Where there’s smoke…there’s Twitter.
At least that was the case this summer when a Gord Hotchkiss, president of Enquiro, a search marketing firm, began tracking a wildfire burning in the hills outside his hometown, Ketowna, British Columbia.
As Hotchkiss relates in an excellent post for Search Insider, he began watching the blaze from the deck behind his home, armed with binoculars, a laptop and Twitter. Meanwhile, his wife was inside, monitoring news reports on radio and TV.
Suddenly, Hotchkiss found himself in the midst of a spontaneous media experiment. Which channel — radio, TV, or Twitter — would be most effective at quickly conveying fresh updates on the fire’s progress?
I won’t give away his entire post, except to say the more venerable media venues did not fair well in this side, by side, by side comparison. Instead, Hotchkiss’ experience is a thought-provoking case study regarding ways social media can dramatically change how — and by whom — breaking news gets reported and consumed.
Breaking News Becoming a “Crowded” Field?
As a former newspaper reporter, I’m not sure I can begin to imagine, much less list, all the implications here for professional news journalists. Except to predict one thing:
If (as) this type of of crowd-sourced, online local news reporting really catches on, the media likely to be challenged most by it will be broadcasters, less so than newspapers.
Newspaper reporters have already adjusted to having their stories come out on the back end of the news cycle. They know radio and TV can not only get to the scene, but be broadcasting to their viewers, with much more immediacy.
Thus, newspapers have had to add context and texture to their early reportage on a breaking event, knowing that the basic facts of the event are likely to already be in circulation by the time their coverage hits the streets.
Broadcasters, meanwhile, suddenly have a new, extremely nimble competitor for the immediate and evolving details of breaking news.
As Hotchkiss’ post points out: When a TV talking head is droning the same two-hours-old script, with the same from-the-scene-earlier news footage looping in the background, but meanwhile the event continues to unfold and be reported on social media in near real-time — well, that talking head starts to look and sound a little silly and outmoded.
If, indeed, anyone is still tuned in.