wrote that the campaign "wasn't advertising at all. It was creating interactive content for fans".

Brands creating content for social media may put traditional publishers in a similar position that business journalists find themselves in when they look at Rupert Murdoch's Twitter stream; in some ways, their role as the middleman has been cut out. Does this mean that traditional content producers will be left behind? Not necessarily, argues Vernon: "It just means that we all need to make sure we're providing some sort of value to our readers."

"For the so-called content creators -- writers, photographers and videographers -- it actually means more opportunity, not less," she concludes.

Sources: The New York Times, Huffington Post, GigaOm, PBS Mediashift


Hannah Vinter


2012-01-31 15:37

Shaping the Future of the News Publishing

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