Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Twitter: The newspaper of tomorrow?

My old mum says she hardly reads her daily newspaper these days. She's been getting the Daily Express delivered for as long as I can remember.

Habit is a powerful thing so the executives at the Daily Express may sleep safe; I don't think she's about to give up paying for her daily copy. It's just she's "seen it all on the TV" by the time the paper arrives.

There's no use telling me you're setting your own news agenda, ploughing your own furrow etc etc. Your user thinks you're just reheating old news. Sorry, but there it is. (Image by kamerakrazy)

Her son (that's me folks) has never had a newspaper delivered in his life. Plenty to worry about for national newspaper folk then.

There's nothing new in this. Microsoft predicts the death of newspapers within 20 years.

Some of the debate about the skills journalism students need, which you'll find here, suggests that while there may still be printed mass distributed things in the future, we may only persist in calling them 'news' papers out of habit.

The thing is, my old mum does still read her weekly local paper. She doesn't do that out of some loyalty born of the fact it was where I started my career. No, she does it because it carries content she has not had access to elsewhere.

She doesn't have access to the internet, and the broadcast types behind the likes of teletext have never gone hyperlocal enough to become relevant or convenient enough for her.

So the local paper remains (for her, at least) a source of unique, relevant content which she is prepared to pay for. Even the advertising in it - by virtue of its focus on the local - for the most part, is of some value to her.

There are hints here for all services - print and digital:
Relevant = useful = valued

Imagine if you knew enough local people on twitter, people you have connected with and maintained connections with through the metadata you have exchanged - so that you trust them and can believe what they have to say.
Imagine if you could select 'My location' on twitter - and only receive tweets from people with x miles.
Imagine you could toggle this on and off when it matters to you.

Perhaps this is the shape of the newspaper of the future?

Whatever tools your communities choose to use, what is clear is that 'news' (read information or content) that people find relevant is that which is niched, either by topic or location or both.

Communities of purpose
are the groups to make that happen - just another reason why they will play out as the business units of the 21st century.

Twitter; The newspaper of tomorrow? Well yes, in as much as it is a very effective way of discovering, filtering and distributing information with levels of relevance no printed medium yet has been able to compete with.

It is not alone in asking tough questions. The new digital tools of human connection (of group forming) consistently raise them:
  • What is the value of mass/broad?
  • What is the value of mediation?

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The rate of change is so rapid it's difficult for one person to keep up to speed. Let's pool our thoughts, share our reactions and, who knows, even reach some shared conclusions worth arriving at?