The Boston Globe and 140 Seconds on Twitter

WBUR (via their Twitter account) noted that Alex Beam wrote an article about Twitter in The Boston Globe. I knew it was going to be an amusing read based on the tweet:

“Boston Globe columnist slams Twitter:” (@wbur)

In case you haven’t seen it yet, Twitter is a micro-sharing website where you describe in 140 characters or less what you’re up to. You can send and receive messages via SMS (text messages) on your phone, through Twitter’s website and third-party applications such as Twitterific. If you want to talk “with” someone on Twitter, you add @theirusername to the front of the message and it shows up in the person’s replies tab. This was a feature that was added several months after Twitter first launched in 2006 based upon how people ended up actually using the service. That’s been the consistent story for Twitter — it’s definitely evolved beyond “I’m making an omelet for breakfast” to now include sharing info about late breaking news, making plans with a group of cohorts, etc.

I was one of the first users of Twitter — I signed up in August or September of 2006. (Twitter briefly noted your sign-up date but didn’t keep that tidbit around for very long, for whatever reason.) I wasn’t expecting to really use it much. At the time there weren’t a lot of users and even if there were — who cares what I’m up to?

Fast forward to today and I have 1,877 followers. That’s not the 3930204932 follows (only a slight exaggeration) that people like Robert Scoble or Chris Brogan have — but it’s still a decent number of people who want to receive my brief alerts. For me, the tipping point happened at South by Southwest Interactive in 2007 when a bunch of us used Twitter to quickly make meetup plans. A few months later I was interviewed on CNN talking about using Twitter. They definitely took the “Twitter fan girl” angle on the story but it had a little more depth than Alex Beam’s article in today’s Boston Globe. Probably because CNN talked to both Twitter HQ and its users. Amazing!

I can understand Alex’s initial assessment if he was just a regular Twitter user writing about it on his personal blog. But he’s a journalist who gets paid to write about this stuff. There are a lot of people in the greater Boston area using Twitter and it would not have been that difficult to reach out to a few of us to gather more research about the article. Doing a search for “Boston” currently shows 5,357 users who have Boston noted in their name or location. (That doesn’t count people in the greater Boston area who don’t specifically note Boston as their location. I’m in Watertown, for example.) Journalists have power with their words — many people who aren’t that online savvy will read Alex’s article and dismiss checking out Twitter. I think that’s unfortunate.

If you are on Twitter and want to get alerts about local “Tweetups” — check out @BostonTweeters. You can find and follow me as @Sooz.

6 replies on “The Boston Globe and 140 Seconds on Twitter”

I did the same thing at my blog. Alex didn’t spend much time on the site, thus his review. He HAD to write this story because it’s trendy. Once something makes the mainstream media, it’s old news. Alex had to write this story, took a few minutes to troll around, and came up with his assessment. Pretty poor reporting in my opinion, especially someone has regarding in the journo world as he is.

You captured my concern—that thousands of people would read that column and dismiss it. It would have been great if he’d talked to a few local users.

Good job.

Alex totally doesn’t get it and his article shows how little research he put into it…not even a conversation with someone who is a power user. Pretty sad for a newspaper that once was so great. And he belittles it as “something other people do, mainly younger people” how old is he? Is the interweb that confusing? Does he really not understand the business potential of Twitter–even Jeff Bezos invested in it. And! He totally missed the Comcastcares story–that is an easy Google search–and he calls himself a journalist.

Maybe he needs help from Cindy McCain when it comes to these new fangled technologies.


Great post! I just read the article and laughed through the whole thing. The late-breaking news I’ve read and both professional and personal contacts I’ve made on Twitter have changed many elements of my life. But that would’ve had happened if I didn’t give Twitter a chance. And clearly Alex Beam didn’t. I’m curious to see what the rest of the backlash is like as the article gets shared on – shockingly – Twitter.

Hey @bigguyd, Laurel, Al and @meredithk1981 …

Thanks so much for the comments! I felt a little ridiculous giving this story a lot of attention because I know he probably didn’t have a lot of space to write much of an in-depth story but … damn … it just seemed extra underwhelming.

I emailed him and pointed him to this entry so maybe he’ll be inspired to do a follow-up story.

Anyone want to take bets on what’s going to be around in 10 years: micro-blogging or the print version of “The Boston Globe”?

Blogs received the same sort of derision early on. Now those same reporters wish they had a spot on HuffPo.

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