May 24, 2011

all the news that's fit to tweet

It was odd following @nytimes today, as they traded their headline bot for two editors staffing the account, hand-crafting the day's tweets. While I appreciate the hypothesis (actual humans will drive more engagement) and the methodology of the experiment (they're staffing the account with Liz Heron and Lexi Mainland), as a follower I'm not so sure...

Now, I'm usually the first one to argue for more curation. But The New York Times brand is built around being the newspaper of record. Almost by definition their news product is not an unfiltered stream of latest headlines -- it's a human edited collection of what they feel you should know. If a story makes the New York Times, it's for a reason, and the @nytimes stream is an authoritative source of what the paper's editors see as worthy of being a New York Times headline. Adding another layer of editorial to that already strong signal feels like an unnecessary filter.

This isn't an argument for all bots all the time. For every publication this decision is going to be about brand identity, reader expectations, audience size, cost, and, of course, performance. I could be 100% wrong on this, and Ms. Heron and Ms. Mainland could blow the numbers out of the water and 10x the traffic from Twitter back to But for this follower, @nytimes dropped a notch today.

PS -- Get off my lawn. And while you're at it, go follow @nytbot5000, for this tweet alone: "It's okay @lexinyt and @lheron. Go eat dinner or go to art gallery openings or whatever you do. I've got you covered tonight. I always do."