Imagine you’re a reporter and you suddenly witness a major news event occurring right before your eyes. Do you snap it to the wire, file a story to your website, or tweet it out to your followers? If you’re at the AP, you damn well better not choose the latter.
In a perfect world, you’d want to do all the above, though your employer is going to likely want you to do the first two before you tweet. Today, Reuters is a lot more than just a wire service. We’ve built — and are continuing to build — what we think is the world’s greatest news website, in the form of Reuters.com, and part of that is providing our readers with reliable and timely news, information, opinion and analysis.
An extension of that website is the information we post on our social media accounts, at Google+, Twitter and on Facebook. We’re not just reporting our own news there, but have become a beacon for all news, being as comprehensive as possible so readers come to us first for all they need to know. We’ve got things like Counterparties, created by Ryan McCarthy and Felix Salmon that does a great job at bringing news from around the web to our readers.
The wire is still a huge part of our business and always will be. However, acting in a way that handcuffs us from doing our best work on Reuters.com and on social networks, which help drive traffic and extend our brand, is writing a death sentence for us as a future media company. To bury our head in the sand and act like Twitter (and who knows what else comes into existence next month or five years from now?) isn’t increasingly becoming the source of what informs people in real-time is ridiculous.
In order to compete with these new and existing technologies, our wire will need to increasingly become better and faster, not only for our subscribers but for the reporters using it to file reports. The fact that it is easier to fire off a Tweet than it is to snap a wire report is unacceptable. Having a policy where you’re asked never to post something on Twitter before it goes out over the wire will put us at a competitive disadvantage, as other news organizations develop a reputation for being the first to report accurately all the news that matters. As my esteemed colleague Robert MacMillan points out: “in some cases, the tweet before the scoop might be the only way to beat your competitor if your competitor has no restrictions on tweeting,” and “when a news outlet tells a reporter, “don’t tweet first,” in some cases that means that news outlet has lost the edge.”