Like most Americans I remember September 11, 2001 with complete clarity. I was driving to my first class of the morning. My normal morning radio talk show had been replaced by live reports of what was happening at the WTC. I completed my commute glued to the radio, passively listening to the reports and feeling a giant knot in my throat. Classes were cancelled that day and Myself, and everyone I knew, sat glued to the TV for the next 72 hours as the country went on lock-down.
What a Difference a Decade Makes
Fast forward about a decade to the night Bin Laden was killed. I was glued not to the Radio, but to Twitter on my iPhone. I was not passively listening, but rather I was engaged in a global conversation. In fact, a guy live tweeted the whole thing going down. My wife and I didn’t turn on the TV for almost 12 hours. When we finally did turn on the TV we were met with news outlets desperately trying to fill the time with stale information. Everything they were saying we had already learned via Twitter and Facebook. Mashable asked their readers how they heard about Bin Laden’s death more than 50 percent heard it through Twitter or Facebook first. Twitter released a graph displaying a ramp up to 12.4 Million tweets per hour.
Let’s think about this for a moment. In 10 years time a not insignificant number of people have fundamentally changed how they keep up with breaking news. But it is more than just how we hear about news, its how we are now engaged in the news. TV and radio are largely consumption. Twitter, Facebook, and their ilk are largely engagement. We now actively participate in the transfer of information by retweeting and posting on walls. Our followers and friends are becoming the primary source of news.
Passive to Interactive
2011 is the tipping point for news going moving from a passive consumption to personal and interactive. Much or the information flowing out of the middle east is via social media. Our trusted news sources are increasingly becoming our social media connections. At the same time our distrust of traditional media outlets continues to grow. Twitter in particular has made news a conversation where people living the news can send out updates as it happens, and we can respond to them. This kind of real-time direct interaction on a global scale didn’t exist 10 years ago, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down. That’s why I believe news has permanently changed, and we will increasingly default to interactive news sources over passive news sources.
What is Next
Those in tech know one thing for sure. 10 years is a lifetime for technology. Twitter is not new, but mature in tech years. This begs the question, how will news of big events be delivered 10 years from now? I think we will we see a swing back to curation (like today’s news) but with much greater interaction.