Thursday, November 27, 2008

News: Where trust is a two-way street

I was on my way home last night on the train when news of the events in Mumbai reached me.

It wasn't via print, radio, tv, rss or search. It came via Twitter.

This is not the first time that Twitter has beaten the mainstream media to the news - at least to news that matters to me..

And it certainly trumps the mainstream for depth.

When I read the first tweets, I rattled over to the BBC site for more. And what I found was less: Sterile, seen-from-the-centre, one-size-fits-all, mass media.

Twitter not only wins for speed and depth, but also for humanity. (Image courtesy)

Twitter presents us with the human face of events. It does this by going beyond the best efforts of the BBC et al to personalize the story by giving us one human version of events (ie this is Mustapha's story, he's an 11-yr-old refugee etc). It presents everyone's story - witnesses, actors, worried friends and relatives.

A rich complex tapestry of news emerges, one much more like human stories than broadcast news. A mainline, unfiltered connection to reality.

News is now information that is relevant to you. The people you trust are great at sharing with you what you need to know. And now we have the tools for communities of purpose to gel globally, and in real time. Like twitter.

Can the likes of the BBC remain one of the 'people' we trust. Of course. But they have to understand trust is a two-way street. If you want us to trust you, you need to trust us.

For example the BBC could have rapidly assembled an rss output from a twitter search ( as we used to call it) of relevant terms in respect of the Mumbai attacks and streamed that on their site. But of course, that would mean they'd have to trust the great US (We, not the U.S.).

And that seems such a struggle for the centre. They can stick to their guns. They can stick to their old ways.

And they will, quite literally, become an irrelevance when compared to the real-time relevance provided by communities of purpose worldwide - the eighth mass media.

I want to thank my good friend Mike Leis for prompting me on this post. He has a great take on what twitter means for news and more, here.

Update Nov 27, 2008, 4pm. Daily Telegraph; Last Night The Social Web Came of Age.

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?