Notes on breaking news

Last June in the most popular post ever on this blog, I said this:

“You ignore new delivery systems at your own peril. RSS, SMS, iPhone, e-paper, Blackberry, widgets, podcasts, vlogs, Facebook, Twitter — these aren’t the competition, these are your new carriers. Learn how to deliver your content across every new technology that comes into view on the horizon, and be there when new devices go into mass production.”

Six months later, Facebook has taken off as a tool for newspapers to gain “fans” and disperse their headlines and related news, Amazon’s Kindle — as small and flawed a step as it may be — is a step toward e-paper newspaper subscriptions, and a solid bunch of news organizations have started using Twitter as a quick way to push information out to the Web and mobile devices, without waiting around for any corporate initiatives or guidance from the folks in IT.

If you’re unfamiliar with Twitter, go sign up now and start “following” my updates. Then find your friends and favorite newspapers or cable news channels, and follow their updates to get 140-word snippets of news, commentary, and links to full stories or interesting pages. Search for your local paper to find out if they’re Twittering the news yet. If you work at your local paper, now would be a good time to start.

Zac Echola has a great tutorial up on a basic way to start feeding Twitter public weather data – that’s a good way to start serving your readership automatic updates — no reporting required, no programming experience required, just the smarts to route some information through free Web services to get a job done in your newsroom.

If you’re looking to use Twitter for “live” reporting, check out Jack Lail’s post about how a Knoxville local kept his readers updated on the progress of a big high school football game:

“…McCaughan’s Twitter posts had an immediacy that captured the drama and tension of a playoff game between two arch-rivals. It was breaking news to the people that wanted to know. It was news of the moment.”

And if you need more convincing of why news organizations should become more agile by using services like Twitter to break news, check out this post at Strange Attractor, chronicling a couple recent examples of online news folks beating their newsrooms to the punch when news broke.

Starting to get ideas? Look up Twittergram, Seesmic, Utterz, and Jott. They’re all services that start down the path of delivering payloads (audio, video, photo files) over a simple social network like Twitter.

3 thoughts on “Notes on breaking news

  1. Thanks for the link, Ryan. My site is down at the moment, so if anyone wants to read my post until I get back up, they can email me at zac.echola [at] gmail [dot] com and I’d be glad to send it to them.

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