Twitter broke the big rumor, but the microblogging site and Facebook were playing their aggressive roles in an evolving media ecosystem that still includes mainstream media
A Thousand Points of News
Looking at it as an ecosystem instead of as a competition reinforces the point that all these things feed into each other: TV reports are spread through Twitter while news that breaks on Twitter forms a part of TV and newspaper reports that try to summarize what has happened, and so forth. As one person put it on Sunday night: "Twitter breaks news.TV covers it." Leveraging the power of social media can help traditional news outlets find sources—such as the guy who unwittingly tweeted about the Abbottabad attack. Twitter and Facebook-style networks also helps the mainstream media distribute and promote their content, using network effects to their advantage.
At least one blogger said Twitter had experienced its "CNN moment" with the bin Laden news—a reference to how the all-news channel went mainstream during the first Gulf War.But Twitter has had a long series of CNN-style moments in the past couple of years, going back to Flight 1549's landing in the Hudson and followed by such varied disasters as the earthquake in Haiti and uprisings and outright revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya.In other words, the fact that Twitter is a news network is, well … not really news.
As my colleague, Stacey, pointed out in a post on Sunday night, the process by which this kind of event filters out through Twitter has become so commonplace that it now proceeds in well-defined stages: the rumors, the news break, the confirmation, and then the jokes and spinoff Twitter accounts (@OsamainHell, for one.) and so on.There's no question that the bin Laden news was big, peaking at more than 4,000 tweets per second during President Obama's speech, but it was not unprecedented.
As I tried to point out during the initial frenzy about social media and the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt, it's not really about Twitter or Facebook; it's about the power of the network.The bin Laden news case is yet another sign that the way we consume media has changed and is continuing to change.