Apr 30, 2010 may well be known as the night that new media changed the game in the state of Arkansas.
Tonight was one of the most amazing examples of the power of Twitter and in turn showed how excruciatingly far we have to go.
Here’s how 4 little letters beat the entire mainstream media.
There is a storm a comin’
It’s springtime in the South and that means it’s tornado season.
Tornados are a very strange animals. They touchdown for seconds, change directions in a blink of an eye and travel at 50+ mph. It’s a weather event like no other.
We aren’t strangers to twisters down here and we all know to turn on the TV, break out the severe weather radios and wait for the weatherman to say “take cover”.
Only tonight was different.
There was one system that had better news, quicker updates, broader coverage, and more reporters in the field than any other. Twitter.
I can’t do it justice but let me attempt to give you a glimpse of what you could find
- The National Weather Service guy, @wxmandan giving you updates on NWS bulletins and reports as he saw them. Every person in the stream had the info 1-2min before the TV (that’s an eternity in tornado time)
- Regional forecasters adding 3d images and all sorts of graphs I can’t even explain
- Storm reports statewide, eyewitness accounts of hail and funnel clouds
- Links to webcast of the Arkansas State Police radio feed
- Instant notifications of tornado sirens wherever they sounded
- People reporting that tv/power was out and they were ONLY getting news via the #arwx stream. (That is huge! We are talking about keeping people safe. Not theory, ROI, or analytics but vital information distribution)
Simply, the most comprehensive data stream you can possibly imagine, made possible by the #arwx hashtag. There was only one thing missing. The organizations that are actually make a living reporting news and weather.
Broadcast Media is still only Broadcast Media
I can’t express what a miserable failure the online communication of these “news” organizations was so I’ll let the images speak for themselves.
From @KARK4News Since they are only using a Twitter client called Facebook they don’t even realize the important info is being cut off!
From @todaysTHV Hmm, same problem, same facebook connection. It’s almost seems like they have no idea how to use Twitter, but I’m sure they have some well paid social media consultants somewhere in the newsroom.
And finally a most useful stream from @KATVnews … ok maybe not but at least they weren’t using Facebook for their tweets.
Even our Governor’s @GovBeebeMedia Media account joined in. Perhaps I’m alone in this but if the word media is in your twitter ID you might want to learn how to use this tweeter thing.
Perhaps I’m too harsh or just expect too much. Twitter is hard and they might not have known there was a Arkansas weather hashtag. I’m sure any of us would have missed a hundred mentions to these accounts asking them to use #ARwx in their tweets.
But as my friend Chad pointed out this is assuming they know how to check @ replies.
I realize I’m being pretty critical here but its high time that these news and media organizations realize that they aren’t contributing to diddly squat.
They were useless in the most powerful real time platform the world has ever seen.
The Right Stuff
So to my friends in the local media allow me to share an example of what you should have been doing.
Meet Dan Koch – @wxmandan
According to his profile, Dan is local Meteorologist for the NWS and an IT guy. (#Fistbump for my IT brethren). He’s been active on twitter since Apr 1.
Dan isn’t on TV. He isn’t doing a live webcast. He doesn’t blog. Dan only did 1 thing.
He contributed useful information and ended his tweets with #arwx
Even his capitalization proves his understanding of brevity communication. Dan was one of only a handful of actual meteorologists using the #ARwx tag tonight and almost every tweet he put out was retweeted and broadcast to thousands.
One guy trying to get information out and he beat every professional news organization in Little Rock.
If that doesn’t prove the power of Twitter then I don’t know what does.
Ok… maybe this
I’d like to point out a couple of other stand out examples:
- @AR_Emergencies – the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management – a state agency that was also sending out great info and using the hashtag (I learned last night that ADEM actually created this hashtag during the winter weather season and made it generic enoucgh to be used year round)
- @RyanVaughan a meteorologist from KAIT in Jonesboro that was absolutely awesome
To our local media outlets
Please wake up, be useful and contribute to this amazing community or do us a favor and just close the twitter account.
And just so you know, severe weather is expected today as well so we’ll soon see if they are listening. Help them hear us, send them a tweet.
Update 5/3: I invite you to read the follow up to this post. “After the Storm“.