Twitter is making news faster and better

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Twitter is making news faster, better (Part 1 of 2)

Twitter is changing the way news is delivered and read. For those who have yet to hear about the service, Twitter is an online application that lets users send short messages of 140 characters or less called «tweets» through instant message, cell phone or its website. Many journalists are already using it as a microblogging platform or, alternatively, as a way to keep friends and colleagues updated on their daily lives.

ReadWriteWeb has encapsulated the reasons why Twitter and journalism go hand in hand:

Unlike TV or newspaper, Twitter allows for a conversation. Like its new media brethren, blogs, Twitter encourages discourse and feedback. For reporters that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty, Twitter is a golden opportunity to build a rapport with readers and gauge public opinion. It also makes readers feel more connected to the news when they can participate in a discussion about it as it happens, often times with the people reporting it first hand.

Twitter is built for the new news cycle. «Traditional news operated on a 24-hour cycle. Blogs shortened this to minutes and hours. Twitter shortens it further to seconds,» [Patrick Ruffini of TechPresident] writes. «It’s not right for every piece of information. It’s certainly not well suited for longer analysis. But when it comes to instantly assembling raw data from several sources that then go into fully baked news stories, nothing beats it.»

NPR (username: nprnewsblog) may be the best example of how a traditional news site is using Twitter to deliver news. Like may other Twitter feeds, makes use of both Twitter and URL shortening service TinyURL to provide links to its news content. KPBS News (username: kpbsnews) provides updates on local and national news and uses Twitter to broadcast election updates and recently, updates on California wildfires.

Other traditional news media making use of Twitter are BBC News, CBC News (Canada), Le Monde – World, the New York Times, CNN Breaking News, The Oregonian, Orlando Sentinel, ESPN, and a host of others which are meticulously indexed by Curt (username: imwiththepress). It’s about time your news organization was added to the list, right?

Creating links to news stories on Twitter and redirecting them to your site is a great way to generate additional traffic or to notify Twitter users of breaking news. The site is also useful for liveblogging or tracking reaction to local stories.

What makes Twitter great is the ability to not only follow the news on the site, but through RSS feeds. Almost every news site has its own news feed by now, but because Twitter limits the characters that can be included, its kind of like news for those with low attention spans (which is to say, a lot of people).

Twitter is used more often for personal discourse, but journalists should approach twittering of their personal lives with caution. Tech blogger extraordinaire Tiffany B. Brown explains why she tweets and why having the public following your public life may not be such a good idea. For me and many others, I stopped using Twitter outside of the professional realm not because of personal conflict but because I spend so much of my life staring at computer screens, both big and small, that I have to save some time for real world interaction.

Tomorrow: Taking Twitter to the next level

Taking Twitter to the next level (Part 2 of 2)

If you haven’t already read yesterday’s post on how journalists are using Twitter, check it out here

So you’re twittering. Now what? It’s time to take a look at sites that are making the most out of Twitter’s ability to instantly transmit the news.

Instead of waiting for traffic updates online or via radio, some internet users are turning to Commuter Feed. The site lets Twitter users send updates about local traffic around the country directly to the site, where the feeds are searchable by city or metropolitan area.

Politweets tracks the political discussion happening in the Twitterverse by aggregating tweets about political candidates. The most recent tweets about Democratic candidates are on the left and Republicans are on the right. In the middle is a list of candidates positioned by how much they are being discussed (Barack Obama is currently at the top of the pile).

Because the web is all about citizen journalism, truemors is made up of news submitted by the average Joes and Janes of Twitter. It’s kind of like a micro social news networking site that aggregates the content that people care about from a variety of news sources. Twemes is also a great way of indexing what people are talking about online. The site is useful for searching tagged tweets on any subject, like, for example, John McCain.

Twitterers are already discussing major news events, including Super Tuesday and Sunday’s Academy Awards; it’s just a matter of major news organizations grabbing the opportunity and creating their own news hubs.

Did you know Twitter isn’t just for sending text? TwitPic and Twixtr both allow users to send photos either online or via mobile phone through Twitter. So instead of simply including links to new stories, anyone can add photos to accompany their tweets (and we know photos are a great visual attraction).

Twittervision combines Twitter and Google Maps to create a real-time visual idea of where tweets are coming from. The only requirement to appear on the site is a location and an image defined in your Twitter post. The 3D version is also worth a look, if only for the coolness factor.

Twittermap creates a visual display of geotagged tweets and can also be used to find Twitterers by location. Those familiar with data mashup editor Yahoo! Pipes can use geo twitter to get a geotagged feed of your Twitter posts, which can be displayed on a Yahoo or Google map.

Twitter draws a lot of comparison to Facebook’s status updates (example on the right), so it make sense that Twitter also has its own Facebook application to keep friends and followers updated via the social network.

There are a lot of interesting and useful sites based on Twitter and with the Twitter API up for grabs, there is no reason that journalists can’t be a part of the next evolution in news.



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