Twitter ‘Moments’ turns the social network into a … newspaper?

To attract more users, Twitter's new feature harks back to the good old days of slow news, curated for easy consumption at a manageable pace.

Mike Blake/Reuters
Jack Dorsey, CEO of Twitter. Twitter Inc. named the interim chief executive Dorsey as its permanent CEO October 5.

On Wednesday, Twitter – the world’s continuous stream of consciousness – launched a new feature that aims to filter out the noise, empowering Twitter editors to curate massive amounts of content into tidy packages of stories that they deem important that day. If that feels familiar, that’s because this is much like what newspaper editors have been doing for over a century.

What’s more, Twitter says it wants its new "Moments" feature, designated by a thunderbolt in the site's navigation menu, to moderate the onslaught of Tweets for people who prefer a less manic approach to information.

“We like to think of Twitter Moments as timely as opposed to real-time,” Andrew Fitzgerald, a former journalist who heads the Moments team, told The New York Times. Moments, he said, reflect “things that are relevant but not necessarily happening at this exact instant, which allows us to break out of the ephemerality of Twitter.”

The new feature has been a long time in the making under the code name Project Lightning, heralded by Twitter as a way to attract and retain new users. On its most recent, and disappointing, earnings call in July, CEO Jack Dorsey said the company would focus in the next couple of months on simplifying the service and better communicating why anyone should use it in the first place, reported the Daily Dot.

With Moments, Twitter seems to have bet that a more traditional media model will attract those who prefer order to chaos.

"This is a platform for telling narratives from the start, middle, and end," Moments project manager Madhu Muthukumar explained to CNNMoney. "The way we've built the Moments product is to allow people to see that entire arc." In other other words, much like a newspaper or magazine story.

Moments offers a short list of headlines – some from initial partners like Buzzfeed, Entertainment Weekly, Fox News, The Washington Post, and Vogue – that users can click on to view a concise, curated package of photos, videos and tweets related to that topic. The content is not in real time, in contrast to Twitter’s general news feed, where information turns stale faster than one can type the 140 characters it takes to share it.  

As the Times points out, “you might see a headline from three of four hours ago, an eon in Twitter time.”

Current topics range from Islamic State to Mt. Everest to “offbeat moments in pictures,” in categories like include “Entertainment,” “Fun,” “Today,” and “Sports.”

“We know finding these only-on-Twitter moments can be a challenge, especially if you haven’t followed certain accounts,” Twitter wrote on its blog. “But it doesn’t have to be.”

Not when editors can clear out the clutter for readers who want concise, informative, and attractive packages of information.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.