When newspapers (should have) invented Twitter

A story I wish were true:

In early 2006, a committee of reporters, editors and web specialists at a
major U.S. newspaper chain gathered in room for a week to brainstorm ways to
adapt the new social media trends to the future of their news business.

After much discussion about possible changes to their own sites and
portfolio of web content, they arrived at the much bigger idea: Create something
not just on their sites. Something suited for promoting and spreading news, but
usable for all types of communication and sharing. Create a platform that does
not require news sharing, but naturally encourages it by making it easy and
useful. Let anyone join and share and choose who else they want to hear

They did it. And the number of users and visits grew 1000% a year. It
unleashed an audience and appetite for the newspapers' chief commodity -- what's
happening now and why. It even created unexpected benefits of being able to
monitor the users' ongoing conversation trends and receive news leads.

Suddenly Google and venture capital firms were interested in pumping
millions of dollars into expanding the service -- a growth spot that helped the
company weather a brutal recession that would strike the industry hard in late

Newspapers should have invented Twitter. But they didn't (for familiar reasons -- "Mad-Cash Cow Disease" being a main one. The print game was so good for so long that it sapped any "fierce urgency of now" to steer yesterday's 25% profit margins into tomorrow's innovations.)

Instead, three guys named Biz Stone (@Biz), Jack Dorsey (@Jack) and Evan Williams (@Ev) were the ones in 2006 who devised a system built on sharing short bursts of information. They called it Twitter. (A few years before, @Ev created this system I'm blogging on)

Though they missed the chance to create and own it, newspapers still can seize the chance to use this information-sharing medium to share their information in new ways. In fact, they must. Specific Twitter strategies will be topics for another day.

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