Thursday, February 12, 2009

New Communications

Will Leitch, in his February 16th New York Magazine article, “How Tweet It Is”, brings up a point that has been on my mind all week, despite having only gotten around to reading his story today.

I once watched a Cardinals game with him as part of the New York City Cardinals’ Fan Club, so I feel comfortable calling him Will, not Mr. Leitch, as I write this.

Will’s story sums up corporate culture at Twitter, gives the 30 second elevator speech on what Twitter is, and then asks whether we’re ready, as a culture, to adopt the concept behind twitter as the new wave of communication.

In short, Will asks if we’re ready to adopt a “New Communication” that will mean no more old-fashioned news rooms, no more delays from the time news happens to the time publications release stories, and more free, real-time, peer-to-peer information exchange.

Will uses the Flight 1549 crash into the Hudson River as an example, because the story wasn’t broken by a print newspaper or by any major publication online. It was broken by one man who happened to see the plane crash into the river, pull out his camera, TwitPic the crash, and then tweet about it.

The fact of that matter is that this story didn’t wait for a newsroom editor to send a reporter out to cover the story, then burn midnight oil to edit the story for release in the morning paper. This story broke in real time, which brings me to the thing I’ve been thinking about this week in my own organization:

In a world where news breaks so quickly, and in such raw form, how relevant are our traditional practices of writing and editing press releases before disseminating information at times deemed institutionally appropriate?

The more tightly institutions hold onto information, the deeper they’ll be slitting their own wrists in the long run. Organizations must find betters balances between the way information has traditionally been controlled and released, and the way that new audiences seek to engage with that information.

The days of two-page, perfectly edited press releases may not be over quite yet, but they are certainly numbered. The sooner non-profits recognize and adapt to these change in immediacy and informality of New Communications, the further towards the front of the field they’ll remain.

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