It’s arguable that in recent years, the “buzz” has overtaken traditional channels of promotion. But what about news, and journalism? Is it faster to glean the headlines from your feeds, or from the front pages of whatever eclectic mish-mash of physical and digital content providers you’ve gone to, regular as clockwork, for years?
If you look at the hashtags for anything from Libya to The X-Factor, it’s clear as day that people are happy to inform each other and keep everyone up to speed, because what they’d tell five people around the water-cooler is now something they can tell hundreds of millions by tweeting – and both take less than a minute. In an astonishing turn around, journalism – a discipline that champions brevity and concise description above all else – has, in some aspects, been usurped by the popularity of a big old chat. Or has it?
News has become stale. That’s not because it’s badly written, but because news, in its infancy, was about bringing people the facts as soon as possible. There’s an age-old saying in print journalism that your first paragraph should contain everything someone needs to know. Not only is this common sense, but it also means that if your article gets chopped down during the editing process, it doesn’t “break”.
In 2011, it’s possible to go one better, and present someone with an entire article’s worth of information in 140 characters, which trumps content several times the length. It’s said often during technological discussion, but we’re becoming an extremely impatient people, and seeing “Libya liberated, Gaddafi dead” flood my feed, rather than it hitting me once at six ‘o’ clock – rather than taking time out to read the news during the day – is what matters, to me.
If you’re a business, it also means that you’re able to reach into a space you couldn’t before – consumer’s personal information spheres. By doing so (tweeting at them, talking to them, and generally not being an old-fashioned “we only tweet promo content and never retweet or reply) you enable yourself to impress them directly, rather than through the love-hate filter of the press.
Twitter, Facebook – they’re far from perfect, and what’s worse is that they’re like blogs and their impact on online journalism – suddenly, everyone’s an journalist, and with Twitter, everyone’s an informant. As most people are a) prone to gossip, and b) not trained journalists, and will therefore proceed to repeatedly provide their followers with hearsay cast as fact, and hashtag relentlessly in order to flood key searches with irrelevant statements.
It can also be used alongside traditional journalism, or online – simply by delving into it and using it as a promotional tool, and if your business happens to deal in information, news, reviews and other media, there is no platform more prone to content going viral than social media. But to replace long-form content entirely would be a horrendous miss-step, especially given the long-established place in the media that journalism has, in comparison to the fly-by-night nature of social media – even Facebook’s losing members.
It’s certainly a tough topic, and I think a mix of the two is best – read your long-form stuff, but grab your water-cooler headlines from Twitter or other mediums, such as Reddit. But for those businesses who are wondering whether their product press releases are going to be required reading for anyone in the near future when we’re social to a fault online, I’d keep your cards close to your chest until we see where Twitter and the like end up in 2021. Time will tell.