The Dangers of Web Neophilia

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

My job pretty much comes down to looking at all the new, shiny stuff on the internet, and figuring out how we can use it to garner traffic (or, more often, the right traffic), and then use that to make some money. In my experience, new social media tends to be additive rather than replacing what went before. We’re still making active and successful use of forums, which are prehistoric in web terms, and, in some markets, blogging is just hitting its stride, despite the fact that those social media superstars were declaring it passé two years ago…. Successful new services rarely replace older one, they just push them into a smaller niche.

Now, there’s no doubt that service like Twitter are important to many of us. A recent chat with Suw and Kevin suggested that they are seeing the same thing that I am: really significant traffic spikes come from Twitter these days, rather than a link from another blog. But, in the end, the same thing that makes Twitter so accessible – short posts, easy to access – is what limits is value. Followers are an easy and gratifying measure of success – but they don’t necessarily translate into influence or any form of audience. And for those of us with a strong impulse to express ourselves at greater length, it can be a greater feeder for our blogs, rather than something that replaces them.

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Indeed, much to my surprise, one thing I genuinely though was being replaced by Twitter – my RSS reader – has suddenly taken on a new life since I got hold of an iPad. NewsRack, the feed reader I use (right), is the application I use most on the device. If my iPad is to hand, I’m flicking through feeds throughout the day. As a result, I’ve found myself reading and commenting on blogs more than I have done in years.

In life, there’s room for long, in-depth conversations, and short chats. Scribbled notes and novels both have their place in life, as do lectures and and quick demos. Anyone who seriously through that the short-form, restricted discourse of the microblogging and social network service would become the only form of online discussion that mattered clearly hadn’t spent enough time looking at the way people actually behave.

Thanks to Nancy Williams for some banter on Twitter which helped me crystallise my thoughts on this. She’s published her own take on the issue.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.