Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Twitter’s TV Guide Experiment Gets a Little Closer to Prime Time

Twitter often describes itself as a digital town square. But that’s not the only metaphor it likes: Twitter is also intent on becoming a TV Guide.

Dick Costolo and company talked a lot about the Twitter + TV concept in the runup to their IPO, but the idea is still a work in progress. You can get a hint of Twitter’s ambitions in its latest mobile app overhaul.

You’ll have to look hard, though:

  • Get the newest version of Twitter’s iOS and Android apps.
  • Click on the “Discover” tab.
  • Click on the “Trending” button.
  • Scroll down.
  • Keep scrolling.
  • Keep scrolling …

Got it? Tucked away in the corner of its app, Twitter is now promoting TV shows to its users, supposedly based on the amount of chatter they are generating on the service (click images to enlarge).

A handful of Twitter users saw these banners this summer, when Twitter tried a test run. Now all of you can see them.

The Twitter TV promotions aren’t formal ads, though you could easily imagine a way Twitter might charge for them, directly or indirectly. More important to Twitter is the idea that it can drive traffic to TV shows (which it is also trying to do with Comcast and the cable company’s “Seeit” buttons).

Twitter also likes the notion that TV shows are something that appeal to lots of mainstream users — the kind it would very much like to recruit and keep on the service.

So what will all of that mean? Not much, yet: If Twitter was really serious about this stuff, it would move it out of a subfolder in a section of the app normal people don’t ever visit. So it’s safe to assume this is still in the experimental phase.

On the other hand, the fact that Twitter is now experimenting where everyone can see its work, instead of a tiny subset of its users, means … something. The trick is figuring out how to surface this stuff in a way that doesn’t dismay its current users, and, more importantly, in a way that makes sense to new users, who Twitter really needs.

My hunch: Twitter eventually marries TV recommendations with the mechanics of Magic Recs and Event Parrot, two other Twitter experiments that deliver information — interesting users, or interesting news — to users who have asked for it.

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The problem with the Billionaire Savior phase of the newspaper collapse has always been that billionaires don’t tend to like the kind of authority-questioning journalism that upsets the status quo.

— Ryan Chittum, writing in the Columbia Journalism Review about the promise of Pierre Omidyar’s new media venture with Glenn Greenwald