How will the Twitter-Google partnership affect journalism?

Twitter, investors, Wall Street, social media, Alex Veeneman, Kettle Mag
Written by Alex Veeneman

Twitter and Google announced 5 February that the social network would partner with the search engine to incorporate tweets into real time live searches. The partnership was announced ahead of its recent fiscal earnings report, as investors in the United States raised concerns about whether Twitter chief executive Dick Costolo and his colleagues could expand user growth.

It is unclear when the feature will be implemented onto Google, though according to a report from The New York Times, Costolo indicated it would not begin for at least a few months. Twitter did not respond to a request seeking comment on a timeline for this feature.

Twitter had a similar partnership with Google from 2009 to 2011, according to a report from the financial news web site Bloomberg, but renewal of the partnership at the time fell through because of concerns on controlling the social network’s content.

Committed to Twitter

As this partnership prepares to come into effect for the first time in nearly 5 years, what are the implications for journalists who have come to use Twitter to help source content?

Reached by telephone, Alison Battisby, a London based social media consultant and founder of the firm Avocado Social, says 90 per cent of journalists in the UK use Twitter to source their stories, whether they are appearing in print or online, heard on the radio or seen on TV.

“People that are using Twitter in the UK are using it regularly,” Battisby said. “If you are a Twitter user, you are logging in more than once a day, and you’re also looking at it on your phone. People who use Twitter are committed to it every day.”

Battisby says however there is still a large audience in the UK that are sceptical of it. Twitter had done a lot of specific outreach to users, notably during the World Cup, giving fans unique ways to interact during the matches. Battisby says an issue leading to growth concerns is the language of Twitter, including retweet, hashtag, and at mentions, and more education of it may be necessary.

Yet, Battisby sees the deal as positive, and allows Twitter to feature prominently in search, which will benefit the social network.

“If you look back at the reasons why Twitter was founded, they did it because people could talk to people in other parts of the world and connect – allowing the world feel like one place,” Battisby said. “There are positive ways by growing user base – there is a need for humanity to feel more connected.”

An extra platform

In a journalism context, there is some uncertainty. In a telephone interview, Beth Ashton, social media editor of the Manchester Evening News, says it will take a bit of time before the overall impact on social media journalism can be truly measured.

“You see it, monitor it, and then take a strategy from it,” Ashton said. “It will take a bit of time.”

Ashton says that the partnership could change the flow of search traffic and SEO, or search engine optimisation. In addition to traffic and content access, it would also see benefits for Google, in allowing it to catch up on the value of breaking news.

“For there to be a secondary platform that works as quickly in real time, you will see it catching up in breaking news,” Ashton said. “There’s a massive opportunity to follow the story and for our content to be seen. Traffic would be exponential on Google. It’s an extra platform for content.”

Ashton notes that despite the benefits, there are some concerns for news organisations and traffic to their content, with it all dependent on how the feature is rolled out.

“It’s a bit concerning if the tweet results are prioritised above news organisations and if it skews what you’re trying to search for,” Ashton said. “It depends on how it’s prioritised.”

On the whole, in spite of the uncertainty, Twitter can be viable in the social media market in the UK in the long term, which signals good news for news organisations engaging with users on the platform.

“There are passionate users,” Battisby said. “They can’t live without it. I can’t see it disappearing anytime soon.”

What do you think of the partnership? How do you see this affecting Twitter in a journalism setting? Have your say in the comments section below.