With the booming age of social media platforms in the 21st century, news consumption has become even more developed with the effortlessness of searching up keywords or trends on the Internet to draw upon thousands of sources. Journalists can easily release breaking news or discover new stories at any given time with the influx of social media on the scene. This report aims to compare the affordances of Tweetbot for iPhone versus Feedly in the world of mobile news consumption and how it may affect certain journalistic issues.
Tweetbot is a third party iOS client mobile application developed by Tapbots for Twitter and is one of the key apps in revolutionizing the way users tweet. Mashable argued that Tweetbot could be even better than the original Twitter for iPhone, seeing as it’s functions are even more streamlined compared to Twitter for iOS.
Feedly, on the other hand, is an RSS news reader application that is available via Web and also for iOS and Android. This report will be focusing on Feedly for iOS. The app aggregates news from your desired news source and also allows users to connect and share their favourite news. There are a few Netizens out there who feel that RSS news readers should be rendered obsolete with the existence of Twitter, but read this post, in which The Verge still stands up for the necessity of RSS readers.
The issue of instantaneous news delivery with such a rich variety of social media available is not so much a change in fundamental standards, as it is more that the scope or reach of what we say and do is much more transparent and pervasive than ever before (Grensing-Prophal, 2010). News can be easily reconstructed, especially if one has limits such as a 140-character tweet, leading to a spread of misinformation and confusion. Singer (2012) categorized ethical issues into three clusters: truth-telling, the control of information and practitioner-based issues, in which two are particularly important, namely transparency and journalistic autonomy.
Social media is arguably one of the largest platform on which most consumers draw their news sources on. A study done by Schools.com (n.d.) showed that nearly over 50% of people learn about breaking news through social media, as opposed to official news sources. However, Moodie (n.d.) questions the verifiability of such methods of news as reports can often get distorted through distribution on different social media platforms. Moreover with the expansion of social media journalism, there is something called “pack journalism” in which Jarvis (2012) raises the issue of sending many reporters to cover a single event, leading to repetition of information on the same topic. Easy access to posting breaking news on social media also creates a problem of quotes and stories being taken out of context, and the result is spread like wildfire, leading to unverified reports (Ingram, 2012). The evaluation of content and rumours is extremely crucial as Tufekci (2011) noted, as news with possible inaccuracies that were reported before being verified would spread widely. Despite corrections being made on those particular inaccuracies, those corrections itself would be less distributed, as opposed to the original inaccurate news.
Stassen (2010) believes that social media would play a very important role in the future of journalism, as news organizations are already realising the value of using social media platforms to disseminate information. But, it is still vital that journalists hold on to their own ethical values in order to produce quality and accurate reports (Coleman, 2010), even more so with the surge of social media journalism.
The Affordances Framework
The term “affordances” is loosely defined as a way in which ‘enablements’ and ‘constraints’ are the two ends of a scale of how properties/features of a technology are related to human action (Hutchby, 2001). The affordances framework is split into “technological” and “purposive” affordances, in which technological refers to the material aspects of technologies while purposive is described as the social uses or meanings of the technical aspects.
Both Tweetbot and Feedly work in similar ways, in that each platform delivers mobile news on-the-go easily and efficiently. Tweetbot’s interface needs a bit of getting used to at first, but that itself takes very little time to understand. Settings and notifications can be tailored to suit your needs, and it is easy to fully utilize every single tool in Tweetbot, such as lists, favourite tweets and a gold nugget in the form of “Mute”, where Tweetbot users can enter keywords or certain Twitter usernames to prevent it from showing up in your Twitter feed.
Figure 2-1: The main interface of Tweetbot, showing the user’s connected Twitter feed.
Figure 2-2: Opening up Feedly’s app takes you to your list of subscribed news sources.
Feedly has a more simple layout, but only because it functions as an RSS reader and collects from specific sources that you choose, unlike Twitter which is more of an interactive platform for mass updates. The search function in Feedly enables you to seek out specific topics that you want to follow and receive updates from, which is very useful if you are only interested in certain fields in a more in-depth manner.
In a way, both Feedly and Twitter work the same in that they use “hashtags” (#) in which trending topics are tagged with (#), for instance typing “#fashion” will generate a stream of topics tagged with “fashion”. However, Feedly shows significantly more professional news-oriented content, while Twitter streams both news and user opinions. A technical enablement of using hashtags on both platforms is that users will be able to see what are the most talked-about topics of the moment, a useful tool for journalists to keep track of what is generating the most hype of the moment. However, this may lead to the purposive constrain of using hashtags for false spread of information, for example the death hoax surrounding martial arts superstar Jackie Chan.
Figure 2-3 : In Feedly, users can either manually search or tap on a variety of general trends.
Figure 2-4: Trending topics as shown in Tweetbot; users can also manually select locations to find out trends in different countries.
Additionally, both platforms allow the creation of lists in order to properly group your specified contents into organized categories. This affordance helps to block out the “noise” when searching for particular content in your feed or stream, allowing for better curating of stories.
Figure 2-5: List system in Feedly.
Another affordance of Tweetbot for Twitter is that there is an option to enable real-time streaming of tweets. Real-time stream refers to live updates that users can get in their Twitter feed, which is helpful if you are keen on obtaining information on an event that is happening at the same time. For journalists, this is a particularly essential tool as they can keep up with events that are happening in a location that is far from them. However, there is a downside to this option as more often than not, reporters who are tweeting the event (possibly) unintentionally release a quote from prominent figures or phrases that will be taken out of context. Spread of misinformation usually occurs quickly when situations like these happen and reduces the credibility of tweets.
Feedly, on the contrary, is updated only when the websites you subscribed to releases new posts. This in itself is both good and bad, in that the information that you get is usually verifiable and has undergone the editing process, hence more reliable information. Conversely, the wait for verification will cause journalists to fail in being the first at the scene of breaking news. Nevertheless, there is a feel of more control over using Feedly because you are able to read up information when you want to without feeling overwhelmed by the massive amount of news content that can sprout up.
With the retweeting (RT) tool in Tweetbot, it is easy to directly quote tweets from other Twitter users, as long as they do not private-lock their tweets. RT-ing is extremely handy when it comes to repeating a quote instantaneously, for your followers to read. This affordance can be an enablement to quickly redistributing reports from official sources but the downside is that those quotes can also be misconstrued and furthermore, journalists copying other journalists. Because there is an inconsistent way in how users retweet, words can be added or deleted from the original tweet, leading to falsification of reports. Despite the availability of the “retweet” button, there are people out there who will manipulate tweets for their own gain.
However in Feedly, the sharing tool is a constrain that only allows for users to share posts and links to the original website via Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media sites. This is great as you can usually be sure of the authenticity of your content before releasing it to the public. But what is lacking in Feedly is the social interactivity that is present on Twitter. Tweeting or retweeting in Twitter usually generates some form of response from your followers mere seconds after, which caters to the human need for conversation.
It seems safe to say that both Feedly and Tweetbot each have it’s own particular pros and cons; it is all dependent on the kind of people that are using it. Feedly as an RSS reader looks to be aimed at the more tech-savvy generation with deeper interests or the avid news junky. On the other hand, social media giants like Twitter and Facebook dominate the scene when it comes to sharing news and information because of the simplicity and accessibility of it all.
I find that the content in Twitter can also end up being more trivial compared to content in RSS feeds, due to the difference in subscriptions. Nonetheless, both social platforms are great assets to a journalist’s repertoire of newsgathering tools because of their ability to retrieve events that are happening all over the world and sharing it with others. Yet like a double-edged sword, these platforms can be exploited in negative ways; in the end, it all boils down to how one wields them.
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