Modern journalism is in a state of rapid development. The
technology and communications channels available both to media
outlets and consumers have devastated the printed news industry,
and now it seems that further developments could jeopardize the
existence of organic journalism altogether. On one front, you have
artificial intelligence programs capable of writing news
stories indistinguishable from those of human writers. On the other
hand, you have an unlikely emerging competitor, far removed from
the world of journalism—Twitter.
Already, social media platforms have begun to encroach on news
companies’ territory. Users are relying on the posts that show up
on their news feeds more than any particular news source, though
those posts currently still originate on respective news sources.
As a result, direct traffic to news sources has lagged, but
overall, they’ve still received enough traffic to stay afloat.
New advances by Twitter, however, may change that.
The Acquisition of Periscope
The revolution started with Twitter’s
acquisition of the social app Periscope, which allows users to
broadcast live, first-person video to a dedicated audience. At
first, the integration seemed straightforward enough—Twitter
users like to make updates about their life in real time, so why
not give them an application to broadcast video of their lives in
real time? But consider the origins of Periscope; the app was
originally inspired by a particular incident in Istanbul involving
the founders. The founders found themselves in the middle of a
group of protestors and police, a situation that could have been
avoided if there were some way to “see through the eyes” of
others in the area. Essentially, it serves as a live news update as
much as it does a social update.
The Dawn of Project Lightning
Twitter either became inspired by this acquisition or the
acquisition was a part of their original long-term plan. Regardless
of its origins,
Project Lightning is beginning to emerge. Project Lightning is
a new feature for the Twitter app, but according to former Twitter
CEO Dick Costolo, it represents a major shift in the company’s
direction. The project has been in development for years, and seeks
to change how people consume news online—when it launches,
presumably in the next year or two, it will be called
Project Lightning’s goal is to automatically aggregate data it
finds within the updates of its users. For example, if there are
protests going on in Istanbul, the app would be able to collect the
most relevant pictures, live feeds, and posts about the event and
organize them in a way that makes it easy for other users to see
exactly what’s going on. It’s a form of user-curated news
content that cuts out the journalistic “middle men” and instead
connects users directly to the events as they unfold.
Though details about the feature are still being kept under
wraps, we do know that the feature will be a key point on the home
row of the app.
The Acquisition of Flipboard?
While nothing has been finalized, Twitter is also
looking to acquire Flipboard, a news aggregation app with more
than 100 million activated users. It’s entirely speculation at
this point, but it appears that Twitter’s acquisition history is
forming a pattern. Gradually, Twitter aims to improve its ability
to create and distribute news among its user base. Already,
Twitter’s greatest advantage lies in its ability to connect
people in the moment, and if it continues taking on the news
industry, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes
Of course, the relationship between social media channels and
news outlets hasn’t gone unnoticed by the other major players in
the arena. For example, Facebook recently announced a program
called Instant Articles, where news outlets can publish pieces
directly to Facebook rather than their own sites. This is
Facebook’s own way of cutting out the journalistic middle man,
but rather than cutting out the actual journalist, Facebook is only
cutting out the journalist platform. The modern chain of
communication is something like User > Social Platform > News
Outlet > Journalist > Actual Event. Comparatively,
Facebook’s Instant Articles would offer a setup like User >
Facebook > Journalist > Actual Event while Twitter would
offer something like User > Twitter > Actual Event.
Theoretically, the shorter this chain is, the more accurate and
more up-to-date the “reporting” will be. In this way,
Twitter’s plan is more forward-thinking than Facebook’s, but
the competition will still be fierce.
The Future of Journalism
No matter how Facebook, Twitter, other social platforms, and
artificial intelligence algorithms interpret online content,
the world of journalism is in for a significant overhaul over the
next five years. For human journalists, the future may seem bleak,
but for the average consumer, the potential results are promising.
We could soon live in an age where we can be connected to live
events, directly and instantly, with the only biases stemming from
a constantly fine-tuned mechanical algorithm. On the surface,
it’s a little unsettling, but as we get used to the idea, we’ll
learn to appreciate it for all the benefits it has to
Is Twitter Trying to Reinvent How We Read the News? appeared
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Is Twitter Trying to Reinvent How We Read the News?