We’ve been reading reports of a bunch of experiments currently underway at Twitter. There have been reports of Lightning, and now we have News.
Two weeks ago, Twitter released the News feature in the US. Starting today, some Android users will notice a new tab in the top action bar of your phone – a Trending News tab. This new tab has an icon resembling a newspaper. But that’ll happen if you’re among the lucky Android users randomly selected by Twitter India. Standing at a little over 22.2 million, India is the second largest user base for Twitter in the Asia Pacific region.
The micro blogging platform will be working with a bunch of news publishers to track trending news as it happens. According to Sana Rao, Product Designer for News in India at Twitter, “People are already coming to Twitter for live breaking news and publishers are already tweeting out their stories in real-time on our platform. The goal of our experiment is to surface the best news-related content on Twitter to make it easier for our users to discover and share on our platform as it breaks in real time.”
The use of Twitter for news has existed for quite a while. During natural calamities, as witnessed recently in Nepal, frequent updates are enabled via Twitter. You can now track a story as it develops. Rao adds, “Our experiment gives you an easier way to see conversations and opinions around a news story from different sources, both publishers and individuals.”
So the next time there’s an important story, you can get your dose of information from your trusted news source, and get various perspectives from all those tracking or influenced by the news story – in real time.
What does this mean to us as users?
To begin with, nothing much changes. You can still continue to discover tweets from news sources via hashtags. You can continue to browse through tweets and tweets as you might be used to doing. What does change, if you are a part of the randomly selected user base, is that you will see a new tab on your app named Trending News.
The idea is to provide users with a better user experience. Since this is not a formal launch of the product, but rather a phased test, the experience is visible to only a fraction of the user base in India. In a few months, the service will be rolled out as an app update. Rao adds, “This News experiment is our way of testing a better experience with some users by surfacing trending news on Twitter and making it easier to discover and parse through the news stories.”
“The News experiment is testing a better experience with some users by quickly surfacing scannable headlines first, and then Tweets and conversation around it if you are interested to get a better understanding of the news story. Headlines is a common way for users in India to read their news and is a more accessible way to organize and consume Tweets, too!” she comments.
India – one among the fastest growing markets for Twitter
It’s worth noting that the feature is being tested in India, two weeks after the US. According to Rao, “The News experiment was done first in Japan, then earlier this month in the US and now in India. We specifically design experiments like this one for our priority markets. In fact, India was one of our fastest-growing markets in the world last year and we will continue to innovate for our users in this strategic market.”
Twitter will work with a select list of news publishers. “For now, the News experiment is based on sophisticated algorithms to make it easier to test. We will continue to experiment and innovate with different models, all in service to making the content on Twitter more easily discoverable for our users.”
Effectively, instead of a team of personnel manually curating or intervening in the news consumption experience, Twitter enables its users to have a seamless experience of consuming and sifting through news stories.
If a story relevant to their interest captures their attention, users could choose to read it in detail.
A closer partnership with news publishers
Similar to how Apple worked with music labels to get Apple Music rolling, Twitter is working closely with a select list of news publishers to track and share the news in real time. According to Rao, “News has been breaking on Twitter for a long time; this experiment simply uses tools to surface that content in a way that’s easier to read. For now we are testing it with a few news sources that are highly trusted in India and already use Twitter to share news stories.”
“Right now, since this is just an experiment, we are working with a white list of publishers. The number of publishers, currently in double-digits, will change as we test different scenarios and content in this experiment,” she adds.
According to Rao, “News consumption is a common habit in India, both through physical and digital sources. According to comScore, online news consumption is increasing as India’s unique visitors to online news and information sites grew from 31 million in 2011 to 45 million in 2014, an increase of 45 percent.”
A 45 percent increase in the consumption of news and information is impressive in a nation with a digital audience that is expanding at a phenomenal rate. So the next time you’re out there to track the news, tapping on the app might just be the thing you need to do!