Context is King: Social Outlets Converting for Traditional Media during Obama/Osama Announcement
As the news came down Sunday night about Osama Bin Laden’s death…the online universe erupted. The televisions were not even on in our house around 10:45pm. I had just picked up my iPad to check email and Twitter before bed. In my “News” list, numerous tweets coming across from local and national media outlets about a Presidential news conference at 10:30pm. It was 10:45pm…I was wondering what the hell I was missing on a Sunday night.
As I was walking back to the bedroom, more tweets were coming across speculating what the announcement was going to be via the President. That told me that the news conference was running late…this was going to be huge. Speculation was tweeting across my “News” list with a consistent theme, Osama Bin Laden was dead. WOW. Then, I noticed this tweet.
Yep! Ok…let me rewind just a bit from the weekend. I had just had a similar conversation with Jodi Gersh who is Manager of all Social Media for Gannett. Gannett is a huge media company with numerous television stations, newspapers, and online media sites under their umbrella. The discussion, how media organizations use social outlets to break news events. Do they report speculation via social outlets or do they wait to confirm the story? Or, do they tweet that they are working on a story trying to confirm the validity of the breaking news.
Do you remember back when Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot earlier this year in Tucson, AZ? Many major news outlets tweeted and reported that she had been killed in the shooting, later to retract the report that she was still alive. Mallary Jean Tenore wrote in her article for the Poynter Institute that “Conflicting reports of Giffords’ death were understandable, but not excusable”. I agree.
Social outlets are a great way to break news to a mass audience. But, look at that tweet again: “Obama doesn’t even need to address nation anymore. Twitter made it old news What were jwere ust talking abt? Power of SM”. Other than poor spelling when trying to type so fast to get the tweet out…there is a bit to analyze.
There are two claims embedded in this tweet:
Claim Number One:
The claim here is that just because the tweet came across at 10:53pm, we DO NOT need to confirm the claim that Osama Bin Laden had been killed or died. I disagree. What the tweet is referring to is that it had been reported that President Obama would be addressing the nation that Osama Bin Laden was dead….killed during a military operation by the US Military.
Claim Number Two:
This tweet claims that Social Outlets provided sufficient information for a mass audience to accept the “Truth” behind the un-confirmed death of Osama Bin Laden…AND the US Military was the party to cause his life to cease. Once again, a pre-mature assumption!
There is a lot of claim that lies in one tweet. I find tremendous value in examining.
OK…let’s back-up again to my discussion with Jodi Gersh of Gannett. We were also talking about the use of Social Media and the relevant purpose in reporting breaking news. Media companies believe that audiences still want to learn and understand. They have found that Social Outlets provide enough information to create interest in a story/breaking news, driving traffic online or to television to get the whole story. Context is King in this situation. The thought here is that people want to investigate and learn, read more, watch more, and get more information. In the world of Twitter, 140 characters is sometimes (if not all the time) is in-sufficient to give complete context behind the story.
Social Outlets like Twitter are extremely valuable in the minds of big media companies. It is a great way to build online relationships, establish credibility, and provide real time information. But ultimately, it provides a great outlet to share enough information so that it peaks the interest enough to go read more.
Now there is a whole separate conversation whether these Tweets or Status Updates generate enough interest or appeal for someone to pay once they click to read more, this paying for content. The whole pay-wall conversation is a separate discussion. My opinion, that tweet better be a damn good teaser to make someone click the link, pull out their wallet, enter their credit card information, and not loose interest in the story. This is a usability and user-centered design discussion as well.
Back to the subject at hand. When I noticed the tweet come across about the Presidential news conference late on a Sunday night…the first thing I did was scream at Sarah to turn on MSNBC. I think the tweet came from @NYTimes and the online newspaper does not provide real time information like real time television broadcast, IMHO. When I turned it on…the speculation kept me hooked until President Obama made his address.
So, how many Americans or how many people world wide took those tweets at face value and went to bed or on about their business. I think the numbers will help us out here. But, I think differently, those tweets created a pathway to television and online video streaming outlets to wait for the Presidential Address. We wanted to know more. Well, guess what….more than 56 million people watched President Obama and his Sunday night address (via TV by the Numbers). During President Obama’s address on Sunday night, there were more than 5000 tweets/second (via Metro.co.uk). That is a lot of damn tweeting and a lot of people watching this Presidential address.
Techcrunch.com writes that “Twitter Does Not Supplant Other Media, It Amplifies It” and I agree! It generates interest and we as consumers of information go to the place we consider credible to investigate more. The tweet by @DrJonathan above claims that Twitter made it old news. Well, I am not too sure about that…we are still analyzing the situation and even waiting for “confirmation” via photographs.
We are consumers of information and we will continue to search to learn more. But I guess @DrJonathan’s interpretation of old news is different from mine…well, I guess the word “news” in general.