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Twitter thoughts

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by Bubbler, Sep 1, 2011.

  1. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    I was late to Twitter. I had my own work-related blog and Facebook, so I didn't feel a need to jump in. Finally, belatedly realizing its potential, I started my work-related feed about a month ago.

    I like it. I'm steadily picking up followers and its been well-received by the fans who follow my stuff. I can't be anywhere near as oddball on a work-feed as I am here, but I do try to let my personality through (within reason, no profanity, no politics) while being informative.

    I follow several feeds and what's been eye-opening to me is how its still kind of Wild West as far as how other writers use it.

    Some use it solely for links, both their own and others of note. Like me, some use it as a mix of work-related news, a forum to post links, and as a place to do both while getting your own "voice" across. This is all good.

    It's obviously also great for breaking news. I've found that from the readers' perspective, it evens the playing field significantly against broadcast outlets that don't follow the same rules print reporters traditionally do.

    We all know the drill. They throw one-sentence non-sourced stories they "learned" about on their web site before we get the far-better reported and sourced story on ours. In my case, it's because we won't report non-sourced news. Now I have my quick and short forum just like they do from my phone or laptop ... only I source my tweets with a "Per So-and-So, ..." This is also great.

    But what I also see is a crapload of minutiae in tweets that no one would care about in a million years. I don't follow that many Twitter feeds compared to others, a little over 100 right now, but I dread the times when some of the writers I follow are at a presser or are on a teleconference.

    With respect to those who do it, I'm not sure that every last thought an athlete or coach says at a presser or in a teleconference is tweet-worthy. At some point, the test of newsworthiness has to apply to tweets just like it does any other written form.

    I know there's zealot fans out there who want every last detail of everything, but they're in a severe minority. I seriously doubt anyone cares, for example, that some coach's line was cut during a teleconference. Or to tweet 10 seconds later that the coach is back on. Unless you imbue something funny into it, there's nothing newsworthy or interesting there for your readers/followers.

    It strikes me that if you tweet 20 times from a teleconference or presser (or name equivalent event), its akin to doing a double-album for the sake of doing a double-album. It's Twitter filler.

    Coach X might say something juicy, but who's going to read it if that particular Tweet is buried in amongst 19 other tweets of bullshit? It's like suffering through Don't Leave Me Now and Vera and a bunch of other crappy songs on Pink Floyd's The Wall to get to Comfortably Numb.

    I also don't see too many writers I follow give their followers a window into what they're working on for their next story or what might be in the next day's paper or website, etc.

    I think this is hard for many writers who don't see it as their job to do it. It comes off as self-promotion, and frankly, it is sort of is.

    But I think if you create the right "voice" for your Twitter feed, your readers/followers are going to want to know what's going on with you because they connect you with your beat. A good Twitter feed will get readers to make you a part of the beat to them. It gives you personal ownership of that beat in a way it took a byline years to do in the past.

    To wit, last week there was major news on my college beat. On Tuesday night, I was working to get the story in Wednesday's paper, but didn't get connected with that last source I needed to feel comfortable enough to publish. But I knew I'd get him the next day and I knew I'd have the story. If not the next day then it would be soon.

    So I tweeted that night that I was working on a story of major importance to the athletic department I cover. The tweet revealed no details, only that I was working on something and wanted readers to know something was coming.

    Honestly, I didn't think anything of the tweet when I tweeted it. But before I broke the story the next morning, I had picked up a significant amount of followers and the chatter on the message boards was rampant. Some of it was crazy, virtually none of the speculation was accurate, but the point was that lone tweet had created anticipation among readers for the story I knew was to come. It really opened my eyes.

    That's admittedly a well you don't want to go down too often. The news I broke was major for my beat, so I felt it was worth it, but you wouldn't want to do that for, say, your second-string QB being moved to third-string or something minor like that.

    But it showed me what can be done when you use Twitter as a tool to create interest in what you're doing. All it took was one follower to link what I wrote and it took off from there.

    Anyway, I know many (most?) of you have been tweeting far longer than I have. What are your observations?
  2. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    Observation 1: Your post would take about 40 tweets. I had to take a dinner break just to finish reading it.
    Observation 2: Well, okay really there isn't one, I haven't finished my dinner break yet.

    But here's how I use Twitter: I do let people know what's coming in our next edition. Sometimes link to the website or others, sometimes just a live game update, but usually it's just my random thoughts, work related or not. I don't get political. I posted about the uncalled for Netflix price increase, which got retweeted by people not even following me, and I got a few followers that way. I tweeted about a family member with Alzheimer's and got a lot of Alzheimer's advocates following me (which was cool, but kinda weird since I likely won't post much more). But the one that really got me going was just a comical tweet about a potential crowd at a college game. It was retweeted by a TV reporter, and then one of his followers (who is pretty well known regionally) retweeted it. I got a few hundred followers.

