On October 15th, Alyssa wrote a post about the “balloon boy” news story coverage over the internet, especially Twitter. I too, was shocked at how big that story got, and how long #balloonboy was a top Twitter trending topic. I’ve had similar experiences with other news stories.
She mentioned how over the past 6 months she has come to rely on Twitter as a valuable news source. I am with her on that one. However, I think it’s important to see all sides of Twitter, and the benefits it now offers:
1. You can follow all major news sources. Today, news organizations have all developed impressive followings. You can now receive the news straight from the source: The Washington Post, the Huffington Post, the New York Times, etc. – whatever your little heart desires. Even Twitter skeptics have to be pleased about this aspect.
2. Twitter trending topics. In a quick glance, you can see what is currently popular in the news, and what people are saying about it. As if that feature isn’t dummy-proof enough, you can even now click on a trending topic, and Twitter will tell you why it’s a trending topic.
3. You receive the news in real-time. Last spring I was at a tournament away from any TV or computer, and I wanted to follow the NFL draft. I opened up espn.com, obviously a relevant news source for this topic, but they could not update their page quick enough. So I turned to Twitter. With this tool, I could now see what was happening through the search #nfldraft the instant anything happened.
4. You can find out useful information that isn’t really newsworthy. A few weeks ago, I found that my iPhone service was acting up. Email seemed to be coming through fine, but SMS and calls were not working properly. Google usually knows everything, but there was no evidence of this malfunction in any of their searches. And again, what I would I search? So I went back to Twitter to see what people were saying. A quick “DC iPhone” search revealed multiples posts about AT&T’s 3G network being down. People posted recommendations on how to circumvent this problem, which included turning off 3G and just working on the EDGE network. That saved me (what I’m sure would have felt like) hours of disconnect with my social world – on and offline.
Twitter is more than just a news source – it’s an information source. Like Alyssa, I do not just use it to find the news, I use it to see what people are saying about the news. Twitter is the only program out there like it. Who knew 140 characters could have so much power.