Yeah, Twitter’s great. But what’s the next big thing?
A recent edition of the New Yorker carried a cartoon that depicts a man about to be executed by firing squad. Beside him an executioner holds out a mobile phone and asks: “Last tweet?” (You can see it here)
This is an incisive analysis of the wild variance of the content on Twitter. Suspected previous tweets for our cartoon hero: “Just about to go through security.” Or: “Putting on my hood now.” It’s the Twitter rollercoaster. One moment you can be reading about someone eating an egg sandwich. The next, you can be reading first-hand news of one of the stories of the year and looking at a photo like this:
Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s creator, says the service will be a success “when it’s not talked about so much”, and when people just use and accept it “like electricity”. Amen. The incessant hype and stream of stories has become a bore. Yes, it breaks news in ways traditional big media outlets cannot. Yes, it’s yet another challenge for big media companies to get to grips with. Yes, it’s a valuable search tool. Twitter’s success is proof, though, of something much more unsettling - or exciting, depending on your point of view.
It’s that the media landscape is now in a state of constant flux. Companies that want to stay ahead should be ready to deal with not just Twitter, but with whatever comes next. For media companies this is especially pressing, as audiences expect their information providers to be in touch with these trends, report on those that matter, and use to good tools to engage in conversation. Twitter is just the latest, though, in a stream of innovations that has slowly come to life through its users before generating a hysterical craze and then settling down to an always-on background feature of daily life.
Take Facebook and YouTube. Neither is yet five years old but both have transformed how information - everything from video, photos, and news, to comment, analysis, political campaigning and marketing - moves between people. Twitter, a nuggety micro-blogging service (who would have thought that would take off?) has joined them in the mainstream. It won’t be the last.
I’m enthusiastic about these changes, and fascinated by the way services like YouTube and Twitter transform from rough-and-ready startups to giants of the digital landscape. But dealing with a constant stream of them forever is exhausting to even think about. You mean I have to learn how to use another website? Register another account and create another password I’ll forget? Brush up on another load of jargon?
Tiring. But this is what’s ahead in a world where hundreds of millions of people can visit a website, create its content and determine how it’s used.
So has Twitter gone as far as it can go? Not yet. In one of the more recent of the long stream of articles on how Twitter is going to change the world, Time magazine recently pointed out “the most fascinating thing about Twitter is not what it’s doing to us. It’s what we’re doing to it.” It’s not just using hashtags to discuss TV shows like Masterchef in real time. I’m not going to attempt to explain the geek stuff (Time does a good job of it) but it should be enough to say that smart people can do cool things with Twitter.
This is because Twitter’s computers are like the Sydneysiders of the global computer network. They’re very accessible and easy to talk to. Other computers can connect with Twitter and and pull out chunks or streams of data, and then combine it all with something else to create something entirely new. Come up with the right idea and you suddenly have something far cooler than old Twitter, like this real-time map of where British people are planning holidays (sponsored by a phone company):
Imagine every doctor in the country tweeting confirmed flu cases by location, and you’re suddenly telling a big news story in real-time, in a way that’s useful to people.
Sure, the majority of Twitter’s content might be generated by a small proportion of its audience. But as long as people don’t get bored and move on to something else (Facebook, anyone?) Twitter will continue to break certain types of news, act as a recommendation engine, and analyse television shows and news events, faster than any other publishing platform.
If you’re in business - and not just the media business - this is the world you’re in now. What do you think will be the next Twitter or Facebook? After Twitter to message your network and friends, and Facebook to find them, what else do you need?
You can follow me on Twitter here: @colgo
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
Australia. Where you die for your country and get a rest area named after you http://t.co/hO6LpfwDvI
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…