October 29th, 2008
Most newsrooms have utterly narcissistic Twitter accounts. The worst offenders (which unfortunately is the majority) use services like Twitterfeed to automatically tweet links to the newspaper’s own content. Here’s our RSS feed on Twitter! Don’t get enough of our content on our site or through RSS? Now get it on Twitter, too!
Some newsrooms are slightly better in that there is an actual human being who uses the Twitter feed to let followers know about new content on the newsroom’s site, in a conversational tone. Still, it’s all about sharing OUR content.
Is it any wonder why so many newsrooms have fewer Twitter followers than many individuals on Twitter — especially when these newsrooms have print and web audiences numbering in the hundreds of thousands or millions — a lot more people than the average individual knows. In fact, if you look at the numbers, individual journalists typically have a lot more followers than their newsrooms.
This is a perfect example of how mainstream news orgs got so far behind on the web — they see the web as just another distribution channel for their own content. Open the chute and shovel the content in.
Can you think of any PERSON that you follow on Twitter who does nothing but link to their own blog posts? That’s not how real people use Twitter, and not how Twitter became so popular.
For me, Twitter has become one of the most interesting sources of links — to news, resources, funny stuff. Twtitter has become a primary platform for link blogging, in the classic sense.
For example, Jay Rosen, who has 10 times as many followers as most newsrooms, is prolific source of interesting links on Twitter.
Instead of seeing Twitter as another place to dump their content, newsrooms should see it as a way to create a whole new dimension of value under their editorial brand.
Many newsrooms are doing this through “live Tweeting” everything from ball games to trials. Tweeting while watching is certainty a popular use of Twitter, so this is promising.
But there’s another dimension to Twitter that newsrooms are entirely missing — sharing interesting stuff. As newsrooms increasingly look to link journalism and news aggregation as a way to create value for their readers, they should look to their Twitter accounts as an easy platform for sharing links.
If newsrooms want more Twitter followers, they need to be INTERESTING. And since they can’t as easily be quirky interesting, i.e. sharing random thoughts and experiences, and obvious way to be interesting is to share links.
The magic of Twitter is that users have invented so many different new ways to use it.
Newsrooms should make Twitter into a platform for link journalism. Local news orgs should set up Twitter feeds where they link to interesting non-local news (i.e. NOT AP!).
And of course it’s fine to mix in links to your own content — just don’t be a dull Tweeter by making it ALL about your content.
And shameless plug — using Twitter for link journalism is now super easy with the new Publish2 connection to Twitter. Save a link on Publish2 and send it simultaneously to Twitter (and delicious, and soon Facebook, Movable Type, and Wordpress). With Publish2, newsrooms can use the same links that they share on Twitter to create news aggregation features on their sites (a bit of efficiency for newsrooms with limited resources). Check out the details on the Publish2 blog. (You can register for Publish2 here.)
There’s already evidence that newsrooms that shut off the Twitterfeed auto-shovel significantly increase their followers.
So shut off that Twitterfeed. Link to interesting stuff and grow your Twitter audience.
Then, when you publish something that’s really special or important, you’ll have a bigger audience to share it with.
And who knows — maybe your Twitter followers will share interesting links with you.