New Twitter formalizes news wire service function

What started as a simple, chronological Twitter timeline of your friends’ short messages is now actively curating the news and information that flows through the social network.

Twitter's new "discover" page shows trending news and content that may interest me, based on who I follow and where I'm located.

As part of a major redesign, Twitter is launching a new “discover” section -- a personalized stream of news stories and other information “based on your current location, what you follow and what’s happening in the world.”

In other words, it’s acting like a news service. Raw information meets (automated) editorial judgment, and out comes a digital front page of headlines, photos, videos or hashtags it thinks a user will be interested in.

Twitter took some baby steps this way by featuring related top stories in search results. But this is a big leap, and has positive implications for news publishers hoping to reach audiences through Twitter. Here’s how the new Twitter will affect them.

More potential to drive traffic to news stories

While some news organizations embrace the intangible benefits of engagement and interactivity, most are on Twitter primarily to drive traffic to their stories. The discover section promises to do that more effectively, as people who might have missed the specific tweets in their stream about a news story will still see it showcased in the discover section.

Easier to find newsy photos and video

When you select a trending phrase or hashtag from the discover section, search results now show “top images” and “top video” in addition to top stories. In the case of today’s Virginia Tech shooting, it surfaces some firsthand pictures and video from the scene.

More value for the “lurkers” and “listeners”

One of Twitter’s problems is retaining new users. People sign up, and then freeze because they have nothing to say, or don’t see the value unless they take time to follow people and gain their own followers.

The new discover section helps solve that problem. It delivers much more value for the people who like to get information on Twitter instead of broadcasting, and it provides some immediate usefulness to the new user who’s still figuring out the point of tweeting.

If Twitter can get more users and keep them, all the better for news organizations and others investing time to build a presence there.

Embeddable tweets

Tweets are now easy to embed.

Journalists love Storify, for good reason, to tell a story using tweets and other social media. But sometimes you just want to embed one or two tweets in a story, and the new Twitter (finally) supports that.

Each tweet’s permalink page (get there by clicking the "details" link on any tweet in your stream) has a link to get an embed code for the tweet.

Brand pages

Twitter is also starting a pilot of a new, special type of profile page for companies and brands, Ad Age reports. Twenty-one companies, none of them news publishers, are in a pilot program.

The brand pages have an extra full-width header image, so a company can feature its logo or promote a product (or a media company can run an ad?). They also get to choose a featured tweet that sticks at the top of their stream.

No word on when others, including news organizations, can get access to those brand pages.

If you don't have access to the new version of Twitter on the Web yet, you can see these features by downloading the latest iPhone or Android app.

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    Jeff Sonderman

    Jeff Sonderman is the deputy director of the American Press Institute, helping to lead its use of research, tools, events, and strategic insights to advance and sustain journalism.


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