FAIL! How *not* to use Twitter

Newspapers, as I’ve been banging on for as long as I can remember, really need to start embracing and testing out new social media applications, especially Twitter. They’re not difficult to set up, can provide an immediacy their website can’t always provide, and give a great opportunity to interact with their audience and liveblog events.

However, there’s experimentation and then there’s just completely not getting the right stories to use Twitter for. I would dearly love to know what was going through the head of the reporter or editor on the Rocky Mountain News’ head who decided it was a good idea to Live Tweet the funeral of a 3-year-old boy killed at an ice-cream store. Have a read of the reporter’s feed from the funeral – it feels like a Chris Morris satire of social media, or an update of a football game.

It’s great that journalists are embracing sites like Twitter and seeing their potential. But it probably doesn’t hurt to also engage your brain when thinking about the best place to test them out are. Local events or breaking news are probably a good bet. Dead children are usually best avoided for this kind of thing.

If you want a good guide on testing out sites like Twitter, Qik, and Flip, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones has an excellent piece explaining, quite simply, the sites and how he found using them. Any journalist who’s thinking of trying out the sites should have a read.


6 Responses to “FAIL! How *not* to use Twitter”

  1. 1 Tim Rueb September 12, 2008 at 5:10 pm

    How do you propose they pay their staff when they give away the product before you print it? I’m not saying you are wrong, there are great tools out there, I’m just trying to avoid going to all the funerals of my reporter friends who die of starvation.

    Newspapers are having problems not because they can’t embrace social media, they are fading away because their product is not meeting the needs of their subscribers. Their product is not meeting the needs of their subscriber because their business model has not kept up with the times. Their business model revolves around producing a product on specific time tables and this competes with news sources that are now available almost instantly. Their revenue stream is being attacked on many fronts and they wish to ignore this fact.

    Giving away the product doesn’t sound like it will help them solve this problem. Maybe a hybrid solution is on the horizon that some smart news man is ready to release on the world.

  2. 2 Sarah Dobbs September 12, 2008 at 7:58 pm

    … Is that Twitter feed for real? Seriously?

  3. 3 Gary Andrews September 13, 2008 at 10:21 am

    Sarah, alas yes. Mind you, to us social media types, Twittering friends funerals will probably be the norm in 30 years time. Possibly.

    Tim, I’m a little bit lost by your comment (largely as the post was just an example of how not to use Twitter). I don’t disagree with the idea that business models need to change substantially, but how is Twitter giving things away for free (I’m assuming that’s what you’re meaning)? A microblogging tool of 140 characters – even if it’s live updates from an event – isn’t a direct replacement to a news story. Every news thing I’ve seen pop up on Twitter has made me want to find out more. It enhances the experiences rather than competes with it.

  4. 4 Tim Rueb September 13, 2008 at 3:47 pm

    Gary, I was in a strange mood when I posted that. I just believe the news industry is in a transition and will need to find itself before it regains it status in society.

    I agree that social media is important, I see things pop up on Twitter also, but my inclination to use my local or regional news provider is just not there.

  5. 5 bloggingmom67 December 20, 2008 at 12:57 am


    I think I see what you mean, and I agree with you. (And, I agree with Tim a bit, too.)

    The way I see — after nearly 20 years as a print journalist — is newspapers are dying not because their product isn’t good, but because newspapers often refuse to accept the fact that the medium has changed. (I think newspapers’ product is often very good, so good in fact that many TV and radio stations and Web sites repeat it, read it verbatim or link to it.)

    To me, newspapers’ problem is they haven’t embraced that they need to deliver news the way the reader wants — not in the way newspapers are used to delivering it. People don’t want to wait until the next morning; they want it instantly.

    I agree with Gary that newspapers need to embrace new media way, way, more than they do. I think they should be creating applications to deliver the news. (Wouldn’t it be great if a newspaper had invented twitter, for example.) Instead, many journalists at newspaper today are sort of grudgingly accepting new media, but they don’t really get it.

    Twitter doesn’t give away a newspaper’s product for free. Newspapers don’t make money — real money — off the 50 cents they charge per paper. They make their money of the $10,000 the page for an ad. (But, Tim, I do agree that newspapers haven’t updated their business model, and that’s a real problem.)

    So if newspaper can deliver their product and become “the” Web site for people to find everything they want to know, they can move through this tough time.

    As far as twittering the funeral, I think that was a dumb idea, but I do suspect that in 30 years — or sooner — it will be normal. It isn’t now, but I can’t fault the Rocky Mountain News for trying.

  6. 6 James B December 19, 2013 at 11:42 am

    I’m not sure exactly why but this weblog is loading incredibly slow
    for me. Is anyone else having this problem or is it a issue on my end?
    I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

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