Twitter and the future of newspapers

I’ll admit it. I really don’t get Twitter. And I’m not even sure how to describe it. Is Twitter a micro-blogging outlet where you can say as much as you want as long as it doesn’t exceed 140 characters? Is it a social network? A kind of no frills Facebook? I’m not sure.

But I’m trying to learn. I get tweets — (writer’s note: praying that is the right word) — from friends like Paull Young and Kait Swanson. What should I do? Hit reply? Send my own message? Head for the gin bottle? Again, not sure. I even received a message — probably not the right word — the other night from CNN telling me that Yves Saint Laurent had died. OK. I’ll admit it. I didn’t know he was still alive. But as usual I digress.

Anyway, what got me thinking about this were two articles I read today that spotlight the future of newspapers, at least the print editions.

In an interview yesterday with the editors of The Washington Post, Steve Ballmer, CEO of Microsoft, said he didn’t believe there would be any printed newspapers or magazines in 10 years.

What is your outlook for the future of media?

[Ballmer] In the next 10 years, the whole world of media, communications and advertising are going to be turned upside down — my opinion.

Here are the premises I have. Number one, there will be no media consumption left in 10 years that is not delivered over an IP network. There will be no newspapers, no magazines that are delivered in paper form. Everything gets delivered in an electronic form.

Ouch. Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be scribblers. And Tim Roberts, a friend and adjunct journalism professor at Kent State, said essentially the same thing in a conversation we had on this blog several months ago.

Yet projections that are 10 years off won’t get me to cancel my subscription to The New York Times (printed version) today. I mean. Anything is possible. The Cleveland Browns could win the Super Bowl in that amount of time. Miracles happen.

Yet I guess it will take a miracle to save newspapers in their present dead-tree format. Consider the story today about Sam Zell and the Tribune Company, owner of the Los Angles Times, Chicago Tribune and other newspapers. A New York Times article — “Tribune Co. Plans Sharp Cutbacks at Papers” — provides another example of a shrinking industry. Here’s from the article:

Tribune Company newspapers like The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune will quickly cut costs — by printing fewer papers and employing fewer journalists — top company executives said on Thursday.

Samuel Zell, the chairman and chief executive of Tribune, and Randy Michaels, the company’s chief operating officer, revealed the cuts during a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

They also said the struggling company has looked at the column inches of news produced by each reporter, and by each paper’s news staff. Finding wide variation, they said, they have concluded that it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.

Mr. Michaels said of the changes, “This is going to happen quickly.”

Let’s see. “…it could do without a large number of news employees and not lose much content.”

Hmm. Wonder if it will be possible to Twitter the news?

I found out about Yves Saint Laurent. Didn’t I? Now if I could just figure out what to do with those tweets I get from Paull Young and Kate Swanson.

Oh, by the way. As soon as Zell sells the Chicago Cubs, another Tribune property, the Cubs will win the World Series. Wait and see. Miracles happen.

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3 responses to “Twitter and the future of newspapers

  1. Rob I feel for you mate if you’re getting all my twibberish (I think I just coined a term) to your phone!

    I say that Twitter is all about personality and connection – in short, you’re getting direct connection to my personality when you sign up for my tweets.

    The uber Common Craft crew made a great ‘Twitter in Plain English’ video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ddO9idmax0o

  2. Paull, I enjoy getting your tweets. And from Kait and Luke and others as well. And last week I found out about the crane collapse in NYC first from you. Like most things these days I am just trying to figure out how they can best be used. Probably something pathetic about old dogs trying to new learn new tricks. But I’ll keep at it.

    And I’ll watch the video. And maybe write, oops, tweet (?) about it.

  3. Rob…only about 20 days late, here. 🙂 You’ll forgive me, I’ve been getting engaged and watching the flippin’ Indians while I drown my sorrows with my good friend Tom Collins.

    Twitter, to me, is just another avenue of connecting. I enjoy it because it gives you a better preview of personalities. Well, that and Twitter-ers seem to know all the good news first…and we know how I love to know things first. 🙂

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