The Ashtonization of Twitter (March 2009)

The world is abuzz with Twitter.

Ashton Kutcher, who writes a many a mean tweet, was on TMZ because he tweeted about his neighbors' construction crew annoying him and his wife, Demi Moore,  around the Super Bowl.

Then celebrities started going on talk shows and hosts started asking them if they tweeted. News people also seem to love it and often there are tweets saying I'm at the president's news conference or sitting at the anchor's desk.

It's a service where anyone can join and post anything they like as long as it's less than 140 characters. It's kind of like a giant IM where you can choose to read (follow) whomever's tweets you want to follow.  So you're reading IM's from hundreds of people sharing random insights from the universe and hundreds more are reading yours.

I've been tweeting for two years. Someone I knew had a "badge"-- a little square with someone's latest tweet on their blog. With a note asking for you to follow him on Twitter.  So, I did. 

At first, it felt like stalking. One thing that made me interested about it was that within seconds after I joined a woman from the Middle East started following me. It was a weird, yet cool feeling.  The fact that I could connect directly with some anonymous person so far away made the world seem smaller. 

Do you ever have random thoughts that you think or funny or explaining the meaning of life when you're alone. You can write it down on some random piece of paper or computer document, tell one other person, or blast an email to your friends. But that's so inefficient.

By tweeting it, you share your perspective with all of the people who follow you.

At first it was a big deal if someone had 3,000 followers. Now Ashton has 231,480 followers -- that's so crazy. Almost a quarter of a million people. I bet it's going to hit a million. This reminds of me of Myspace in 2006 when that was also growing like crazy.

Hopefully the guys that started Twitter are going to be able to keep it pure and it won't turn into another Myspace which has become a mess of gadgets and status updates and has always been plagued with friend harvesting companies that just added millions and millions of "friends" no matter who they were.

The Twitter team don't currently have a clear monetization vision but obviously they're very smart guys and will think of something. The best and scariest alternative is that they get bought by a major media company whose main profit comes from advertising. Yahoo! seems to be most respectful to the successful startups they buy, but I don't think they have any money.

The good news about Twitter is that you get to choose who you "listen" to. So if someone is boring or offensive you can turn them off and if they're boring or offensive in responses (done with an @) sign) you can block them. So while Ashton has the same amount of people paying attention to his tweets he only reads the tweets of 48 people. Twitter is personalized, engaging, efficient and fun.

Companies are using it for customer service and reputation management but gratefully you don't have to follow them.  But if you have an issue with Comcast, you can try to tweet the official Comcast tweeter and hopefully he'll get right on it.


WowOWow oh wow dot com


A rather unfortunate name, long, and confusing, for example what comes first the ‘W’ or the “O’. It’s targeted to women over 40 although the founders are quite a bit older.

Five high-powered media women each contributed $200,000 to the site:

• Lesley Stahl: (67) She’s been on 60 minutes for 19 years.
• Peggy Noonan: (58) Political conservative, WSJ columnist.
• Liz Smith: (85) Gossip columnist, let go from New York Post very recently.
• Joni Evans: (??) Former book publisher / agent.
• Mary Wells Lawrence: (80) Retired Advertising Executive

It reminds me of the Huffington Post but only an all woman perspective. It has features on the economy, politics, entertainment. On the day I visited the three headlining stories were 1) Liz Smith, 2) An interview with Phyllis Schlafly (84 year old quintessential anti-feminist), and 3) A review of a book on finding love over 60. It’s comment heavy and serves an under served prosperous demographic.

In this age of longer lives and longer careers I think it’s dangerous to lump everyone over 40 into the same group. Partially advertisers do this because historically older people have more brand loyalty but buying patterns like everything else is changing. Throughout a woman’s life she deals with the same issues more or less.

In an interview with Kara Swisher for All Things Digital, Joan Juliet Buck, one of the contributors and a long time Vogue writer said, “it’s not a blog because it’s not sloppy screamy opinions.” She also expressed the goal of taking over the world. A slightly condescending opinion she might associate the word blog with the likes of Perez Hilton or Matt Drudge.

All of the women are respected professionals in other media modes like TV or print and are excited to be moving online. It seems like they have the all important respect for their audience because they express that the women on their site are surprisingly honest.

There are currently 11 contributors featured wearing black turtlenecks on the home page. They include; Whoopi Goldberg: (53) Famous multi-faceted performer and current host on The View, Julia Reed: (73) Writer, producer, director Lily Tomlin’s partner, Candice Bergen, (63) Famous actress, Judith Martin: (70) Miss Manners, Lily Tomlin (69) Performer, and Marlo Thomas (69), author, philanthropist, and writer.
  • Jezebel (part of the Gawker family) says it's doomed to failure precisely because of the above mentioned Buck's insulting attitude. Apparently she compares similar site iVillage to Macy's.