Encouraging Media Accessibility With Twitter Thursday April 30, 2009

So you’re all probably pretty happy that it’s been a good solid week since I mentioned Twitter on the ol’overdrive. Well, the breaks over!

A couple of weeks ago the social media beast known as Twitter reached the point of no return in terms of popularity growth as Overlord Oprah, Ashton Kutcher, and CNN catapulted twitter into the mainstream consciousness. Because of which twitter’s growth is almost unstoppable now and could reach 50 million people by the summer 2009. With that amount of growth, there is going to be a flood of new users desperately trying to take advantage of the service. Some will miss the boat completely, but some will use twitter to actually become more accessible.

Let me use the local Calgary Media as an example.

Media Accessibility on Twitter

One of the trends emerging with the growth of Twitter is the new found level of accessibility between the audience and some members of the media (Yes, I’m talking some and not all members of the media).

As a trend, it seems that the earliest media adopters of twitter, the reporters and news anchors and journalists, are benefiting by using the application to interact with their audience at a more intimate level. Over the past two months, it has become quite common in the Calgary Twitter realm (Sorry, I don’t have a better way to describe it) to see members of CTV, Metro, FFWD and the CBC communicating openly with the Calgary (#yyc) community. Followers of local media members are engaging in conversations with the media on a whole new open level. Whether it is casual conversation or reporters collecting eye witness accounts or authors and radio personalities spurring a rally for the CBC; the relationship between the media and the community seems to be exploring a new intimate ground on twitter.

So What’s Different Now?

I’m sure there has always been dozen of streams for the local media and the Calgary community to interact. I’m also sure that the media has always tried to be as open as possible, it might just be me, but there has always been a perceived aura of inaccessibility when it comes to the community engaging the media.

But all of sudden it seems to be changing? And why now? I’m just guessing, but I see three key factors, all of which seem to be enhanced by twitter’s platform.

1. Breakdown of Formal Communication Barriers It would be foolish to pretend that communication with members of the local media were not filtered in the past. Letters to the editor and emails to the news team have always had to go through some filtering process.

But now the members of the media that are choosing to be accessible on twitter, are moving against that grain. Communication is free and open. There is no filtration being applied between tweets and the aura of inaccessibility appears to be breaking down. Anyone can respond to a tweet from any member of the local media on twitter. Sure they may not care to read it, but it is instant and it is visible to to the world, which is far more gratifying than mailing off a letter to the editor.

2. Competitive Forces in the Media Industry The news industry has always been a competitive one, but now you add in the uncertainty that’s swirling around and you bet it’s going to be even more cut-throat.

With each local media outfit scrambling to break stories faster and build loyalties with its audience; the media appears to be reaching out to get feedback and reactions at a faster pace. What better way to communicate and find out about the latest news then with an instantaneous tool like twitter.

Another Example of the media connecting with The community

Because of it’s instantaneous nature, twitter is encouraging the members of the media to become more engaging and to build a trusted repertoire with the local community. Which becomes a win-win for both parties. The media receives feedback and information at a faster rate and the community feels involved with the story.

3. Twitter’s Sense of Openness and Engagement Now this might change as more people join, but at the current moment Twitter has an innocent sense of openness and engagement. People make comments, some people read them, some people interrupt with their own two cents and some would rather just retweet the crap out of everything that goes through their window. Either way, there is odd sense of free engagement flowing around. It’s like a nerdy utopian love-in.

So when members of the media start tweeting or posting their comments, it provides their followers (and subsequently members of the community) with a bit more insight and a bit of chance to interact. Which helps to break down the aura of inaccessibility that used to shroud members of the media. Due to the nature of twitter it is okay to pop in with your own comments or respond to people’s insight.

The New Relationship?

While this all seems very rosy and idealistic at the moment, it can take a turn for the worse. Just ask writer/director Kevin Smith (NSFW link), but in the mean time I encourage people to take part in the evolving relationship between members of the media and their local communities on Twitter.

And to all the media members embracing Twitter, congratulations and thank you for your input.

Categories: The-Twitter-verse, The-World, The Calgary Vibe, The Canada Vibe

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Good points. I think Twitter does provide for more direct accessibility to the media from the public and vice versa. There is still another piece of the pie missing here though, companies, governments, etc. all need to be engaged in the same conversation. Platforms like Twitter provide a place where everyone can participate. But to be effective, everyone NEEDS to be participating in that conversation. In Calgary, most don’t (some exceptions like some local politicians, City of Calgary, etc.) But as you suggest, that may change as more people join in.

Wendy · Apr 30, 11:42 AM · #permalink

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Not the most impressive stats. :)

You’ll drag me into another social networking site kicking and screaming!

-Jamie

Jamie · Apr 30, 01:21 PM · #permalink

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Wendy,

Great point. But at least members of the local media are working to break the mold. I’d love to see more politicians joining the conversation, but I think they are going to be reluctant for a little while longer.

ctoverdrive · May 1, 03:14 PM · #permalink

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Jamie,

I’ve seen that stat bounced around the interwebs and I have to say it actually doesn’t bother me all that much. And this is for two reasons.

1) In my opinion, having a somewhat weak retention rate might not be too bad for twitter. In fact I think it might be an advantage.

Twitter still hasn’t formulated a decent business model and unfortunately having a millions users of a free service costs a lot of money in support and bandwidth charges. Facebook’s growth is causing it to devouring bandwidth at such a rate that it’s starting to face some serious issues in regards to funding for all the servers and traffic. Facebook at least has some API’s and advertisment sales. Twitter currently doesn’t.

So having a retention rate that’s pretty low might be a benefit to the company.

2) It takes a while to get Twitter. I started tweeting in April 2007 and I didn’t fully understand the platform until March 2008. Hell, I still don’t full understand it and I’m trying to sell my expertise. So I don’t find it that shocking.

I think it actually strengths the community, as the floodgates that were supposet break haven’t borken yet. Which is helping current users build the community. As it starts building, the people who looked at it and left will come back.

Just like you Mr. Rennie. That’s right, you’ll be sucked into another social media network….

Mark my words rennie. Mark my words.

ctoverdrive · May 1, 03:47 PM · #permalink

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