Twitter – what’s it good for?

One of the topics that fascinates me, and has at least an indirect link to the original reasons for this blog, is new social networking. With Aftenposten’s News in English service an early casualty of the collision between finance crisis and Web 2.0 economic chaos, playing with the latest Internet communication toys is absolutely vital.

Twitter is the latest big thing, and it is intriguing indeed to watch it develop, and weigh its potential. And while the limitations of a 140 character medium may seem laughable, newsmakers are playing with it in very serious fashion, and it is getting a test run here as well. In the column to the right there is now something masquerading as a newsfeed, but which is labeled as a Twitter feed for clarity. This allows me to update this blog easily, regularly and swiftly, and does a neat job of meeting the goal of at least providing something resembling running headlines. It’s a educational discipline, trying to fit intelligible and correct information into that restricted space as well.

But my Twitter feed is also an experiment in Norwegian media watching. I have decided to let the Twitter feeds of the major outlets supply me with the info to choose from, and in this way gauge what they are doing with this particular new networking tool.

A month or so ago I did a quick check of the three leading newspapers – VG, Norway’s bestselling daily, a tabloid that is particularly strong on sport and crime; Dagbladet, which has a history of trumpeting culture but has arguably become more of a trend and tech oriented paper; and Aftenposten, by reputation and tradition the serious, quality news organ.

Searching all three for their Twitter coverage, Dagbladet was well in front, with VG a lagging second and Aftenposten a very distant third. What is interesting now is to see how they use Twitter, which is an obvious candidate for a modern news feed.

While still too early to be sure – mostly because I am not completely confident I have found the best feeds – Aftenposten looks to be miles ahead on this front, with regular bursts of activity, pouring links to their newest stories into the Twitterverse. The only other source that seems to be taking this medium seriously here is TV2. Dagbladet and VG and state broadaster NRK have virtually no activity, at least not from the feeds that purport to be their main outlets. News agency NTB has minimal updating.

It will be interesting to see how this develops, and to try and learn why they feel Twitter is a hot enough topic to write about, but not necessarily hot enough to use. The potential is obvious, and one of the best examples I’ve seen so far was when the Guardian and others sent journalists into the G2o Summit crowd to report live, a novel combination of professional and man-in-the-street coverage resulting.

There can be no doubt that clever and useful applications for this new channel are waiting to be found, and wounded (traditional) media houses should be experimenting and pioneering here, not delaying.

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