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The 12 Ways Twitter Will Transform the Media Business

There's an excellent resource for the business-minded person called 24/7 Wall Street, and earlier this week the site published perhaps the most insightful analysis of Twitter I've seen to date, under the title "The Ten Ways Twitter Will Permanently Change American Business," by Douglas A, McIntyre.

This post is reoriented to focus on the media industry specifically, but it remains profoundly derivative of McIntyre's ground-breaking work. Any direct quotes in the first ten points listed below come from his post.

  1. Hyper-local Media. "The hyper-local marketing aspects of Twitter have the opportunity to move billions of dollars of business to and from retailers based on targeted marketing." We've been noting here over the past year how hyper-local services offer convergence for content and advertising in exciting new ways. Twitter is now part of that mix.
  2. Outdoor Billboards. The impacts of this $30 billion annual advertising business has, until now, been virtually impossible to measure. Twitter changes all that. Marketers can (and will) provide incentives to users who issue Tweets based on outdoor ads they see. Media companies like Clear Channel and CBS* will benefit as a result.
  3. Financial Journalism. Twitter will provide a serious challenge to Yahoo Finance and other business media as the discussion forum of choice for real-time information about stocks and other financial investments. This is critical from a business perspective, because financial journalism is one of the few types people will pay for (Wall Street Journal, Financial Times) online.
  4. Blogs. Perez Hilton and Tech Crunch already have massive Twitter followings. Twitter will extend the reach of bloggers substantially so they can compete far more effectively against the built-in (pre-Twitter) advantage enjoyed by traditional media columnists and journalists.
  5. Data Mining. "Twitter is a nearly ideal platform for tapping opinion about customer views of products. Twitter users have the capacity to segment themselves into discrete demographic groups, if they have an incentive to do so." Those incentives are already starting to appear.
  6. Breaking News. "CNN, Time, The New York Times, the BBC, the London Guardian, and Good Morning America are among the most widely followed media on Twitter. CNN ranks third among all the people or companies who use Twitter, with over 1.5 million followers on Twitter. The traditional media are setting up systems to more tightly tie their audiences to them with the use of social networks. Twitter has the opportunity to become a distribution method for premium content." I would add that NPR also has a significant, and growing presence among the Twitterati.
  7. Micro-payments. Many media execs, including Arthur Sulzberger, have been discussing the potential of a micro-payment model to charge incrementally for content. This system already is in place in Japan, BTW, where mobile users access media content for tiny fees like 100 or 200 yen a month. The billing there is handled by the telephone company. In the U.S., what Sulzberger and others need to realize is that the platform already exists, so there's no need to reinvent that wheel. It's called PayPal. By combining Twitter as your distribution channel and PayPal as your payment meter, you've got your micro-payment engine right now. This feature also will fuel the hyper-local news and advertsing model (#1 above). Meanwhile, check out Twitpay!
  8. Dis-intermediation of the Telecoms. A good thing. Twitter is already replacing some of the need for land lines and cellphones, as a free alternative for communication. I don't know about you, by my combined land line/cell phone bill is an outrageous monthly expense I'd like to reduce. Since the telecoms are marginally included in the media industry (against my protests), I can mention this point of Mr. McIntyre's here.
  9. Government. The next time we face a disaster like Hurricane Katrina, government agencies will use Twitter as the real-time communication channel of choice. As on who was periferally involved as a volunteer and a reporter in Biloxi, MS, after that storm of storms, I can attest first-hand to the terrible disorganization that reigned inside FEMA and other government agencies. Think about Google's cooperation with the CDC to monitor flu outbreaks, then put that on steroids: Twitter! For media companies, the implications for both coverage and marketing purposes are obvious.
  10. Philanthropy. One need look no further than the Eric De la Cruz case, which continues to play out dramatically over Twitter [#eric], to appreciate Twitter's potential for helping people in need. For media companies, the need to become more like Twitter should be a no-brainer. They can start by showing some heart and joining in causes like this one, albeit with all of the professional practices of journalism in place, which is what I (as a mere blogger) strive for. Why can't they?
  11. Social Activism. The first ten points were from Mr. McIntyre's post. Now, we're on our own. I have speculated that the De La Cruz case may trigger a new social movement for national health care reform, which is a logical outgrowth of the current activity over Twitter on his behalf. Media companies always need to be especially attentive in their coverage of new social movements, so they'll be all over this, I'm sure. Whenever something big enough to justify marketing campaigns develops, media know how to do a good job to promote their coverage, and attract new eyeballs, which boosts ad revenue and other parts of the business.
  12. Leverage. In a fascinating interiew with Business Week's talented editor John Byrne published today, the excellent blog Social Nerdia extracted this insightful quote: "I greatly enjoy Twitter. It's a technology that permits more immediate and spontaneous communication with people. And for us, it's a great way to collaborate with others and gain deeper and more meaningful engagement with readers on everything we do. There's nothing that is more important to a media brand today than engagement. We're all trying to achieve relationships with our users to induce loyalty, to increase repeat visits, and to encourage valuable editorial contributions from readers. Twitter is an essential tool to make that happen."
* CBS owns Bnet.

Thanks to Thierry Lamouline for pointing me to both of the excellent articles that inspired this post.

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