The Onion strikes…. Again.

The origins of the Onion newspaper come from my hometown. In fact, I worked with a few of the staffers at other local University newspapers. I did do a couple “Satire” articles for the Onion, but nothing was published.

Apparently, the Onion has a great reach – even to those who don’t understand. Another article was re-published as actual news. This time it was a Bangladesh newspaper – The Daily Manab Zamin – which then was picked up by the New Nation.

The articles talked about a (supposed) news story that Neil Armstrong was quoted “the Moon landings were fake…” The two news agencies soon after learning the Onion is a satirical paper, apologized for the misinformation.You can read the Onion article here

This is not the first time the Onion has influenced another writer. in 2004, the Beijing News first didn’t site the Onion until pressured. The news article was about how Congress won’t resume until a new “Modern” capitol was built. So not only did they use misinformation, they plagiarized it.

It’s interesting how the web can spread a hoax. There was another, also in 2004, where a man beheaded himself on a video. It was posted to see how fast the video could be made into news. An Arab station picked it up and the wheels were set in motion.

As for the Onion, please understand it is not a real news source. It is satire. If I remember correctly, there was only one issue that actually reported real news. But that was years ago and no one remembers it.

Online Local News Forces Local Businesses Online

The truths:

  1. News is moving online.  People want instant access to news without waiting until the next morning or afternoon.
  2. The recession has caused a terrifying drop in printed advertising causing a quick but low profit move online.

The conclusions:

  1. Local news companies must move to quick unabbreviated news online that incorporates local business advertising.
  2. Local businesses must move online with a web presence that brings both foot traffic to the brick and mortar store as well as an online business.


An example:

The Fargo Forum moved to a CMS and used their site extremely well during the recent flood.  The site is not necessarily as polished and easy to navigate as, but a good start in the online news business.  However, the prime advertising real estate on the site is for Forum operated sites.  Sites that local businesses can join and participate/advertise in.  Really they are ads for the Forum classifieds (i.e. Homes, Apartments, Cars, etc.)  There are really very few ads for individual businesses.  And once you visit the the business you may or may not be greeted by a discount or sales offer.  This must change if local news and businesses are going to make the transition.  The Forum is definitely in the game and making progress but it has room to grow.

The online move of news could force more and more local businesses to develop a true online presence.  It may not mean an online store, but it will mean an online version of what they would have had printed in the paper.  Additionally, they can have the equivalent of an entire sales flier for the price of an online click-through ad.  Could this mean a resurgence for web developers as local businesses must build dynamic CMS sites?  I believe that the local news agencies and businesses that catch on to this partnership and market will rediscover the advertising gold mine.  The early bird will get the worm.

Why Twitter Gets More Airtime than it Deserves

I love an ironic post title!

Twitter is not something that has made any impact on my day-to-day tech life.  It just does not provide me with any appreciable value.  The signal to noise ratio is just too high for me, and what it does offer for me I can do through other means.  It seems that I am not alone in this regard with Nielsen today re-affirming their estimate that the drop-off rate for Twitter is around 60%.  This recount factored in the use of Twitter based applications and websites that might have been clouding the results.

So Twitter seems to be gaining a lot of new people to it, unsurprising given the buzz it receives, but is not providing enough value to keep them.  Despite this the pundtry seem to have a facination with the world changing ability of the platform.  I do not mean to be derisive of the technology, I am more interested in the disconnect.

The opinion I have come to is that the Twitter model offers specific value to the celebrity-fan relationship.  I am using ‘celebrity’ a bit broadly here to represent anybody who has extensive one to many communications with a regular audience.  In these relationships the fan has a greater interest in the individual activities of the celebrity, whereas the celebrity is more interested in the aggregate activities of their fans.  While new media might go some way to correcting this imbalance, is is not practical for most celebs to have that personal relationship with their fans.

Twitter becomes a method for a celebrity to approximate a more personal relationship with their fans.  They can offer more of themselves easily and get a relatively concise subset of what their fans wish to tell them at any period of time.  The fan gets a chance that the celebrity might actually reply to them and the 140 character limit prevents the whole thing from getting out of hand.

The information communicated in this medium is by no means only of a superficial or personal nature.  Having the stream of communication open also allows the celebrity to get information to the fans they might not get through other means.  Whether this is a spontaneous appearance, rallying them to an action/cause, directing their attention or correcting a false rumour/report.  This is why the appeal stretches to more types of people than would typically be covered by the term celebrity.

So if you are a Todd Cochrane, a Leo Laporte, a PUSA or an Oprah, there is a much greater value to Twitter than if you are a generic user of the product.  This value also exists, although to a much lesser extent, if you are a fan or interested observer of one of these people.  Which does suggest that to get money for their value, Twitter should charge for accounts that have high numbers of followers.

The people who get the most value out of Twitter are then precisely the same set of people that are most visible reporters of technology trends.  If they see much more value than the average user does it stands to reason that the focus they give the product will be higher than their audience would expect.

Do you think I am on, the money, on the right track, or way off base with this?

I am starting to see some very interesting uses for Twitter.  I won’t link to it as it is not child safe, but the No Agenda stream uses Twitter as a control mechanism.  News stories, requests and listener comments come in via Twitter and are automatically inserted into the stream.  I do feel though that Twitters value to most users is when it is coupled to some other communication method.  If messages can be direct, personal, narrow cast, or broadcast, Twitter is an option for broadcast.  Whether it has the strength to thrive with such a narrow focus remains to be seen. Roundup 2005-06-18

This is the first of a weekly series of Roundup were various members chat for about technology in the news. Every week will be a different panel of Tech Podcasts Network members talking tech. You can check out the post and audio link directly here or add the RSS feed at

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