Breaking news: New Technology More Efficient Than Old Technology!

Amid the heroic scenes from New York, when UA 1549 managed to complete the first ever water landing with no fatalities, technologists and social media consultants everywhere were praising the microblogging service, Twitter, for being the first media outlet to break the news.

The imitable Drew B even has a full post about it – it must be groundbreaking stuff! How Twitter broke and covered the Hudson plane crash tonight, from eyewitnesses.

My response is a resounding “meh”.

But are smart people like Drew getting so excited about the fact that a medium built for immediate communication is, well, so immediate? We’ve seen this before. In 2006, Steve Rubel breathlessly reported “Gmail Down, Bloggers Know Before Press” – a classic example of a niche piece of news for a niche audience delivered by a (then) niche medium.

So while I appluad all those with Twitter accounts who shared news of this remarkable piece of airmanship (is that a word?), and who shared some quite remarkable pictures (and, in Collin Douma’s case, some hilarious wisecracks), I urge you to look past the hyperbole that this sort of thing generates.


As technology develops it becomes more efficient, allowing information to move quickly and more freely. We all know and understand this but saying that Twitter or any other microblogging or lifestream application is going to replace the professional/mainstream media for quality reporting is pure folly.

And for anyone considering recommending Twitter to their clients, please remember that in the Internet communications world that we live in, the technology or channel should be completely subservient to the objectives and strategy of the programme/client.

However, it does look as if Twitter is moving from the early adopter market into the mainstream. It is easier to understand than blogging and definitely requires less time to participate: a link here a quip there, the odd bon mot or reply to a friend is all you really need to do compared to blogging which requires more time and thought (perhaps why I’ve been so crap at it lately).


3 Responses to Breaking news: New Technology More Efficient Than Old Technology!

  1. Joe Boughner says:

    Well said, Ed. While I agree that it’s pretty cool to see on-the-spot photos from the scene posted via Twitter, in the grand scheme of things, Twitter added very little of value. The bulk of tweets that I saw, for example, linked to traditional news coverage. Those that didn’t couldn’t really add any verifiable information.

    That’s where the role of the established press is still important. SM advocates are so keen to brag about who breaks a story but what value is there really in breaking news without fact checking or putting it in any context.

    @SuzeMuse said it best – Twitter and SM tools supplement traditional media coverage, they don’t replace it.

    And by getting up on their high horse and declaring an end to the mainstream press, SM advocates only weaken their case by playing into the false dichotomy. It’s not a matter of SM vs. MSM. Both have a role to play.

    Twitter feeds the inner voyeur in all of us but until someone posts a contextualized, fact-checked and researched recap of an event (in 140 characters, no less), I’m not going to delete ny bookmark.

  2. Drew says:

    See your point Ed. Old news to the seasoned amongst us.

    Two points I’d like to make in defence of my rudimentary stance.

    1. A lot of my clients and a lot off the PR industry in the UK are starting to use Twitter for the first time, with the celeb effect of Jonathan Ross and Stephen Fry pushing into the mainstream. Twitter’s in the papers here every day, and clients are asking for tips and examples of how Twitter works.
    2. Most mainstream news coverage in the UK of the Hudson crash used a photo published on Twitter last night that was taken before the cameras arrived.

    Reasons I thought the post would be useful to some, but you’re an old hand and have seen it all before.

    Thanks for still reading my guff too 🙂

  3. Judy Gombita says:

    Beyond the fact that I first heard about the Hudson plane landing *first* on twitter (simply because I went on twitter before I turned on the tv/radio), I didn’t find the constant tweets of that much use/interest in terms of finding out more verified facts and information.

    BTW, did you catch this morning’s tweet from our mutual friend, Bill Sledzik?

    “NYT coverage of USAirways crash underscores value of mainstream media. Let’s all buy a print ad today!

    I don’t want MSM/journalists to go away. Certainly NOT to be replaced by information from twitter. That having been said, I’m finding my (three) new CBC twitter feeds quite useful/interesting.

    (And good to see a post from you again, friend.)

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