I had a call from a guy called Sam, who was cold-calling on behalf of the Daily Telegraph. He asked which newspaper I read, and was incredulous and/or annoyed when I said I didn’t read a newspaper – ‘How do you get your news then?’
My dad always read the Telegraph, or pretended to before finishing the crossword then having a snooze in his chair, but the idea of subscribing to an actual newspaper seems like something now from at least the last century – doesn’t everyone have a voice now, if you can shout loud enough to be heard?
I’ve spent a lot of time on news.bbc.co.uk, and a few guilty mum-minutes a day scanning the gossip columns of dailymail.co.uk, but have recently been amazed at how quickly breaking news disseminates across social media sites – real people telling each other what is really happening in the world, spin-free.
But then I read some Yahoo! research about Twitter – http://research.yahoo.com/pub/3386 – which highlighted that roughly 50% of URLs consumed are generated by just 20K elite users, where the media produces the most information, but celebrities are the most followed. Celebrities listen to celebrities, bloggers to bloggers – is that a bunch of sharks circling in a small pool, or is the potential beyond this very clear now, as this form of “masspersonal” communications blurs with that smaller-scale interpersonal communications, when ordinary individuals communicate with their friends.
So ‘ordinary’ users on Twitter get information from many thousands of distinct sources, most of which are not traditional media organizations—even though media outlets are by far the most active users on Twitter, only about 15% of tweets received by ordinary users are received directly from the media, most other media news being delivered by intermediaries – retweets – a big interactive game of Chinese whispers again fragmenting the news and allowing personal opinion to colour the message all colours of the rainbow.
Media-originated URLs are disproportionately represented among short-lived URLs, while those originated by bloggers tend to be overrepresented among long-lived URLs – the opinions more important than the original story, as we choose which version of the truth we want to believe and also to pass on.
But the longest-lived URLs on Twitter are dominated by content such as videos and music, which are continually being rediscovered by Twitter users and appear to persist indefinitely – which makes my other half’s weekend music education of our two small children less old-fashioned and more on the money – how could they not be charmed by The Smiths today, headmaster ritual or charming man factored in.
So finding your voice and finding your audience is the key to online success, and unless you are writing for traditional media no-one will try and sell in a subscription to you – you need to find a voice and find a distinctive way to get your message across, and the new social sites are a perfect route in to audiences you could have had no access to previously; we need to embrace this and make it work for us as individuals and as a powerful tool for reaching out to and engaging with new and potential customers – become one of the heard and not one of the herd.