The digital magazine industry is about to be much more closely involved with Twitter than is commonly appreciated.
After five years of scraping around with Flash, and then two years of figuring out how to do good stuff on the iPad, the digital magazine business has reached a stage where it seems clear that the ‘next step’ will be heavily ‘social’, in which magazines recapture their strong position as guardians and builders of specialist interest groups. So digital magazines are already beginning to embrace the importance of tweeting, sharing, emailing and linking to favourite stuff in magazine contents.
It could be that Twitter also are aware of this potential for self-curated magazine-like content to be the shape of our twitter timelines to come. They have recently nudged Linkedin off their turf and if Twitter turns out to be interested in offering ‘subscribable’ magazine-like content packages, Flipboard and Zite may be encouraged to ‘move along’.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, was quoted as follows
Twitter is heading in a direction where its 140-character messages are not so much the main attraction but rather the caption to other forms of content.
So this would see Twitter being transformed from a medium within which short messages, mostly status reports, can be exchanged between friends, to becoming much more of a recommendation engine, a personalisable grid through which we consume and re-transmit much of our digital content. The Tweets are not primarily communications for our peers, but references to hot social content. The images in the Twitter timeline will become larger and more visible, and our Twitter stream will soon start talking to us.
Facebook also clearly has a role to play in this, but Twitter has some advantages. In particular Twitter has been the focus for many of the developments that will be critical in developing new patterns of media consumption. Twitter was first to be ‘baked into’ the iOS operating system. Twitter was the initial spur for all the ‘shortening’ services (Bit.ly etc) which are becoming critical in providing shareable access to content gobbets. Twitter’s latest moves towards ‘Twitter Cards’ and expandable tweets are directly aimed at content providers. Twitter, and Wikipedia, have become crucial digital resources for fast-moving news.
Twitter also has a significant advantage in that it (so far) has shown no inclination to jump into the business of directly distributing and selling access to content. Apple, Amazon, Google, and even Facebook (especially in the games area) are pretty clearly building out their own ‘walled gardens’ of content services (films, music, books, magazines, TV, games etc). So long as Twitter remains ‘above the fray’ it will retain the advantages of neutrality, comprehensiveness, and more ‘plausible’ objectivity.