    I just have fun with Twitter, it's not my job, not required by our office, and I don't really promote myself so much. And even with that being said about it not being required by work, our office won't allow us to break news via Twitter. So when we have breaking news, I link to our website, with a teaser tweet.
  3. imjustagirl

    imjustagirl Active Member

    40? Try 4000.
  4. Turtle Wexler

    Turtle Wexler Member

    I find this interesting. Some outlets clamor to get breaking news on Twitter, while others are now expressly forbidding it. What is the reasoning behind this policy at your shop?
  5. Bubbler

    Bubbler Active Member

    I get the reasoning why some papers do it (it drives hits away from the mothership), but I don't agree with it.

    Breaking news has changed. You're leaving yourself open to getting nailed on breaking news, especially by broadcast and radio outlets that have never given two shits about rules of the profession, if you don't post something ASAP.

    Make sure its right, of course -- there's obviously plenty of cautionary Twitter tales out there already -- but once you know what you need to break, do it. I don't think a reporter should be bound to wait to post something on his company's website if they can tweet it earlier and get it out there, so long as you establish that your Twitter feed is affiliated with your job.

    Sometimes, a reporter doesn't have control over when his breaking news goes on a web site, I know I've had stories "broken" before the competition, but got "beat" by the competition anyway because we didn't post the breaking news on the web on time. Why deal with that when you can just tweet it off your phone? Better still, tweet it first and then tweet that you'll have more on your web site.

    Newspapers rely on giving readers something better and more in-depth than TV or radio. I still think that's a viable mission. But I've found that Twitter is a good way to keep those readers' eyes on your prize, so to speak.

    Breaking news is what gets readers' attention. Basic who, what, when, where and why is still the most powerful tool we have and no paper should cede the new way of delivering those powerful basics based on losing web hits.

    Once you have their attention, they begin to realize you've been giving them the meaty stuff all along. The web hits will come accordingly.

    Fortunately, my shop seems to understand this. We've begun promoting our Twitter feeds in the paper.
  6. joe_schmoe

    joe_schmoe Active Member

    Pretty much as Bubbler said, it drives away hits from the mothership. Twitter alone produces no revenue for the paper.
    But our paper is still learning social media (at least the big wigs and how to use it) Eventually I'm sure it will get to the point where they will realize that twitter breaking news can have value. If Joe Blow from KISS TV keeps breaking news on twitter, while Joe Schmoe from Podunk News is reporting on it for the next paper, Blow's gonna get more traffic. Schmoe becomes forgotten. The guy who constantly breaks news is remembered, no matter where it's broken. It becomes name recognition, like Bubbler said.
    Unfortunately my shop fails to understand this, and we have yet to promote Twitter feeds. Fortunately, some of our staff are getting followers just by association.
  7. JackReacher

    JackReacher Well-Known Member

    Follow Andy Staples from SI. He'll tell you how badly your BBQ sucks and how great his is. And if you're lucky, he'll trash-talk a few fans.
  8. playthrough

    playthrough Moderator Staff Member

    I can't make the jump from using it at work to using it on a personal basis. I just don't have much tolerance for the RTs and the bullshit and the people who think they're "brands" but are really just Twitter idiots. And I barely post one status update a week on Facebook, so I can't imagine having anything more to say on Twitter.

    At work? It's fantastic. I set up a list in HootSuite of companies I need to follow for a weekly notes column and it's great. And of course I Tweet all our stories in our company account
  9. Dick Whitman

    Dick Whitman Well-Known Member

    Twitter seems like it would be good for breaking quick news: "QB 'A' to start Saturday over QB 'B," coach just announced." It is also one of the many reasons I'm happy that I don't cover sports as a daily beat any longer. I understand the business has changed. I understand why it's changed. But I have no interest in Tweeting. Not why I got into the business.

    I particularly have no use for Twitter as a social networking took, another place for people to broadcast their dinner plans.

    I'm fairly anti-Facebook and anti-Twitter, as is well-known around these parts. Some people take that very personally. I even got a shitty PM from someone once during a pissing contest along the lines of, "You gonna quit here like you quit Facebook?"
  10. I used to think Twitter was a stupid fad. Now I find it a lot of fun and addictive.

    And I don't know if it has any impact on the newspaper or website revenue or anything like that. I just enjoy it.
  11. LongTimeListener

    LongTimeListener Well-Known Member

    I used to hate Twitter passionately, and I still have no use for it in anyone's personal life, but I have grown to respect it as a news tool. Some things, you really don't have more to say than 140 characters, but if you're a columnist, without Twitter your choices were to blow out a small issue into an entire column or ignore it entirely.

    Peter King tweets very well. I also saw a good use of it yesterday -- Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News saw Tejada in the parking lot, before any other reporters had arrived, and Tejada told him about the DFA. That was a great Breaking News tweet, and he followed it quickly with Rowand also being DFA'd. In that case, it led me to check his Twitter feed for more updates throughout the day and also to go to his blog and news coverage first because I felt like he had the best handle on the story.

    I don't know if that made any money for him or the newspaper. I guess that's the big question.
  12. Cosmo

    Cosmo Well-Known Member

    Nut graf.

    Just had this scenario this week. I want people to know that I am the one breaking the news. I posted the news, and said to look for a folo on my blog within the hour, then posted the blog entry. Immediate response on the team message board, "Cosmo just posted so and so got popped for drug possession, he's suspended." If I wait another hour, the school beats me with its release.
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