Last week, Twitter made available to some users in the United States a new feature called the News Tab.
This tab, available on the social network’s iOS and Android platforms, allows the user access to top headlines from varied sources. When a user taps an article to see more, they will see a headline, a brief paragraph and a link to that article. Below the article are top tweets from other sources.
According to a report from the L.A. Times, the feature is available in Japan, and it has been suggested that this could be a precursor to Project Lightning, a program for news and event curating that was announced in June, according to a report from Fortune. Indeed, beyond this, it has led to new engagement via the social network, which has shown benefits for audiences and Twitter itself.
“It’s a smart move for Twitter,” said Jennifer Wilson, the social media editor for the Toronto Star newspaper in Canada, in a telephone interview. “They are upping the potential for sharing.”
Wilson added that this allows Twitter to give context on information whilst staying true to messages in 140 characters.
“The news tab is interesting because instead of checking your morning newsletters, you have a one stop shop for news,” Wilson said. “It’s a different way to engage people on the network. They’re doing a lot of experiments and this is just another one where you see people logging in and coming back.”
The news of the introduction of the news tab comes amid continued concerns of user growth, announced in second quarter results July 28. The tab is not available internationally, but Wilson says should Twitter decide to make it available in Canada, there will be questions news organizations have to answer, from how to get tweets out there, to ensuring audiences are served not just within the tab but also in their news feeds. These questions are also likely of other organizations including in the US.
On the issue of growth, Wilson said this was a direct response to what Facebook was doing in terms of its Instant Articles program, and for Twitter’s part, there was no restrictions placed by the algorithm.
“They’re highlighting that news is an important part of the service they provide to users,” Wilson said. “It’s another way to make sure users are getting the most up to date information.”
It is unclear however as to the news tab’s prospects in the United States, or indeed internationally. Reached by email, Rachel Milner, a spokeswoman for Twitter, said this was an experiment and declined to share any further plans.
Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is a contributing blogger to Net Worked and SPJ’s community coordinator. He is also Co-Student Life editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.