Tweet tweet – Punjabi’s diet is healthier. So pay us more for mid-day meals: Punjab Education Minister to Centre. Tweet tweet – Shashi Tharoor says his accent is not American but Stephanian. Campus SMS to Stephanians – Yeh jo tera suroor hai, yeh tere college ka kasoor hai.
This is how a new section on the homepage of India Today’s website keeps its readers ‘informed’. The group has recently started a new service called ‘News Buzzer’ on its website. The service uses the online social networking and micro-blogging service Twitter to help facilitate reporters’ one-line accounts of non-regular news stories and happenings in the day.
In conversation with exchange4media, Kalli Purie, Director, India Today Digital, said, “We have used the Twitter format, but have given it a twist with our News Buzzer service. Twitter traditionally has only one author, but News Buzzer has multiple contributors (editors and correspondents) contributing to it round the clock.”
Purie added, “We are actually using the Twitter platform, which is to provide short pieces of information, often from a device as simple as a mobile phone, to a wide audience in the most creative and effective way. Journalists are reservoirs of information, and the most interesting is often lost as it does not have a full story potential. This is a way to get the juiciest happenings out of the head of reporters on to the web.”
The publications are now making an extra effort to reach different sections of users wherever they are present, whether on mobile or the Internet. In India, Mint, Network18, and DNA are among those regularly updating their Twitter service with news feeds.
Dismissing the regular automated news feeds on Twitter, Purie said, “Unlike most media brands, we have not used an automated feed which just dumps on the Twitter platform at regular intervals and is just a marketing plug for all the things already published on the website. It’s the difference between getting a machine on the other side or a real person. Our editors are actually Twittering for News Buzzer, bringing you all the buzz from the field.”
A rage in most parts of the world, Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that enables its users to send and read messages known as ‘tweets’. These tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters, displayed on the author’s profile page and delivered to the author’s subscribers, who are known as followers.
Before the advent of the Internet, some people around the world maintained personal diaries and many got them published as their memoirs. Some threw them away due to no followers or difficulty in maintaining it. Or termites did the job for them. Today, a large number of erudites are maintaining personal journals or accounts mentioning their brush with the world everyday. They are read by a large number of people, thanks to services like Blogspot, Twitter, Bigadda and so on.
Today, many people, including corporate honchos, media barons, and politicians find themselves engaged in tweeting before leaving for an important meeting or regular work. The names include the likes of Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Stephen Fry, Paulo Coelho, Lance Armstrong, Oprah Winfrey, and our own Shashi Tharoor, Vir Sanghvi, and N Ram, among others.
Sharing the expansion plans of the service across other publications under the India Today Group, Purie said, “Currently, the entire team of India Today and Business Today are twittering. We soon plan to expand this service to our other brands. These would include all our 30 magazines, four TV channels and our daily newspaper. This would mean more than a thousand journalists would soon be twittering live from the field, feeding the News Buzzer service with real time information.”
She added, “With less than 10,000 users of Twitter in India, we have expanded the reach of Twitter by placing the News Buzzer service on our website. We expect this to become the showpiece of our website.”
What India’s Twitter regulars have to say
Vetran journalist and television personality Vir Sanghvi, who is a Twitter regular, said, “Twitter is liberating and empowering.”
Asked about his experience with Twitter, N Ram, Editor-in-Chief, The Hindu, said, “I was advised and indeed inspired to use Twitter by my friend and Editor of The Guardian, Alan Rusbridger. I believe that Twitter is an excellent way to promote good reading and good content on the web, with your comment or insight. You need not spend too much time on it, although you must watch out against addiction. Twitter has surprising depth. I tweet regularly using my iMac, my Blackberry, and my N95. Some of our journalists in The Hindu group are now fairly active on Twitter and the practice will surely grow. What you need to be mindful about (especially when you do this professionally or intellectually) is this: the content should be free from profanity, abuse, deliberate illiteracy or semi-literacy, affectation, obsessive self-promotion.”
Weighing the credibility and immediacy of Twitter against each other, Ashish Bhasin, Chairman, India and CEO, South East Asia, Aegis Media, said, “It does have an advantage in that it is immediate and invites comments from readers promptly. But what I am worried about is that it brings along its own share of fallacies, including half-information or inaccurate facts. Recently, there were some cases in China… It can be a problem if people shoot off messages unmindful of its repercussions. In our country, where sensitivities are fragile, if news is not credible, it can cause chaos. So, creditibility needs to be monitored. The maturity of a journalist is going to decide its use. Media industry would have to evolve discipline and regulation.”
Bhasin further noted that Twitter as a medium was entirely different from similar looking services available on the Internet to post one’s opinions and maintain personal accounts. He said, “Blog is more of a personal account, while Twitter is less of a view because the medium is restricted. Blog is about writing a diary and making opinions. One, however needs to remember that the Internet is an unrestrained and uncensored medium.”