News: RSS versus Twitter

Written on September 16, 2010 at 02:50 pm

An interesting issue noted by Dave Winer via Daring Fireball:

Why does Twitter work better for news than Google Reader? Simple, Twitter gives you what’s new now. You don’t have to hunt around to find the newest stuff. And it doesn’t waste your time by telling you how many unread items you have. Who cares. (It’s like asking how many NYT articles you haven’t read. It would be gargantuan. I don’t bother you with the number of Scripting News posts you haven’t read, so why does Google?)

I have to respectfully disagree on this. I look at news, and particularly RSS feeds, as something I don’t want to miss. So the unread counts are very important to me for what I consider my top tier feeds. I don’t want to miss any entry in certain feeds. Just like when I read a newspaper or magazine, I’m going to look at the headline for every story. Maybe it is something to do with being trained as a journalist.

News to me is important. And 99% of the time it is written. I don’t watch TV. I don’t listen to the radio. I hate sound bites. And what else is Twitter but sound bites for the Internet? Or chat? I guess that’s why I’ve never even signed up for twitter until this month, and that’s because I needed to use it to register for a couple of websites (which should really use OpenID instead).

I can’t fathom getting news via Twitter or only wanting the newest stuff. You’ll miss out on lots of important stuff if you are incommunicado for a few days or even a week (like when I just moved). I was without Internet access for over a week, leaving on Sept 1. So if I just used tweets for news instead of RSS, I’d know nothing about Ping, the new iPods, the change in the iOS developer license, etc.

IMHO, Twitter is for Paris Hilton, Justin Bieber (whoever that is), and as a group replacement for instant messaging. Same for TV News. I prefer RSS and old-school journalism like The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly, Mother Jones, and Bill Moyers. Twitter is the USA Today of online news.