Is Twitter becoming a broadcaster?

Philippa Dunjay
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TWITTER is pushing live video streaming
Twitter is making a major push into live streaming (Source: Getty)

Twitter is moving heavily into the broadcast space, making a bet that its strength lies in real-time news.

The joy of Twitter has always been its stream of pithy commentary around current events, with Twitter Moments the latest attempt to curate and editorialise those stories.

Certainly, Twitter has always been able to break and spread news stories much faster than traditional channels, and in an increasingly always-on world, the speed of new information is critical.

Read more: Now you can get Twitter on your TV screen

Snapping at Twitter’s heels are both Facebook – with its recently launched Trending stories – and Snapchat, which partners with existing media owners on featured channels. Facebook’s scale of distribution means it can make or break an entire news network: Upworthy, which had half of their website traffic wiped out after Facebook tweaked its algorithm.

And Snapchat is already a natural leader in mobile video, dominating broadcasting to the young.

Live streaming both the Republican and Democratic conventions inside Twitter was a huge step for the platform.

Video will be crucial to the success of Twitter – largely because advertisers demand it – and mobile video especially. A streaming experience like this finally collapses the gap between watching TV and Tweeting about it.

But as half of young adults say they get their news off social networks first, it begins to raise questions how Twitter will editorialise and moderate news.

Read more: The media consumption tipping point has arrived: TV ditched for smartphones

Already celebrities have had to repeatedly deny their own deaths on Twitter. What happens when a national news event spins off into false rumour? Who fact-checks the trending topics? And who decides what makes the news, and what doesn’t?

Twitter has also struggled with managing trolls and abuse – witness Robin Williams’ daughter being bullied off the platform after her father’s death. Turning on the live stream of news may take an unexpected toll on its subjects.