3 Reasons Twitter Should NOT Ditch the 140-Character Limit

30 Sep 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Is Twitter about to embrace the ‘slow content movement?’.

SAN FRANCISCO — Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, who has been serving as interim chief executive for the past three months, will be named the company’s permanent chief as early as Thursday, according to a published report. For the unfortunate few who have not sold their souls — and the time they used to spend with their families — to Twitter, the site’s defining characteristic is that whatever a user writes has to be 140 characters or less.But now there are several media outlets reporting that Twitter may let users babble on a bit longer. “It’s unclear what the product will look like, but sources say it would enable Twitter users to publish long-form content to the service,” re/code reported Tuesday. The hurdle to naming Dorsey: Whether he could run two companies at the same time, one facing a turnaround, the other having confidentially filed for an initial public offering. Dorsey has not dismissed the idea of becoming permanent CEO of Twitter while staying at Square, but Twitter’s board has said its next CEO needed to be focused solely on the company.

Other names that have been mentioned as potential candidates for the top job at Twitter include Adam Bain, the company’s president and head of revenue; former Yahoo Inc CEO Ross Levinsohn; Mike McCue, the CEO of newsreader app company Flipboard; Instagram founder Kevin Systrom; and Evan Williams, CEO of blogging website Medium. But momentum has begun to build as Dorsey began putting his imprint on Twitter, quickening the pace of innovation and gaining the confidence of Twitter investors. During this transition period, at least one member of the company’s board had stressed that they’d like a full-time CEO, not one that would split their duties between two companies.

If that’s the case, Twitter may be embracing what I like to think of as the “slow content movement.” Just as restaurants that emphasize locally grown, quality food rather than speed embody the slow food movement, there has been a quiet shift towards artisanal content in recent years. It’s wonderful because it’s just enough space to say something angrily self-righteous yet not enough space that you feel burdened to provide information that might support your inflammatory statement. This move to longer form media embraces the concept that a sophisticated idea may take more words that social networks like Twitter allow — emphasizing detailed personal narratives and reported features. His task will be to reignite growth at Twitter which has stalled at about 300 million users and whose popularity has been surpassed by other social media services.

And magazines are placing similar bets — think Ta-Nehisi Coates’s epic essay “The Case for Reparations” for The Atlantic last year, or the entire Bloomberg Businessweek special print and digital edition dedicated to a single 38,000 word Paul Ford piece explaining computer code this summer. As the hunt for Costolo’s replacement dragged on, key executives have bolted and Twitter’s stock has taken a beating, trading at or below $26, the company’s IPO price. One camp is in favor of simply increasing it by 10 or so characters, while another camp would rather take the time to devote resources to building a rich publishing platform that could perhaps be monetized one day.” A rich publishing platform?

The rise of Tumblr and its eventual purchase by Yahoo showed that there was room for services that provided a return to a more traditional style of blogging, albeit with social aspects built into the platform. And Medium, a blog-publishing platform from Twitter co-founder Ev Williams just raised $57 million in a round of funding that reportedly valued the company at $400 million. Chuck Grassley: “14yrs ago terrorists attacked killing 3000 of us Like 12/7/41 “lives in infamy” so will 9/11 2dayJapanese friendly Jihadists want kill us” Grassley did not need more characters. Perhaps the fact that having one of the cofounders reclaim the throne at Twitter isn’t a bad thing because they might be well placed to really know the DNA of the service, right?

And Facebook’s Instant Articles approach to news also plays into the trend: It suggests the social network no longer wants to be a place where people merely link to off to content — they want the want to host the whole, in-depth package. One can easily respond to any of the above tweets with a simple “YOUR AN IDIOT!!.!” or “Shut up, you (liberal/conservative) mORON!!” And that leads to some high-quality bickering, devoid of any clunky facts, evidence or rationale. There’s an obvious potential business upside for tech companies aiming to build more traditional publishing tools into their services: It gives them more control over the way their users access content and a potential advertising revenue opportunity.

It appears at the very least that Dorsey’s vision has finally won Twitter’s board over, even to the point where they’ve probably backtracked on that whole “no part-time CEO” thing. If I wanted thoughtfulness, I would engage in a mouth-moving, sound-making talky thingy with another human being person. (Kidding, I would never actually do that. Maybe give people just enough room to type the subject they’re commenting on followed by either “GOOD!” or “BAD!” Make tweets 30 characters or less and you alleviate the risk of context-creep.

But there are plenty of signs that Twitter users themselves are ready for it: Users already find ways to evade character constraints by tweeting pictures of long blocks of text or stitching together extended thoughts using a so-called “tweetstorm”of separate posts.

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