Why Twitter is a dead-end technology
Twitter is once again the hot new thing in the news business these days. The latest example is the UK’s Sky News, which is “changing up their entire newsroom to focus more on Twitter. The organization is installing Tweetdeck on staff computers to stimulate news gathering via social media,” says Mashable. Further, a study of Twitter use by newspapers showed that most of the top 100 papers tweet in some form or another. Also, 50% of papers maintain extensive directories of their Twitter accounts on their websites. It is worth noting that much of this tweeting is focused on telling readers things, not communicating with them.
- 33% of the accounts “at replied” to users in less than 1% of their tweets.
- 15% of the accounts had never replied to another user’s tweets.
- 43% of the accounts "at retweeted" others in less than 1% of their tweets.
- 23% of the accounts never retweeted another user during the time period considered.
This limits how useful Twitter can be as a news gathering source. Simply monitoring a Twitter feed or general trend does have its points. For example, I follow the Boston Police (@Boston_Police) and it’s like having my own police scanner with all the donut runs edited out. However, to really use it for news gathering you have to do what you do with any other source: Develop relationships.
While all this is good and well, the real problem with Twitter is when publications think it is a long-term strategy for enticing the next generation of readers.
Pay attention: Twitter is a dead-end technology. That’s because it isn’t used by the younger set. Just 7% of those between 12 and 17 use Twitter, according to a Quantcast study. These numbers appear to improve with the next age group: 47% of those between 18 and 34 are Twitterers. However, the median age of a Twitter user is 31, according to a Pew study. This means most of the people on Twitter are 25+. By comparison, the median ages of MySpace and Facebook users are 27 and 26, respectively. (And, just as you suspected, LinkedIn is for fogies – median age: 40.)
Twitter will eventually die because:
- It is of no interest to the next generation. (Instead of Twitter, the youth are all texting all the time. I have no idea how we crash that party.)
- It can’t generate revenue.
It is worth noting that Twitter’s owners have passed on its one viable business strategy: Being bought by Google. If you find yourself falling for the hype that there is another business model, please read this post I wrote: Twitter valued at $1 Billion say people with a vested interest in Twitter.