Monday, Twitter released its new headlines feature that allows users to directly access outside sources behind the topic of a tweet. The new feature will make it easier for users to connect to further reading on a topic. That is, if they are aware of the feature.
Twitter being a “micro-blogging” network emphasizes short, one or two line posts. These posts, or tweets, may initially appear to a user as disconnected to the overall topic being discussed on the social media site unless the user is already engaged in the conversation. Tweets that link to the original source of a topic are often limited to that source, unless the one who initiated the tweet manually included several links which is unlikely since a tweet is only allowed so many characters. In casual conversation this may not be such a big deal. But when discussing an important issue in the news, a truly informed person wants to hear as many sides of the story as possible especially if the post is based on a media source that many may consider biased or unreliable.
Now that Twitter has introduced its new headlines feature, users have a better opportunity to look at a variety of sources behind a tweet’s topic. The feature provides a larger context for the tweet. "It lists and links to websites where the Tweet was embedded, making it easier to discover stories that provide more context,” says Brian Wallerstein, Twitter software engineer. A user can access the feature by clicking the “Details” option of a tweet which will open the permalink, the tweet’s own page which includes a URL. At the bottom of the permalink will be a list labeled “Related headlines” which consists of links to other websites that discuss the topic and have the tweet embedded in them.
But is the “Related headlines” feature pronounced enough? Do enough users know about the “Details” option to where they will click into it to discover the new feature? Again, Twitter is primarily a micro-blogging site and so most users are going to think only to click on whatever topic-related links are up front rather than on a more general category link such as “Details”.
Even users representative of major media sites may not be aware of what “Details” contains. It’s true that “not all tweets will have related headlines” and “only tweets popular or relevant enough to have been embedded in a post” will, says Kurt Wagner in his article at Mashable.com. However, your Examiner clicked into several permalinks of top tweets from famous media sources such as “The New Yorker” and “NBC News” and even ones from more common users such as @FreeBradManning, all of which discuss the Chelsea Manning transgender issue. None seemed to be using the headlines feature as of the writing of this article. But then, after all, the feature has been available for not even a week yet.
If users are made aware enough about the “Related headlines” feature then Twitter may be taking a big step up in mass media as well as online media since the feature will allow web authors to connect their sites to other people’s tweets under a given topic. But for that to happen Twitter will either have to move the new list of links to the front of the tweet rather than limit it to the permalink, or it will have to announce it up front more such as on the home or sign-in pages.
If you enjoyed this article then please click "Subscribe" above to receive updates!