Friday, September 11, 2009

Papers and Twitter: When all you have is a hammer ...

Everything is a nail, is how the old saying goes. That pretty much sums up a lot of what I still see in newsrooms.

The hammer here is the hard-to-shed orientation that news is still something to be "produced" and "delivered" as mostly a one-way affair, instead of being a conversation. That's probably understandable; organizations really aren't all that good at conversations. They're not set up for it. Conversations are a granular things, and organizations are all about homogenization.

Which is why watching what many news organizations have done with Twitter has annoyed but not surprised me. They've created another dumping ground for shovelware.

Having not learned from earlier escapades online (and still doing the shovelware thing on their Web sites in way too many cases), too many news organizations have turned their Twitter feeds also into a shovelware wasteland. The feeds stick out like a sore, one-way thumb on a two-way medium.

And now someone has called them on it. At the Future of Journalism conference in Britain, researchers said they found that "although 91% had Twitter accounts, only two thirds of those studied actually tweeted and that 98.5% of the hyperlinks tweeted, simply pointed to existing website content."

One of the researchers, Marcus Messner, said: "We found that more attention needs to be paid to community building. It needs to go beyond shovelware. "

Having said that -- and having bashed The (Columbia, S.C.) State around recently for not getting it in one area online -- let me now say that this is one thing that newsroom does right. The State's Twitter feed is clearly produced by human, not machine. It's readable, it reacts and it's generally got the idea.

More newsrooms could follow that lead.

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