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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Twitter as a newsroom communication tool

Following on from looking at Twitter as a news delivery mechanism, I've been reading Paul Bradshaw's thoughts on using it as a communication tool in newsrooms.

He suggests signing up editors and reporters to Twitter accounts with mobile access and having them follow one another. That way they can give and take direction, file updates on where they are and what they're working on, and ask each other for tips, contacts, information.

This is not an entirely new idea. The topline instant message systems built into older print and radio CMSs have long given reporters a way to talk to each other instantly, directly and succinctly.

Twitter's different only in that it's web-based and mobile so you can take it with you wherever you go (give or take a few connectivity black spots). And it's group-based so you can have as few or as many people in your network as you want.

Obvious drawbacks raised by one commenter were that some people would see it as 'being watched' and resent having to participate; others would file updates only to look busy.

Fair point. It can sometimes be better to introduce tools rather than impose them - ie make a range of tools available and see which ones stick. That way there's more ownership and less friction: 'design for how people really are.' Early adopters have a way of catching others up in their enthusiasm and once enough people find the tool useful it will gain traction and can then become officially adopted.

Another current drawback is that you can't have multiple Twitter profiles on a single email account, so if a journalist wanted to keep work and private life separate they'd have to have two Twitter identities using different email accounts, which is a real faff.

The final hazard would be the IT department getting wind of it: they'd probably put it on the banned list.

Perhaps an in-house version might be better for newsroom communication, with Twitter best used as a tool for individual journalists to tell people what they're working on and ask for ideas and help not just from colleagues but their Twitter buddies and the blogosphere as well.