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Is Twitter a radio station?

Perhaps inspired by its new report indicating that almost one in five Americans have listened to Internet radio in their cars, the Edison research group has a new revelation: Twitter is a form of broadcasting. Upon what evidence is this thesis based? The responses to a survey question that the outfit put to a sample cohort: “How often do you hear about Twitter feeds, commonly called tweets, through media such as TV, radio, newspapers, or websites other than Twitter?”

How often do you hear tweets mentioned in other media?44 percent answered “Almost Every Day.” 13 percent replied “Sometimes.” 16 percent responded “Regularly but Not Daily.” Eight percent said “Rarely.”

From this Edison’s Tom Webster construes the following:

Regardless of how you use Twitter, most Americans (as in an actual majority of Americans ) view Twitter as a purely broadcast network.

As such, Broadcasting is far from dead, and social isn’t killing it. Social is changing it, but in terms of how most Americans consume tweets, Twitter is just another cable network.

If you are measuring anything based upon unstructured data mined from Twitter (particularly influence), you are missing nearly 80% of the potential impact of Twitter by not taking the cross-media and offline impact of Tweets into account.

There is no question that Twitter has become part of radio. I hear hosts mention listener tweets all the time on various commercial and non-commercial talk radio shows. The same happens on TV. But I also hear those hosts mention e-mail questions on their programs. Does that make e-mail a broadcast network, too? How about text messages? How about online forum posts?

The notion that because Americans hear tweets mentioned on radio or cable TV, they experience Twitter as “just another cable network” is an unsupportable leap of logic. First, Twitter is a source of information that broadcast networks use, for sure. But fragmented and almost pointillistic in nature, Twitter is constantly telling you to go away and look at something else: a web post, a picture, a sound, a newspaper article, or a video. Twitter is a fast moving, jittery, cascade of signposts directing you to networks, but it isn’t a network itself.

Think about it. At nine PM at night, after a long day of work, what do you want to do: watch an HBO show like Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or listen to a TV host mention tweets? Would you really want to watch Jon Stewart respond to tweets on a regular basis (besides his college buddy Anthony Weiner’s). Sure, it’s fun to hear a tweet or two mentioned on your favorite radio program, but would you want the show to focus on them for a full half hour?

Second, consumers don’t just “consume” tweets, they produce them, and even crowd source them just like you do. This means that tweets aren’t just material for your radio station, they’re competition for your radio station. You mention somebody’s tweet, and a significant chunk of the Twitter mob will grab their TweetDeck search tool to find out who this person is. Next thing you know, some of your audience is gone.

This Edison research is useful, in that it sheds light on the extent to which Twitter has become part of the lingua franca of broadcasting. But I like to think of broadcast stations as places where you want to stick around and let someone else do the driving for a spell. That’s not Twitter—where we leave the driving to you, and the next thing a station program director knows, you are somewhere else.



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2 Responses to Is Twitter a radio station?

  1. Guise Faux April 28, 2012 at 3:38 am #

    Excellent observations.

    “There is no question that Twitter has become part of radio. I hear hosts mention listener tweets all the time on various commercial and non-commercial talk radio shows. The same happens on TV.”

    Other than on the Weather Channel during emergencies, most radio and TV news and talk show references to Twitter betray their desperation to seem hip. Local TV news has become so circuitously self-referential it’s little more than promos for upcoming shows on their networks with a few “Yikes! Be afraid!” stories.

    “Twitter is a fast moving, jittery, cascade of signposts directing you to networks, but it isn’t a network itself.”

    Love that sentence.

  2. PRC April 29, 2012 at 1:35 pm #

    “Think about it. At nine PM at night, after a long day of work, what do you want to do: watch an HBO show like Game of Thrones or Mad Men, or listen to a TV host mention tweets?”

    It depends if the host is Craig Ferguson or not. : V

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