Is Damian an omen for mainstream media?

Damian's Twitter page
Changing channels: Damian gets his news on Twitter.

A well-informed colleague of Share Wars doesn’t read newspapers or look at news website homepages anymore.

Aged 33, @Damian78 grew up reading papers and spent his 20s on websites and blogs. Through the 1990s, his staples were The Australian and The Sydney Morning Herald.

Now, he uses Twitter to get his news.

He follows a number of tech bloggers and news outlets but says his most important sources are individual “authoritative voices” such as ABC journalists Mark Colvin, Leigh Sales and Annabel Crabb and technologists Clay Shirky and Martin Fowler. These bloggers have replaced the function of the editors of the papers and websites he used to read. Their role is to filter information from across the web and, in some cases, break news.

The value in these sources is that they come across a wide range of material in their roles as journalists, some of it exclusive and much  of it new. Damian says he finds these sources particularly valuable when their world view aligns with his.

“It’s like being able to strain and filter the great mass of the internet through a finely tuned set  of interests and topics,” he says.

“It cuts out the noise and it employs the best brains in the process of doing this … all at no cost and with minimal fuss.”

Damian stopped buying newspapers five years ago because he was being updated by the papers’ websites and mobile sites. Now he only reads papers in cafes at the weekend.

“There is a little something nostalgic missing from digital but it’s significantly outweighed by the benefits,” he says.

The two benefits he lists are timeliness of content and the ability to access content on-the-go.

He says branded news destinations have become less important to him since he started using Twitter as his primary news channel.

“I’m more interested in peer-reviewed content and the vetting that takes place on Twitter,” he says.

“I obviously note where a story is from and this helps frame how trustworthy it is. In a modern world where content is effectively unlimited – unlike 10-15 years ago – one needs tools or techniques to manage (information overload).”

Australian social aggregation news site The Wall  delivers an interesting and timely news mix by using social signals to drive its agenda. It’s certainly a handy editorial tool – one for website editors to include in their regular news sweeps. But it doesn’t filter out enough of the noise to be a viable consumer product in its current form.

Perhaps this idea of reducing information overload is something only those of us over a certain age care about. Maybe the next generation will be more naturally adept at picking the eyes out of the torrent of data.

Regardless of an audience’s level of comfort with the noise, its members will always need to discover information important to them and their peers. For some, this can be achieved through following a selection of Twitter bloggers. The danger comes when the selection is too narrow.

While it might be important to understand the dimensions of the European sovereign debt crisis, you also need to know when Kim Kardashian dresses up as Princess Leia.

As social media becomes a more influential news distribution channel, there are several broad implications for mainstream media strategy. Among them are:
1. Media businesses need to continue to invest in journalism
2. Part of this investment should go to creating shareable content
3. Marketing’s role changes as audiences distribute on behalf of outlets
4. The power of the article page increases as the homepage’s diminishes
5. Media brands wane as individual journalists’ brands grow
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Andrew Hunter

About Andrew Hunter

Andrew Hunter is Editor-in-Chief of Microsoft's MSN. Twitter: @Huntzie

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