Why Twitter’s changes are good for journalism

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Twitter has unveiled changes to its 140 character format in response to investor concerns on user numbers. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

Recently, Twitter announced plans to revise its 140 character length. The changes come as chief executive Jack Dorsey continues to try to find ways to engage new audiences with the social network, amid a history of decline of the number of users.

The most notable changes come in embedding multimedia on the platform, as the photo, video, GIF, poll or quoted tweet (a retweet with added comments from a user) will no longer be counted in the 140 characters you would have available. Additionally, when tweeting a user, the @username will also not count against the 140 characters.

It is unclear as to when the changes will specifically be rolled out, but a blog post on Twitter’s corporate web site says these features would be rolled out within the next few months.

In an interview with the BBC last week, Dorsey said the focus was on ensuring that when people tweet, it makes sense.

The soon-to-be rolled out updates are good for journalism on the platform, as users look to Twitter to engage with journalists and news organizations, either through discussions on current issues, or to be informed about events on the go. Journalists and news organizations also can do crowd sourcing on the platform, and the changes would likely allow more context to be put into a request or verification of user generated content.

Yet, the big item will come from live tweeting a story, especially a breaking news story, and how multimedia elements can help tell that story on Twitter. Journalists will be able to tell a story better on the platform with more context, alongside the photos and videos, whether its a local piece, a sports event, or a story on the forthcoming elections.

These changes allow journalists, irrespective of beat, to truly have Twitter become another platform alongside conventional platforms, to expand the two-way conversation between journalist and user, and to practice accomplished and quality storytelling.

While there is a ways to go before Twitter’s problems are properly solved, this is a step in the right direction, and will allow journalism to flourish on the social network. It will benefit not only the engagement strategies for news organizations, but to the people that matter most — the audience.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributing blogger to Net Worked on social media’s role in the future of journalism. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is Long Form 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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