Journalists and newspapers should be wary of relying on Twitter to disseminate new stories. Last week, the micro-blogging site mislabeled the Philadelphia City Paper as spam and disconnected all links to news articles, prompting some of the paper’s journalists to hold off on publishing stories, since it will not get the proper attention via Twitter.
In fact, the paper had to create a temporary Tumblr site in order to tweet new stories. Sadly, the Philadelphia City Paper is not the only account that has noticed the undesirable spam notice.
What’s troubling is that many newspapers and blogs rely heavily on social traffic in order to gain readers’ attention. In fact, going viral requires Twitter and Facebook clicks – so if your site is shut out of these sites, it’s nearly impossible to gain readership. In an interview with The Atlantic, Daniel Denvir, journalist at the Philadelphia City Paper, expresses the challenges of being reliant on private, social platforms:
Our webpage is not many people’s homepage, the way nytimes.com is. Our articles that have the most impact—say my discovery a few weeks ago that a sixth-grader had died after allegedly falling sick at one of our resource-starved schools with no nurse on duty—get attention because they are shared.
It had never really hit home for me before that we all depend on these external social media entities, controlled by private companies, to provide a service that is now integral to publishing news online. It is not a service we pay for. It is not a service that we—or for that matter anyone else—can provide internally. So being shut out of Twitter, the best we can do is beg via online forms and hope that they let us back in soon. It’s really strange.
Denvir was unable to get beyond Twitter’s automatic message when the problem first occurred, but since The Atlantic interview was published, Twitter was prompt to fix the error within hours.
Twitter’s spam troubles might just be the beginning. As recently as last month, users noticed that they were no longer able to send URLs within direct messages – a ban that resulted when URL spam were sent to massive amounts of users. The patch? A temporary ban on URL links within direct messages. Let’s hope Twitter sort all of their spam woes soon.