Posted by: Andrew | May 1, 2008

Twitterberry?

As the entire tech world speculates how Twitter will make money, has anyone ever considered the possibility of a Twitter-branded or Twitterfied smartphone? It could be the next evolution of email on your blackberry, but more tightly networked with less spam and a greater ease to check up on your followers, be they friends, family, co-workers, clients, etc. I know Twitter is already available for phones, but a more thorough integration is needed. And for the upstart Crackberry user on the go, doesn’t Twitter’s 140-character limit epitomize efficiency, speed and utility?

Of course, Twitter isn’t exactly mainstream yet despite its explosive growth, but maybe a move like this is just what the company needs to become the next must-use tool, instead of the quasi-geeky fetish it is now.

That Twitter is so hot right now.

UPDATE: I’ve realized that out of all the ways to consume online news, Twitter perhaps brings the most pleasure (or perhaps the fewest headaches, I’m not sure which). For the record, I love RSS feeds, sites packed with rich-media, and the ability to get any news I want anywhere I happen to be. But it’s easy to drown in the virtual sea of online content. Twitter eases the pain by forcing content providers to boil their headlines down to pithy phrases and simple links. The updates are fed to you chronologically, allowing you a more lean-back news experience in which you can choose to receive content passively, rather than actively filter through my feed subscriptions or a thousand stories on Digg, Current, etc.

Come to think of it, in this way Twitter is very much a new turn on a tried-and-true model in which the consumer grants the content provider at least some control over the media experience. My tweets from The New York Times, for example, are fed to me one by one through my Thwirl app every few minutes or so, as if the Times were programming a Twitter-based news channel for me. So in this respect, Twitter lets me entrust my news experience to the Times, which can be liberating since it frees my mind up to do other things. Choice is the shining promise of the Web, but occasionally too much choice in content can feel asphyxiating.

At the same time, Twitter leaves content and conversation largely within the hands of its users, and in that regard it is a very savvy, New Media tool. After all, I choose whom I’m following and when and where I read my tweets. And then there is the whole community aspect of Twitter that lets anyone (not just the Times) have their say and push relevant information out to the group.

In other news, I just started following The Wall Street Journal and have come away with a mixture of disappointment and perturbation. Like the Times, WSJ tweets links to its top stories. But when you click on these links, you’ll still get cock-blocked by the subscription gateway (that is, unless you’re a subscriber, of course). Now, on the one hand I can imagine that this could be an effective marketing device that will result in several new subscriptions to the WSJ. On the other hand, it seems to go against the whole spirit of Twitter — the community aspect, like I said. Twitter is about connecting with people and organizations that interest you; it’s highly personal. So you can imagine why I’d feel somewhat snubbed when the Journal returns the favor by giving me the proverbial digital finger when I try to read a story it directed me to on Twitter.

For that matter, why don’t newspapers realize how much more they can do with Twitter than simply post URLs to stories? That’s just them talking at us, rather than with us. Why don’t they bring editors or reporters into the mix by letting them interact with readers and acknowledge retweets? Ask followers for help gathering news and let them be in on the story. There’s no better place to do it than Twitter, where everyone’s footprint is identical, there are no featured accounts or banner ads or “editor’s picks”, etc. Give your presence a soul and a voice! I mean, I’m assuming there’s a real live person Twitterring at the Times, and not a robot. Twitter is about connections – so let’s connect, damn it! Treat me more like a follower instead of a subscriber or a customer, and I might just become even more engaged in your brand.

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