Are aggregated tweets the new black?
Is there real value in mining tweets? Techmeme and its sister site Mediagazer, aggregation sites that sometimes post short blog articles, are adding tweets to the mix. "This decision gives Twitter a huge boost of power status," writes Courtney Boyd Myers in TheNextWeb. "It has now become a full-fledged broadcast platform."
This comes on the heels of the news that eMarketer expects Twitter to earn $150 million in advertising revenues this year from Promoted Tweets, Promoted Accounts and Promoted Trends. A micro-post, in 140 characters or less, can serve as a launching point for a conversation, particularly if done by an influential tweeter. There is, clearly, an organic progression from blog posts to social media microblogging platforms.
It works like this: Relevant tweets -- like that of @eric_andersen commenting on the increase of Twitter's revenues -- now appear on Techmeme as part of the discussion area. "Content-wise, tweets will never play the leading role, but they’ll play a supporting role, and will act as glue and early warning," Techmeme's Gabe Rivera told Wired in an email. That having been said, their first Techmeme tweets were headlines.
"The tweets Techmeme will now link to fall mainly into two categories. First is the news-breaking variety, which directly offer new factual information, whether a straight-up product announcement (example), a new "rumor" report (example, via), a statement containing a veiled announcement (example), or a kind of inadvertently newsworthy announcement (example, via). Tweets of this sort, if interesting enough, will receive full Techmeme headlines of their own.
The second type is commentary: reactions, responses, rebuttals, endorsements, or amplifications to news stories. Exceptional tweets of this sort may occasionally receive headlines, but more commonly will show up in Discussion, the smaller headlines collapsed by default on Techmeme. Even a tweet simply intended to share a link, if paired with incisive commentary, could show up on Techmeme."
This sets up some potential problems for publishers who might consider following suit. There is, of course, the matter of speed. News breaks on Twitter all the time, as regular users know. And placing tweets on equal footing alongside tech blog posts will increase the already astonishing speed of web news. The competition to get the scoop -- and to get credit for the scoop -- will become that much more intense, and publishers might find themselves forced to adopt the aggregated tweet model just to keep up, to be the first movers of the story.
Techmeme's move to aggregated tweets could conceivably be the first move in an inevitable stampede of digital publishers to do the same. Are legacy media on the web -- NYT? WSJ? -- far behind? If they do follow, we are now talking about audiences in the tens and hundreds of thousands and quite possibly millions. All following the tweets.
Breaking news found on Twitter will also now make the coveted headlines on Mediagazer. Mediagazer's Megan McCarthy notes that a "combination of algorithmic and human editing will continue to surface relevant content onto our site." Will that include some form of human or crowdsourced fact checking? If not, the problem of incorrect tweets might become an issue. And in the case of media news, which is vital information, an incorrect tweet might actually affect the share price of a publicly traded company. Publishers who go the Twitter route might want to keep that in mind and make sure not to sacrifice speed for accuracy.
Finally, the announcement magnifies the value of influential tweeters. Social media influence now matters even more -- if that is even possible. The announcement by the self-described "web's technology news site of record" not only gives Twitter a steroidal status boost, it also creates a situation in which influential tweeters are no longer just broadcasting to their own network of followers (which in some cases is already pretty large -- the aforementioned Eric Andersen, for example, has over 5,000 followers) -- but to audiences as massive as those of Techmeme's.
Techmeme's Chief Gabe Rivera told Wired, "Technically, since anyone could start a blog for free, it’s always been the case that anyone was a potential source. But practically speaking, more people tweet regularly, and for us, discovering relevant tweets is easier and faster than discovering blog posts."
"Faster" is necessary; it always has been. Publishers should make sure that accuracy is the biggest part of what now makes tweets, written almost at the speed of thought, "relevant."