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Twitter and social media against traditional media: May not be the right debate, after all…

June 22nd, 2009 · 1 Comment · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

Coverage of the situation in Iran may be a significant turning point in the overall recognition of the importance of social media by a larger public. Over the last few months, social media has got a head start for promptness over media networks on several occasions. How many times have we heard that Twitter broadcasted information about the Sichuan earthquake 45 minutes before CNN reported! So, no wonder that “Twitterverse spoke-out in exasperation and opposition against traditional media networks (CNN specifically) and the absence of instantaneous coverage of the Iranian election”, as indicated by Brian Solis in his report of the 140 Character Conference ( that took place in New York City on June 16/17. Does our love for social media makes us slam traditional media too much ( 

Real-time responsiveness is definitely what we want. Yet, what does failure to show such ability primarily prove? Maybe that TV channels don’t “break news” and that any claim to the contrary is a deceiving form of advertisement. For truth’s sake, traditional media should only speak of “update,” “ongoing coverage,” “developing story,” or whatever. So, they may only get flak for setting wrong expectations — or continuing to hope to get by with a claim that was never really accurate in the first place.

Traditional media cannot compete with social media as far as up-to-minute and continuous information is concerned. How could they? Do we expect large corporations to mobilize as quickly as startups? Can we hope the RedCross to be on site as quickly as locals? On top of this, traditional media produce shows with a specific focus for a defined audience. Sure, it’s kind of odd to zap through channels and come across “Girls in Trouble” on MSNBC when somebody is severely injured on a street in Tehran. But this is the way TV stations were designed to be. In addition, what is pressing news for some isn’t necessarily a priority for them, or even for the entirety of the world. Families with relatives in Afghanistan may also want to have real time coverage about soldiers killed in attack on an Afghan base… Can’t we simply admit that TV is just TV, and be pleased with the fact that if we want something else, we have lots of choices, ranging from buzztrackers to sites whose mission was to reflect “global voices?”

If you want real-time information about anything, use one of the best Twitter search engines, Twazzup! provides all the real-time, unfiltered tweets related to Iran? It’s now commonplace to admit that citizen journalism is a reality and that TV channels still have to figure out how to factor in grassroots reporting. It’s also annoying to hear them issue disclaimers about information that they could not “authenticate,” did not “independently verify,” or must be handled with a ‘pinch of salt.” We all know that timeliness does not mean quality, that not all messages are equal, that word-of-mouth can be manipulated by activists and cynical propagandists — and that actual tweets by real eye-witnesses could even become a minority after some time. We all admit that great journalists are first and foremost great investigators. Is all of this the right debate, though?

Even if all TVs had fully mobilized to report on Iran, there would have been no way for them to beat a Twazzup approach. One-third of TV time is advertising. So here is what we should demand:

1) That news feeds be displayed at the bottom of our the screen even during advertising time, and

2) That we have the ability to customize such news feeds with tweet streams of our choice at any time.

Instead of complaining about TV channels and sinking into an irrelevant debate, we should simply request providers to make multi-play a simple and free service — and more than a marketing package to make us buy TV, broadband Internet, telephony and wireless in one subscription. We should ask providers to deliver on their “Grand Slam” claims — and make technological and media convergence part of our daily life.

Marylene Delbourg-Delphis

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Bernard Savonet // Jun 22, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    Good ideas, specially having the stream running permanently.
    However the post concentrates on speed and dismisses checking the information.
    As a former journalist, I am really scared at the way most people trust what they get from their screen: “it comes thru the Internet so it is true…”
    So I personally believe that journalists, and specifically info on TV, MUST stick to their role of media-teers, and must help everybody to evaluate the information.
    It was said that most Intelligence Agencies were rating the info they received, giving a grade to the information as well as to the source… computers canNot do better and we should take some ideas from there.
    The common belief that a high-digged info can be trusted more than a less-digged one is somehow entrenched deep in our cells… until our brain questions that and sees that digg number is NOT a measure of trust, even if we think that it is nit manipulable.
    If our only info sources were Tweeter… sure it would be fast… but would it be better?
    I think that the main issue is the balance of power: if press is fast and trustable, we can trust it to deliver trustable info in due time; in some countries however, press is totally under government control, whether visibly or not. Even Western countries are not innocent of this problem.
    So when the press and traditional info sources are not playing their roles, Tweeter and the like are great tools to provide “other sources”, forcing the info to reach a max of people… and somehow helping traditional media, even if they are in close control from some powers: these powers, whether they like it or not, will have to release some control if they want the media they control to keep some credibility…
    We can see that info is coming now to us in several layers:
    – speed and lack of control with tweeter, the blogs and the Internet at large
    – more qualified and sourced information with traditional media on their internet sites, which can follow the speed of the stream BUT at the same time giving an evaluation
    – printed form later, after some synthesis has been elaborated.

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