Drinking from the firehose – of information

I have always been a bit of a news fiend. Originally with extensive periodical/magazine subscriptions, I then started reading news online particularly via RSS feeds. I then had to mourn their loss as these were largely culled in favour of social media… and as a result, I now have now become glued to Twitter.

Twitter has undoubtedly become indispensable and a firehose of information.

Constantly checking the latest developments, often a day before being reported in mainstream media and 2 days before anything in print, I find it somewhat addictive.

This is all part of this accelerating feedback cycle we also see in business. More data, more opinions, all the time. We have become to expect a level in recency of data, that was only available previously via very expensive Bloomberg or Reuters terminals… and as a result, I have been watching Elon Musk’s takeover with some interest.

Just a blue tick?

Now I admitted don’t have a lot of Twitter followers and I also don’t have a blue tick.
Would I like one, probably, would I pay $8 a month for one, probably not.

However, the whole debate about the ‘blue tick’ and its value is interesting, not just because of the tick itself, but also what it says about customers/suppliers and products/users. Essentially there appear to be two points of view.

  • On one hand. Those with a blue tick, already verified and with benefits, are saying… “why should I pay for something I have already… I have worked hard to get a wide following, and it reflects my status… don’t want to be impersonated”. I would feel the same.
  • On the other. For those without a blue tick… “I also don’t want to be impersonated. I don’t have any benefits because and feel like a second-class citizen, just because I am not famous enough to have one and I would be quite happy to be verified”… (not bitter here btw, no not at all! lol 🙂 )
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I suspect most of both groups would be quite happy to pay for verification, although $8 a month does seem expensive for what appears after all as a news feed.

Just a news feed?

However, underlying this seemingly straighforward adjustment is a wider change and approach to the business model. It has clarified thinking around suppliers, customers, products, and users.

  • Those with a blue tick are now suppliers/customers – supplying information/posts, and for a fee getting extra visibility
  • Those without, now users, those whom the blue tick group are looking to engage, and therefore also the product.

Much of this was blurred before. We muddled through. But, it is now clear and as a result, by extension, we can now expect the following

  • More major corporate and media companies dominating on Twitter, feeding information and links to drive people to their sites and products (and measurable click-throughs to measure any return)
  • More reporting on user demographics, and targeting, for posts
  • Payment for these products, within the Twitter ecosystem(?)
  • Non-blue tick users – now more restricted to commenting and sharing, all as a measure of engagement with those suppliers (with blue ticks).

For much of my interaction with the platform, all of this is fine. I mainly comment, share and read posts anyway.

However, there is an issue and it will not be with news posts from major media outlets, but from those people on the ground, in the know.

These are the source of much of my accelerated news and most are without huge followings or resources. Like me, they are unlikely to pay $8 a month, but without them it could undermine some of the most valuable content on the platform, making Twitter less unique and less useful. We will have to wait and see.

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A lesson for the rest of us?

Yet, there is a lesson for us in watching all of this unfold.

  • Despite growing to a huge size, maybe Twitter did not understand fully who its suppliers, users, customers, and products were clearly enough. This is important, do this early, before this becomes too hard.
  • Clarifying the model, making it much simpler, allows you to see more clearly into the future and what needs to be done.
  • However, making this too simplistic, may also mean you undermine your core business proposition. Understand inter-related moving parts and be honest about what your product is really used for, why and by whom.

The end of Twitter… the end of an era?

Of course, all of this may also be a moot point… the mood music last week was that Twitter may not be around much longer… even Elon Musk was talking about bankruptcy.

With both Twitter (and Facebook) making layoffs, it feels, in some ways, the end of another era… Dot.com_v2, if you will. Is this another bubble is bursting and will we see a return to normality for working environments and salaries in the sector (and by extension influencing other sectors too)? Maybe, this could be a sign.

These companies started in an era where there was unbridled optimism in digital technology, openly sharing ideas, and data, building products quickly, and failing faster.

We may be returning to a more mature, risk-averse, if not slightly inward-looking, approach… it certainly matches the current economic mood.

For one, I hope not, as it has given us such amazing change and it will be hard to go back. This, however, may be upon us, we will just have to wait and see.

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For now, I am being forced to contemplate life without Twitter, and a return to an earlier time. Where I will get my news updates… maybe I will get my RSS feeds back… or even better, maybe even the return of the tea trolley, but that is a story for another day!

Have a good week everyone.

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