Your Twitter timeline was previously populated with almost all of the tweets from accounts you follow, with the most recent updates at the top of the list. Now, you’ll see some tweets from accounts you don’t follow. Twitter selects those tweets based on a “variety of signals,” the details of which are immaterial to my argument. You can read all about the changes on Twitter’s blog post.
I suspect some longtime Twitter users will bemoan the sacrilegious tampering of the sacred timeline. We like a pure social stream. We like to see every drop of tweeted information as it makes its way down that stream. We don’t want Twitter littering the stream with unrequested junk.
So why am I glad for the change? One word: Netflix.
Netflix shares dropped 26.4% late Wednesday. Why? Because, according to The Wall Street Journal, the company failed to meet expected growth of new users. It didn’t lose customers. It actually gained 980,000 streaming customers in the U.S. and 2.04 million foreign customers. But those numbers fell short of the expected growth of 1.33 million and 2.36 million customers here and abroad, respectively.
I use Twitter every day. It’s a great tool. I want it to succeed. Since it’s a publicly traded company, that means that it has to keep its shareholders happy, it has to continue to grow.
In it’s most recent quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Twitter stated that if they were “unable to convince potential new users of the value and usefulness of our products and services,” that could “negatively affect user growth and engagement.”
The impetus for Twitter to filter is obvious: the service needs to show growth in both number of users and engagement in order to satisfy investors, and finding relevant content as a new user can be a challenge, which is why the company recently updated its so-called “on-boarding” process.
Through its years of consistent growth, Facebook has constantly changed the algorithm for its News Feed. Users complain, but new subscribers continue to sign up.
I haven’t detected any negative impact to my Twitter timeline, and tweets – all the tweets from the accounts I follow - are still showing up in reverse chronological order.
If Twitter needs to attract new customers, changing the timeline might be one way to make the service more appealing than it was to me when I first looked at it seven years ago. I don’t mind a timeline tweaked so slightly that I haven’t noticed a difference, if it means that Twitter can continue to grow.
Thousands of Orange County Register subscribers haven’t received their newspapers for the past few days (stories by the L.A. Times, O.C. Weekly and O.C. Register), so I thought it would be helpful to list some other ways those customers can get the news they’ve been missing.
The most obvious solution is to use the internet. People could visit the Register’s web site. They could go to Google and search for Orange County news. They can be more specific and query the search engine for news in their particular city.
For those married to the print medium, the Register has said that (paying) subscribers can visit the office in Santa Ana to pick up a “free” copy of the paper. People can also visit their local convenience store or hunt down a rare newspaper vending machine and purchase a copy of the Register or a competing publication.
Unfortunately, none of my suggestions are good ones.
Visit the Register’s Facebook page, or search Twitter for mentions of @ocregister. Customers have been using social media to complain about the problem. So-called “print customers” obviously know how to use the internet and social media. They know how to find the Register on Twitter. They know how to find the Register on Facebook. It’s safe to assume they know how to visit the Register website and read the news there.
The vocal print subscribers who use social media to complain about distribution problems don’t seem interested in a digital solution. Post after post makes it clear. They want what they signed up for, a newspaper delivered to their doorstep.
If there’s one thing this delivery debacle has taught us, it is this: there is a real demand for newspapers, even among people who use the internet and social media.
What’s the lesson?
So, if for some news consumers there is no substitute for printed news, what should the Register and other newspaper organizations take away as a lesson from this experience? I want to hear what you have to say. Leave a comment below or strike up a conversation on Twitter, where you can find me @ksablan.
A few weeks ago, I participated in #bufferchat, a weekly Twitter chat hosted by Buffer, a tool that schedules posts on social networks.
Nicole Miller (aka @nmillerbooks), a Buffer employee, recently thanked me for my participation. She asked for my address so she could send me some stickers. I got the goodies in the mail yesterday, along with the handwritten “thank you” note pictured above.