Twitter helps to break the breaking news mould

Recently, NASA used Twitter™ to break the news of the discovery of what appeared to be water ice on Mars by the Phoenix Mars Lander. Other NASA projects, such as Space Shuttle missions and the International Space Station are also known to provide regular updates via Twitter™. The portable platform in which NASA chose to “break” this news is slowly evolving to potentially assume giant proportions. The well worn term “social media” is now actively contributing to another conventional forum of “breaking news”.

“Breaking News” primarily has two connotations. The urgency and scale of impact being one and the exclusivity in releasing the information being another. The phenomenon started with CNN disrupting normally scheduled programming to convey issues of utmost importance; usually real-time. The recent dilution of this once-effective, eyeball grabbing tool however is not my present concern.

The points I want to talk about are:

1. Democratization of the concept.
2. Proliferation of Platform.
3. Portability of content.
4. Measurement of Merit.
5. An equivalent of Google proportions to opinion building?

CNN’s Tori Blasé is a regular “tweeter” and admits to receiving fresh news from her followers along with reviews and responses for her work. This gets translated into news but the source is no longer the “traditional” journalist. People are getting involved in the process of creating the content. Social Capital (a term associated with Twitter again) is slowly but surely gaining currency.

The platform of the Breaking News innovation was the TV. But now, along with provision of content expanding its sources; there is also a proliferation in platform. The Internet and the mobile phone are the most popular entrants. News at any time can be relayed to channels through SMS and updates can be posted for public viewing on websites like Twitter™, Jaiku™ and Yammer™.

The most important point I think is the portability of the content. The within 140 character posts on Twitter™ or short messages over the phone have more potential to maintain interest than long articulated discourses on blogs. Whenever, wherever you can post a short message on your account for your “followers” to mull over.

The biggest innovation in this respect and the reason why I became interested enough about this exciting prospect is the new tool on the API (Application Programming Interface) of Twitter™ – “twInfluence”. It gauges the reach of tweets and the people who read them. It analyzes velocity (how quickly you’ve gained quality followers) and social capital (how many high-influence people follow you) and a comprehensive listing is provided. It is sure to encourage creative competition and that augurs well.

Google is the messiah of our age. Delivering us from confusion in the rapidly expanding digitized information superhighways. But what sites like Twitter™ is doing is building opinion and packaging it in an effective way. Along with fresh content, it invites intelligent response and hyper-linking for substantiation of arguments made. Popular tweets recently have been “tweetsfromgaza”; a very opinionated forum about the ongoing Palestine-Israel conflict and the 26/11 Mumbai attacks tweet. No invasive red alerts of Breaking News when there is actually none.  But serious issues. Serious discussions. All with real-time updates. That’s the beauty of it.

Published on DNA Money, dated February 10, 2009 and