Media Misuses Twitter During Boston Marathon Tragedy
After hearing about the explosions at the finish line of the Boston Marathon, I quickly jumped on Twitter for instead feedback on this breaking news story.
For an hour, I read thousands of tweets from numerous media outlets and individuals about the tragic event. During that time, clear cut trends emerged about how Twitter is used with different objectives. Some made sense. Many didn't.
By far, the most frustrating and head-scratching decision was announced by the New York Times, which took down its paywall during the height of the news cycle. What is the sense of having a paywall if it is going to be removed at a time when its content is most valuable. Are we supposed to believe this is a corporation with a conscience? The Boston Globe and Wall Street Journal dropped their paywalls as well.
Did HBO unscramble its pay channel when The Sopranos were on? Does Sirius/XM make its signal free for all when Howard Stern is on air? What if you are one of the 200,000+ subscribers to the Times' website? I'd be ticked off when the paywall was dropped. If the content is that valuable, let demand drive more subscribers. As it is, visitors can read stories on the website since the Times ridiculously lets readers access 20 stories a month before hitting the paywall.
It was also amazing how many reporters and news outlets gave away news updates on Twitter. Some were smart enough to post a teaser tweet with a link to their website but many weren't.
To have a reporter post an update directly on their Twitter feed instead of directing followers to their website cannibalizes the content.
There were also the careless tweets that were posted in a rush to be first instead of right, as if anyone cares anymore. News spreads so quickly today, and without attribution, that a truly breaking story is rare anymore. And so many people simply copy and paste tweets and repost it under their own names, that even if you are first, chances are many won't know it.
However, if you are wrong, many will know. An example is the New York Post, which reported 12 people were dead. It was another typical bloodthirsty media outlet seeking as big a number as possible for a dramatic headline, or in this case, tweet.
Another news outlet reported a Saudi was in custody as the suspect, even though law enforcement said there was no suspect yet. Fox News also reported a suspect was in custody, but that also proved inaccurate.
Twitter is awesome but many media outlets don't properly utilize the social media channel as a tool to drive visitors to their website. As a reader, the free content was welcomed to keep updated on the latest happenings of this story. However, as a media person, I was left wondering why other media outlets would damage their business models in 140 characters or less.
Ron Matejko is the President of Phoenix, Ariz.-based MVP Media, an award-winning digital publishing company. Matejko has 16 years of publishing experience in print, Web and mobile and has worked on the staff of two award-winning publications.
MVP Media publishes MVP Magazine, the first interactive sports publication, which won a Bronze 2010 Digital Magazine Award for Best Sports Magazine, besting entrants from 26 countries around the world, and was a finalist for Designer of the Year. MVP Media will launch its own magazines on the iPad in 2011.
MVP Media also helps existing publishers convert their print products into dynamic publications for the web and tablets. Visit the MVP Magazine website at www.mvptoday.com. Contact Ron by e-mail at email@example.com, or connect with him on LinkedIn or on Twitter @mvp_media.