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Twitter and local mainstream media

Victoria’s local paper, the Times-Colonist, which is part of the CanWest empire and therefore not a particularly local paper at all, recently began twittering.

Admittedly, I was really surprised to see @timescolonist show up on such a site.  Not only that, but its editor-in-chief, Lucinda Chodan, also tweets: @lchodan.

I had a conversation with someone about this; he claimed that CanWest will lose brand identity by letting its newspapers and editors and reporters twitter, and that it shows they’re out of touch, not least because there’s no revenue in it for them.  His argument around losing brand identity was based on his idea that by tweeting, the papers were becoming just like you or me — like anybody who can type.

But that’s so wrong!  It made me wonder whether he understands social media.  For example, tweets by @timescolonist have actually prompted me to click through to articles, since the tweets started to include URLs to the stories.  In other words, @timescolonist’s function is to drive traffic to articles.

Paradoxically, by tweeting stories that seem to have regional and local relevance, @timescolonist is actually able to restore some measure of local relevance.  And I can tweet back at them, as I did for example when last night @timescolonist live-tweeted a local town hall federal election candidates meeting, and I twittered my appreciation of this.  Today there’s a story in the paper about this meeting, but @timescolonist’s live-tweet last night (without URLs, as the story wasn’t yet online or in the paper) helped build a kind of loyalty to (and interest in) the paper with me, who has been a harsh critic of the paper in the past (and often still is).

The other thing is that newspapers might, just might, start to understand that it’s no longer just a broadcast market, but a niche market.

The niche was derided as small potatoes for too long, but in actuality (actualite – currently, current affairs), niche markets might well be the new gold mine.

By tweeting, @timescolonist (and even @lchodan, whose tweets are rare, but very interesting when they do come) can possibly change minds and potentially win allies.  By twittering, they’re almost humanizing themselves in my eyes.  If I were cynical, I’d say, What a snow job.  But I’m not that cynical, and so I’m intrigued.  There are real people behind this after all.

And every person is a niche.

That’s savvy marketing and it might just work.  Why?  Because it’s two-way.  It’s not a one-way operation, where they work on me,  Jane Customer.  They will be transformed, too, because they won’t hold my interest with a voice that’s just another suit.  Twitter (i.e., social media, real inter-action) might just make them interesting enough to pay attention to once more.


  1. Symmetrical communication!

    Comment by Davin — October 9, 2008 #

  2. I was intrigued as well that @timescolonist is on Twitter. I clicked through and tried to find the article that related to their tweet below.

    “timescolonist Town hall in Victoria riding over. Hottest issue: climate change. Conservative government frequent target of boos, jeers. 11:34 PM October 08, 2008”

    Wow! Hottest issue was climate change — where’s the article? But alas I could not find it. Your explanation that the story wasn’t yet online or in the paper makes sense — and also makes me feel like I have an inside glimpse of the news “as it happens”.

    So I would say to that dinosaur male who thought @timescolonist was going to lose brand identity. “You don’t know nuttin’.”

    Check out @ricksanchezcnn and see how Rick is weaving Twitter into his CNN broadcasts. (And he’s not the only CNN anchor using it.)

    Twitter is a revolutionary social media tool. And it’s a hell of a lot of fun. Thanks Yule for letting me peek inside your “Twitterverse” and see how local mainstream media is leveraging it their advantage.

    Go @lchodan! Go @timescolonist!

    ~ Franke James

    Comment by Franke James — October 10, 2008 #

  3. Yes, Davin, if not yet really symmetrical, at least approaching something like it!
    Franke, thanks for stopping by, commenting, and tweeting my blog post on! I wish I still had the page for the article that Times-Colonist did publish on the town hall meeting, but it was yesterday and I’m too tired to root around for it now. I bet you can find it, if you’re really interested tho’.
    Yes, I agree with you that Twitter is really different, and a great social tool.
    This afternoon @timescolonist live-tweeted a talk by Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts, who spoke at the UVic Business School. (The tweets were a bit sparse, though.) Wish I could have gone to that, but had to miss it due to a meeting elsewhere. If @timescolonist hadn’t tweeted it, though, it probably would have escaped me, as I’d forgotten about it, and I’m not sure it’ll be reported by the paper tomorrow.
    So now they have my attention in two ways: I pay attention to get info they might not publish, and I pay attention to get URLs to the items they do publish.
    Sorry about the convoluted syntax, by the way. Having a bit of a brain bailout, as I’m really tired and totally bagged, a combination of feeling the financial storms, a personal level of uncertainty, and worrying myself over my dog, who had surgery on Wed is one hell of an unhappy camper at present.

    Comment by Yule — October 10, 2008 #

  4. Yes, but where do you tweet, Yule? I’m only new to Twitter, @Richard, but I’d follow you if I knew your handle….

    Comment by richard — November 18, 2008 #

  5. Oh, that’s easy, Richard: first and last name, one word, YuleHeibel.
    Twitter seems to be having a fail whale moment right now (the site says they’re down for maintenance), but when it comes back up I’ll follow you.
    You can find conversations as well as people by using Twitter Search, too. Twitter’s internal (i.e., its own, onsite) search function has gotten very awkward (used to be simpler), so it’s not as useful anymore when searching for people. Twitter Search is also good for locating people geographically, provided of course that they noted in their ‘bio’ which city they live in.

    Comment by Yule — November 18, 2008 #

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