What Project Lightning means for journalism

Twitter today unveiled the item that has been known for months simply as Project Lightning.

Moments was introduced on desktop, Android and iPhone versions in the US. These include pieces from news organizations including BuzzFeed and the Washington Post.

For example, BuzzFeed today did a Moment about McDonald’s All-Day Breakfast Menu, while the Post did a Moment on the migrant crisis across Europe. These posts are available to be embedded into any piece.

Twitter also said it plans to publicly debut Moments during the baseball Wild Card game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.

Moments is one of the items that journalists and news organizations have been anticipating since rumors surfaced on it earlier this year. In a telephone interview, Jennifer Wilson, the social media editor of the Toronto Star newspaper in Canada, said Moments plays well on what Twitter excels at — visual features.

“Visual items will usually outperform text,” Wilson said, adding that there are examples of that being taken to create a collection. The ability to embed posts is an added bonus when looking for video, Wilson adds, as it saves the issue of sourcing.

Moments also has the opportunity to solve the issue that new CEO Jack Dorsey and executives have been trying to resolve — the issue of lack of user growth. In a telephone interview,  Aly Keves, the real-time social editor at the Daily Dot web site in New York, says its good that Twitter is utilizing resources for this and is a step forward for re-engagement.

“This will be a great way for people to rediscover Twitter,” Keves said. “It will help users figure out who to follow and what accounts they should be looking at. It can bridge the gap. The new Moments feature will allow the Twitter community to be more engaged with media communities and vice versa.”

Keves adds that Moments can help paint a bigger picture on why an event is trending, providing a better sense of what is going on real-time. For news organizations, Keves says this is exciting for them because they’ll be able to see not just their own content, but what is trending and how competitors are approaching the subject, which could help shape coverage.

“I can get a better sense of what is happening, why its happening, and what the audience is,” Keves said. “It will help me figure out where our audience is, what they’re talking about or anxious about, and what’s happening out there.”

While its only available in full form in the US, moment URLs are accessible globally, and Twitter says that it is looking to get the full feature rolled out to other countries in the weeks and months ahead.

Ultimately, Wilson says, Moments is another unique way to tell stories and another opportunity to engage and retain audiences. She adds that a next step for Twitter could be a way to engage with live broadcasts, something that can help media organizations.

“Everyone is looking for new tools to tell better stories,” Wilson said. “Its neat and exciting.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, 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.

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Co-Student Life Editor and a contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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.

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