Twitter: To Be or Not to Be by Ron Steinman

Twitter is in trouble. It is not enough that it has more than 300 million monthly users and is the darling of the Internet intelligentsias. There have been management changes at the top. Investors want more revenue. Twitter has never made a profit. It lives off those who invest in it. Is it a niche or something more? It is that simple. What should Twitter do? Should we care?

Twitter as a company is imploding. Still the darling of critics, though many are telling Twitter what the embattled social media site should do to polish what had once been a high sheen. Commentators are advising how Twitter should change to become something it never envisioned being and how this micro blogging service should move forward in the face of social media competition. As an investor, you may think that is all to the good. Maybe that is not the case.

Until now Twitter has been freewheeling, enough to allow people to react impulsively to events large and small, to ideas major and minor, all usually without much thought. When thought accompanies a tweet, it is usually to promote a product, a happening or, excuse me, even some potted philosophical notion, something the twitterarti is good at doing.

For all the tweets each day, Twitter deals with nothing important. That is worrisome enough. It worries me more when Twitter deals with the news. I don’t trust tweets about news events. It comes down to no one is watching the henhouse when the guards are asleep. Twitter is unregulated. Dangerous at its worst, it is impossible to control. There are no gatekeepers in Twitter’s world. They probably will never exist. The hoax abounds on Twitter.

Without gatekeepers, no one should trust news reports that erupt on Twitter without anyone vetting what is in the tweet. Professional journalists are at fault for trying to be first with the news rather than trying to be accurate. The companies they work for have to share the blame. Competition is at times more important than accuracy in the increasingly dominant world of digital news purveyors. I do not think that will change because in the new world of journalism, the audience count is more important than the truth. Investors care little for accuracy and truth and only about profits. They are concerned about where Twitter is heading. Investors who smell big money are in the lead to affect changes to Twitter. They hope to succeed.

Equally important is the idea that many commentators are offering ideas that will intensify multitasking to save Twitter. It is not enough for these writers to allow Twitter to exist as a messaging system. Investors and critics want Twitter to distinguish itself by becoming different from what it now is. They want Twitter to become part of the action – either at a concert, a movie, a play, and especially a live sporting event. In other words, tweet thoughts, ideas, likes and dislikes during the event. That for me spells failure. It is great that you have an opinion. Not so great that when tweeting, you miss a portion of the action. But care not. The advertiser gets a piece of the action. Money changes hands. Multitasking increasingly derided by study after study wins the day. The enjoyment of watching an event comes in second to the event itself. After all, repeated slow motion of what just happened seems equally important and energizing, as does the real thing. Not for me.

If Twitter changes, it will not affect my life. I do not tweet. In the increasingly crowded terrain of the digital world it is not clear the kind of player Twitter will be in the future. Twitter is unique. For now, at least, there is nothing in the offing to replace Twitter. For some it had better change fast or who knows, it might die before another digital darling replaces it.

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