Three weeks from now, we will inaugurate a brand new year — a year where the citizens of the United States go to the polls to determine their country’s future, where the intersection of social media and journalism will continue to grow, and where questions will continue to face a certain social network as to its future.
That social network is Twitter. It will celebrate its tenth birthday in 2016, and as that occasion is marked, there are a number of questions its chief executive, Jack Dorsey, is facing from investors. Yet, the most notable one has implications for the journalism community — how do you solve the issue of reversing user declines?
As Twitter began to take off, it was clear the social network could have potential in changing how journalists and news organizations work. A replica of a wire service, Twitter would be the hub of all global events, from the protests in the Middle East known as the Arab Spring, elections in the US and internationally, and the events in Ferguson, Missouri, to plenty of sports matches and awards ceremonies.
Dispatches in the form of 140 character messages would inform and enlighten millions of people of the events around them, and news organizations saw potential in aiding storytelling, whether disseminating information to new audiences, gathering sources for reporting or engaging in discussions. It was clear to the media industry that Twitter was here to stay, even as it enhanced its own business.
When the social network released its third quarter earnings, the problem of user growth was still prominent, something Dorsey and his predecessor, Dick Costolo, had to tackle.
This year, immediately after Dorsey became CEO, it unveiled Twitter Moments, known for a long time as Project Lightning, in an attempt to help news organizations with coverage, and, as Aly Keves of The Daily Dot web site said in an interview for this blog in October, paint a bigger picture as to why a particular event is trending.
However, there are still questions as to whether it can still be successful for Dorsey’s strategy, and it is unclear thus far of the wider implications Moments has had on individual newsrooms.
Twitter is also said to be testing timelines similar to that of Facebook, where instead of the live stream that has been at its core for a decade, posts would be appearing in non-chronological order. While it is uncertain if the feature is to remain, should this feature remain a part of the social network, it could mean implications on how journalists and news organizations use the service.
As we prepare to ring out the old year and bring in the new, the question of user growth will still be a constant for Dorsey and his colleagues, as they try to figure out Twitter’s role in the whole of social media. Yet, at the same time, whatever ideas that come forward may change the relationship the social network has with journalism, for better or for worse.
Let us hope Dorsey solves the issue, making investors and users happy. Otherwise, news organizations may need to bring another new item into the new year — a new social strategy.
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to the SPJ blog network on British media issues and social media’s role in the future of journalism.
The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.