January 2, 2011
by Alli Gerkman
Just over two years ago, I told Kevin O’Keefe that Twitter was changing the way I discovered content online. My morning news ritual had begun with an RSS reader everyday since 2004, but by 2008, Twitter was becoming the first site I checked. My reader was secondary.
So perhaps that’s why this recent post from Kevin, calling Twitter the “evolution of how you find information on the internet,” caught my attention. And perhaps it was especially of interest to me because it came at the end of a year when, dissatisfied by some of the information I was receiving on Twitter, I have been slowly building my RSS reader back into a news and information force to be reckoned with–and back into my first news source of the day. And it seems I’m not the only one.
*The title of this post isn’t serious. I don’t think Twitter is dead, nor would I likely even post about its death on this blog. But it represents the problem I have with the fact that more and more people are using Twitter as a primary news and information source. Because a title like “Twitter Is Dead” is the type of title that, if used by certain bloggers, will be retweeted over and over, often by people who never even read the post itself. It just sounds like something you might want to pass along. And why spend any time reading or thinking about the post when you can distill its meaning from just three words?
Now, I know journalists have been crafting alluring headlines since the beginning of journalism, but here’s the difference. Once upon a time, headlines were crafted in such a way as to inspire you to read the article. Now, headlines are being crafted in such a way as to inspire you to share the article and generate traffic–whether you read it or not.
But surely people read posts before they retweet them, right? Sure, sometimes. Especially if they’re short and broken down into bullet points. But how many times have you come across a link that has been retweeted by several people only to find that the link was broken–and had been ever since the original tweet?
In some circles on Twitter, it’s become more important to share news and information than it is to have actual knowledge of the news and information you’re sharing.
If you’re a content creator (including those of us, like CLE providers, who sell content) who really believes in creating something valuable, this lazy approach might concern you. And if you’re a content consumer, you might be getting worried about the shallow levels of news and knowledge some people around you deem sufficient to share. I was. Enough to take back some control of my news routine by bringing my RSS reader back to the center.
This is not to say Twitter can’t be used, as Kevin suggests, as a powerful way to discover information, but you really have to do some work to get it there. Find the people who actually seem to be reading the articles they pass along. Find the people who discover obscure writers with a unique voice or approach, rather than those who spend all day retweeting ubiquitous sources like Mashable and Seth Godin. Then add the new writers you discover to your RSS reader, where you can read the posts in full, so you don’t miss their next piece. And when another good post comes along, pass it along, even if the author knows more about her subject matter than she does about how to craft a “sticky” title.
That’s what I’m trying, anyway.
By the way, if you have any bloggers you think I need to be reading, be sure to let me know.