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Twitter and The News

July 29, 2009

So instead of writing a post about something unrelated I might as well chime in on this newspaper debate.  I mean after all I do work for a exclusively online news company, which is now flourishing in the digital age.

Here is the problem with newspapers.  I don’t care what kind of depth you can put in them, newspapers are always old news.  Why would I want to pick up the paper to read things that happened 8 hours ago; things that I already know all about.  I know I am going to piss some of you traditional journalists off, but sorry.  Newspapers are old news.

The death of the newspaper started with a little web site that a lot of us use very frequently that has nothing to do with news distribution.

Criagslist killed the newspaper.

Five years ago if you had something to sell, you put a classified ad in a newspaper.  If you had a job opening, house for rent/sale, or garage sale, you paid to put it in the classifieds.  Newspapers made a huge portion of their revenue on these ads.  Ever since Craigslist made all these ads available in real time for FREE, newspapers have lost this huge portion of their revenue.

This caused newspapers to cut their costs as well.  All across the country newspapers are losing money and cutting their publications.  They are cutting whole sections (which people loved), talented writers and most importantly reporter’s research budgets.  Now reporters can’t do what they are trained to do; in depth reporting.  There just isn’t the budget for it.

This is where online news comes in.  The overhead for an online publication is much less than a traditional paper.  There is no printing, and no physical distribution.  That way with an even smaller budget, an online publication can produce a much more in depth publication than a newspaper  (including all the sections that you miss from your local paper: food, home and garden, etc).  Not to mention an online publication can be updated in real time, and you can access whenever you want.

Yesterday, Arnold signed the California budget into law, I knew as soon as it happened and had read about it 30 minutes after it happened.  Why in the world would I wait until 5pm to read about it in the paper?  Sorry, but newspapers are dying.

The future of newspapers can’t be in depth reporting because there is no budget for it.  The future is the internet; much like every other entity that has moved online.

On to Twitter:

Twitter is not a news soruce.  It is a micro-blogging platform.  What news can you distribute in 140 characters?  Not much.  But what you can do is easily and widely distribute the news to those all over the world…. for FREE!

So to say Twitter is not the future of news is absolutely right.  Twitter is a new way to distribute news to the masses quickly, easily and in real time.

Twitter is there to enhance the news organizations efforts.  Twitter doesn’t make the news organization a good one.  Good solid, interesting reporting is what makes a news organization respected.  Twitter just helps spread awareness of news and the news organization.  They still need to do their job and report the news.

Another plus to news organizations using Twitter (social media) as a distribution channel is the idea of two way communication.  Gone are the days when news organizations told us what was newsworthy.  We want our news, our way.  Twitter is a way to communicate with our news organizations and tell them what we want to read about. We want different perspectives on the same story and want a well rounded outlook on the world around us.  This is especially true with Gen Yers.

So in conclusion, newspapers need to take a hint.  The phone book did it, music did it, and newspapers will have to do it: move online!

News organizations’ lives depend on it.

Follow Todd on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/toddliss

Note:  I work for the San Diego News Network which is an exclusively online new media company.  The founders believe that SDNN is the news business model for the future.  Check out the site and let me know what you think.

http://www.sdnn.com

Also, see how SDNN uses Twitter to distribute the news: http://www.twitter.com/sdnewsnetwork

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