The SoCal Fires are Going to Drive Twitter Mainstream (a Little)

October 23rd, 2007

I was in college when the first Gulf War happened, and I remember the school setting up a TV to show the round-the-clock (a new concept then) coverage on the upstart CNN network. People more media-savvy than I credit CNN’s rise in esteem and viewership to that coverage.

The fires tearing through Southern California are relevant to a much smaller population, to be sure, and I doubt Twitter will benefit to even 1% the same degree in absolute terms. However, many people- and media outlets- that previously dismissed it as a toy or a distraction are going to start paying attention because it is actually a convenient vehicle for distributing news in disaster environments. It is:

*Lightweight. It works nicely even on a mobile browser. No TV or computer required from the sending or receiving ends.
*Easy to update. It’s type-and-go. No setting up cameras or preparing to broadcast.
*Easy to aggregate. Tracking makes it possible to pull in tweets from lots of sources on the same subject.
*And perhaps most important, short (or “pithy” if you prefer). The problem with reporting disasters is that there usually isn’t much to report from minute-to-minute. Twitter lets networks broadcast tidbits as they become available.

Imagine if the news crawl at the bottom of a network broadcast was actually a Twitter feed. They serve basically the same purpose, and then there would be a place to find the crawl text one missed because one was watching the top part of the TV screen.

I’m not saying Twitter is suddenly going to be on everyone’s lips everywhere, just that people are going to realize it can be a really useful adjunct to other media distribution systems.

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