By now it’s cliche to say that there are parallels between Twitter and the news industry. So I’m going to go ahead and abuse the cliche a bit more.
Twitter spread like wildfire across the world because it was a very new kind of service – of the Didn’t-Know-I-Needed-It-Until-I-Had-It variety. In its eary days, Twitter was available on the Web. No Tweetie. No Twhirl. No TweetDeck. Just Twitter.com. Obviously that changed quickly.
People realized they wanted to use Twitter in different ways. They wanted to be able to manipulate it. At its core, it’s still just 140 characters. But people wanted the power to do what they wanted with their 140 characters. Now Twitter is available pretty much anywhere where there is electricity and some kind of Internet connection.
Since Twitter’s API is so accessible, developers all over the world have gotten to work developing applications to show your Tweets. There are the popular ones, but there are also the lesser-known ones. Take a look and you’ll see just how many there are.
News organizations could learn from Twitter. By being so available, in so many different ways, it was able to grow exponentially. News organizations should embrace each and every technology that comes up as a way of distributing its content to readers.
Not long ago, The Guardian released Guardian Open Platform for developers. Though even that’s restricted – they have an “API bucket” where only some stories go.
Take the Kindle for example. There was talk a while ago about a number of newspapers teaming up to offer subscriptions on Kindle. Not a bad idea. But the Washington Post’s executive editor said something that I found disconcerting:
You can subscribe now to The Post and a number of other newspapers on Kindle. We’re intrigued by the possibility of reaching a large audience through such hand-held readers, although so far the number of people who are reading The Post on Kindles is relatively small.
When I read this, I thought: Why does it matter how small the audience is? There’s obviously an audience. It might not be huge, but it’s how these people want to read your publication. News organizations are not in the position to be shedding readers because they don’t provide their content in the ways that their readers want to read it.
There aren’t that many options right now, so it isn’t inconceivable to have all of those bases covered. Some bases:
- A developer platform. Be in contact with these developers. Who knows, one of them might write an application that could change your business.
- Many, many Twitter accounts. In addition to each writer, have it for each section
- Digg accounts
- FriendFeed accounts (actually manned by someone)
- Facebook accounts (maybe two – one “profile” and one “fan page”)
- Kindle publishing
- Functional mobile Web application
- Possibly a freesheet once a week at places people congregate (concerts, parks, etc)
- Google Reader account, to let people know what writers/editors are reading. Mixture of your own content and from others
That’s just some of it. Things are changing every day. But you’ve got to be pushing your content, your brand, your writers – everything. You’ve got to be everywhere.
Your readers will decide how they want to read your content. It’s not for you, the news organization, to decide. If you don’t give your readers the content they want, in the way they want it, then they’ll look elsewhere for it.