Oh, Please: USA Today’s Ridiculous Twitter Experiment

USA Twitter OK, the Twitter media bubble has now reached an apex. Today’s USA Today has a Money section cover story that it touts in this way: “Reporting cover story for USA Today entirely on Twitter.

The piece collects quotes from some important business people, including some CEOs, and purports to be a great and valuable example of how the latest hyped media tool is being used. The reporter wondered whether the executives believed that America is “drifting away from capitalism toward a European-style hybrid of capitalism and socialism” — and used Twitter to ask.

I think Twitter has enormous potential, and it’s already shown great value in many ways. There’s an amazing ecosystem forming around the tool, and Twitter (and, one hopes, its competitors in the space) are helping to redefine how networked communications will work.

But USA Today’s experiment is more than a little ridiculous. Why? Because collecting quotes that run 140 or fewer characters provides nothing but a collection of tiny sound bytes — and the issue of whether America is sliding into a form of capitalism (or whatever this is) that will change the nature of our society deserves better. Even the follow-up questions by the reporter don’t elicit much more than sound-byte replies.

Again, I’m a huge fan of Twitter. But this story in a respectable national newspaper — a story that spends a lot of time wondering why some CEOs didn’t answer the reporter’s tweets — doesn’t advance online collaboration, or journalism.

7 thoughts on “Oh, Please: USA Today’s Ridiculous Twitter Experiment”

  1. hopefully i can be forgiven for thinking that USAT is not “a respectable” paper.

  2. Compared with the hollowed-out shells of most local/regional papers, USA Today is downright robust. Not good as it should be, no doubt, but in today’s market “respectable” is a fair word, IMO.

  3. fair enough. i’m probably tipping my hand too far if i admit that the cartoonish visual identity of the paper repulses me. i rarely get to reading a story because the whole seems to be so much eye-candy, though i do use it to check the weather when i’m staying at a hotel sans computer.

  4. Good call, Dan.

    I’d be interested in hearing more about why you like Twitter to begin with, since it appears at first blush to be merely a broadcast version of gmail status messages, and the problems you cite as per its use with this article would seem to plague it regardless.

    1. There are lots of tools that accomplish similar things. What’s happening with Twitter that matters most is the ecosystem developing around it — people adding on functionality and use-cases that have great value. I see it as an early warning system and serendipity generator. Not perfect, by any means, but extremely useful.

  5. USA Today pursuing brevity and flashy marketing at the expense of thoughtful, complex discussion? Who knew? 

  6. What will be next?  Perhaps the next thing will be that USA Today becomes just twitter??  Who knows, with the comments shown here I guess the experiment was not the hit it was hoped it would be!

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