Silicon Valley Watcher - Former FT journalist Tom Foremski reporting from the intersection of technology and media

140 Characters Is The New Container For Ideas (Under 120 If You Want To Go Viral (Room To RT)

Posted by Tom Foremski - March 3, 2009

Anti-Twitter mania will hit the media very soon. For now, mainstream and newstream media is still in a honeymoon period with Twitter.

Earlier today, Ev Wiliams, co-founder of Twitter was on Charlie Rose, and there have been many favorable news articles discovering Twitter as if for the first time.

The next stage in the media landscape for Twitter is to knock it down. I already see the seeds of the pushback in conversations I've had with people in journalism, PR, marketing, communications, etc.

The popular point of view is that the 140 characters that Twitter allows is not enough to express much of anything. But that's not my point of view.

When I first became a journalist blogger nearly five years ago, my buddy Om Malik would say, "Dude, you write too long." And Om was right. I came from a newspaper background where we were taught to fill space. Working at the Financial Times our editors would tell us how long our news stories should be. And we would try to fill that space.

We would often get calls from our desk editors asking us to come up with another 100 words or more for a news story because the page had been redesigned for a later edition. We were filling space.

But when I became a "journalist blogger" I realized that there was an interesting switch. Writing for a newspaper, where there was always a finite amount of space, I was often asked to stretch a story to fill the space. Yet online, where there was an infinite amount of space, writing less was always better.

That was one of my many "aha" moments regarding blogging, that less is more. And over the past few years the trend has been towards even less.

So, at first glance, Twitter critics might seem right in saying that 140 characters is not enough space to communicate ideas.

But if you can, I can guarantee you will be a far more successful communicator.

And if you want to go viral, expressing your idea in 120 characters or less is even better (so that others can retweet:)

Like it or not, 140 characters or less, is currently a new container for ideas. And that makes things interesting.

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Please see Twitter co-founder Ev Williams on Charlie Rose:


http://www.charlierose.com/view/content/10118

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