Is Twitter Killing Political News?

The rapid spread of information on Twitter is challenging POLITICO's business model.

An Ad Week profile on Ben Smith argues that Twitter is killing the political news business model.

If there is such a thing as the prototypical political news blogger, then he’s it. Smith didn’t quite invent the form, but over the six years he’s been blogging—first for The New York Observer, then the New York Daily News, and now for Politico—he’s helped make it what it is today. He is, in the words of Kevin Sheekey, the head of government relations and communications for Bloomberg L.P., “the father of political blog journalism.”

Now, though, Smith is concerned that blogging may not havemuch of a future. Since the early days of the 2008 campaign, Smithhas distinguished himself by being first to the news. Having a jump on the competition of even just five minutes has made all the difference, he says. But a lot has changed since 2008.

Twitter, Smith says, is “sort of draining the life from the blog.”

“Where people were hitting refresh on my blog because they wanted to see what my latest newsbreak was, now they’ll just be on Twitter, and I’ll tweet it out and they’ll see it there,” he says. “What I’m doing right now is just incredibly old school. I might as well have ink all over my fingers and be setting type.”

It’s true that Twitter has made it less necessary for the impatient to hit refresh on go-to news sites. I hardly ever go to the Drudge Report anymore and there are no original content sites that have the urgency they did a few years back. The rise of aggregators like GoogleNews, YahooNews, and Memeorandum was already having that impact and Twitter has only added to it. I now find almost all the “breaking” stories on Twitter first.

But so what?

Presumably, Smith is getting fewer pageviews if people are only going to his stories when they’re out rather than checking manically many times a day to see if he’s written anything. While that may be unfortunate for his business model, it’s a net boon to humanity.

Further, if Smith’s only value-added were that he had the same stories as everyone else five minutes before they did . . . well, that’s really not much value added. Instead, however, he’s reporting on and aggregating a lot of stories of interest to his audience on a daily basis and added quick insights.

The number of stories that we’ve “broken” on OTB over these past eight-and-a-half years has to number under a dozen. But that’s not and never has been our model. Instead, we spend a lot of time reading sifting through content, highlight the ones that interest us and we think might interest our audience and try to add valuable commentary.

Twitter is competing with OTB in the sense that it’s taking away time that I might otherwise spend crafting one more article. And there are one-liners that I tweet and don’t bother to blog. But it’s also a good venue for generating insights for blog posts and promoting them to audiences that might not have otherwise seen them.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Ben Wolf says:

    Smith is effectively complaining that anonymous government officials and propagandists no longer need rely on him and the establishment press to mindlessly repeat anything they’re told without question. Those anonymous officials and propagandists can communicate their disinformation directly to the people now.

    Perhaps instead of being paid parrots squawking for dribblets of “access”, Smith and his fellow stenographers could try actual investigative journalism. Here’s a hint, Ben: it adds value to the tripe you typically print word-for-word.

  2. ponce says:

    quick insights

    The blogger’s oxymoron?

    I think blogs lost out years ago to Facebook, Twitter’s real rival.

  3. EddieInCA says:

    The sooner Politico dies, the better we’ll all be.

    Their brand of “journalism” is to take everything down to “He Said/He Said”. There is no journalism – only stenography.

  4. Seems like people like Smith just refuse to evolve with the current trends.