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Twitter Speaks: How to Save Newspapers

I've been eagerly awaiting news of the world's first novel written over Twitter, in 140-character bursts, to be read backwards in time. You can bet it's coming, but until then, check this new non-fiction book out. In "The World According to Twitter," by New York Times columnist David Pogue, there is a chapter (it's more like a section, really, #149) that is devoted to the answers he got from some of his half-million "followers" to the following question, "What's your plan to save the American newspaper?"

Here are some of the responses:

  • "Have every family buy a truckload to insulate the homes they no longer can afford to heat." @sjacob09
  • "Ban toilet paper." @disser
  • "The same plan we used to save the American autoworker, coal miner, textile worker and small business owner." @DrLabRatOry
  • "Blow up the Internet. Any idea where it is at?" @simonmcd
  • "Let's go back to a tried and true method. I'm speaking, of course, of going to war with Spain." @pumpkinshirt
  • "Print on delicious, edible paper. 'Honey, are you done with the sports section? I need to fix dinner.'" @noveldoctor
  • "Save newspapers? Sure. Put them in plastic Ziploc bags like comic books and store in a cool, dry area." @scerruti
So, that brings me to the point of this post, which is that everyone who dismisses the micro-blogging service as the mere source of so much idle chatter really has missed the entire business opportunity here. Zephoria carries a brilliant, if orthogonal take on this today entitled "Twitter: "pointless babble" of peripheral awareness + social grooming?"
Here are a few highlights:
  • "Studies like this one by Pear Analytics drive me batty. They concluded that 40.55 percent of the Tweets they coded are pointless babble; 37.55 percent are conversational; 8.7 percent have "pass along value"; 5.85 percent are self-promotional; 3.75 percent are spam; and -- gasp -- only 3.6 percent are news."
  • "Now, turn all of your utterances over to an analytics firm so that they can code everything that you've said (emphasis added). I think that you'll be lucky if only 40 percent of what you say constitutes 'pointless babble' to a third party ear."
  • "I vote that we stop dismissing Twitter just because the majority of people who are joining its ranks are there to be social. We like the fact that humans are social. It's good for society. And what they're doing online is fundamentally a mix of social grooming and maintaining peripheral social awareness."
There is much more there so please read the entire post.

As the debate surrounding Twitter continues (witness both examples above), what may be often lost in the process is the recognition that this is an entirely revolutionary form of real-time communication between and among crowds. Twitter indeed is one big global mixer, with millions of conversations happening all at once. Naturally most of them are insipid, have you never been to a cocktail party?

Furthermore, given they are happening in a digital platform, they also form a data base of keywords that, once fully searchable, represent what will perhaps become the biggest advertising opportunity in history. And that is why you are reading about this in a blog devoted to covering the media industry.

Don't let your company make the mistake of throwing out this opportunity with the bath water!

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