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As Print Struggles, Twitter Flourishes

Submitted by Daniel A. Freeman on December 4, 2008 - 9:18am

It's no secret that these are tough times for the publishing industry. We've been discussing the precarious position of the publishing industry for some time now, and the current economic crisis certainly isn't making things any easier. Meanwhile, new, mostly free Web 2.0 technology is flourishing, its popularity growing at an astonishing rate.

Stephen's Lighthouse has some fantastic coverage of this dynamic, particularly the contrast between the sharp decline in newspaper sales and the recent explosion in the popularity of twitter and other social networking tools. The widespread use of these tools was evident during coverage of the horrible events in Mumbai last week, where Twitter, Flickr and live-blogging were a key source of information for individuals and the news media alike.

So that means that print is out and new media is in, right? While that does seem to be the general trend, the reality of the situation is much more complex. There is no doubt that these new tools allow us to disseminate information more rapidly and efficiently than ever before. When it comes to getting news, these tools are very different from traditional media, but we are far from the point where we have made them better than traditional media.

Alexander Wolfe at Information Week noted that in Mumbai, "while there might have been sensitive information buried amid the streams of #mumbai tweets, you'd be hard pressed to separate it out from the more pedestrian commentaries on the situation and complaints about coverage." Major news organizations were aware that Twitter was being used for updates on the situation, and in their frantic attempt to get viewers and readers as many updates as they could as quickly as possible, they looked at Twitter themselves. If Alexander Wolfe had trouble distinguishing useful information a week later, we can assume that major news organizations fared no better in real-time.

There is no doubt that tools like Twitter are here to stay, and that Web 2.0 is going to continue to make life difficult for print and other traditional media. That being said, I think that good old fashioned newspaper reporters who fact-check and require multiple sources before they report are far from obsolete.