“This is about the changing of the guard. From the old way of consuming media to the new way of consuming media. We can make the news, we can edit the news, we can broadcast the news. We can change media forever".
Thus spake Ashton Kutcher, after winning a highly publicized race with CNN to be the first to have a million followers on Twitter. His arguably more famous wife, Demi Moore, cheered in the background while her Chihuaha licked her face.
Kutcher clearly felt the moment was groundbreaking – he did after all get a lot of publicity – but are the implications for media as groundbreaking as he thinks?
What definitely has shifted is that Kutcher has his own channel now. He can indeed reach a million people directly via Twitter. A useful attribute for any Hollywood celeb, where the currency of fame is easily converted to dollars. Kutcher, can justifiably expect to tap into the PR budget line for his next movie, driving up interest through on-set updates and tweet-intrigue. But is it really changing the way we consume media?
Most readers will be at least vaguely familiar with the concept of Twitter, a social media and micro-blogging platform where users communicate in tweets of 140 characters or less. As a guide that last sentence was more than you can fit in a tweet. So this isn’t a platform that’s going to spawn the next Leo Tolstoy.
What tends to happen in 140 characters is two things; Twitterers direct you elsewhere on the internet, using TinyURL. Or they tweet about nothing. Master twitterers like Ashton Kutcher combine the two; Hollywood party gossip and pictures of his wife’s nether regions feature extensively.
In all fairness Kutcher does occasionally attempt to provide some wordly depth – he donated a bunch of mosquito nets to Africa once he reached a million followers on Twitter. And he also tweeted “this drug cartel talk makes me wonder what proactive actions r taking place 2 battle the 2nd largest illicit trade. Human trafficing (sic)”. The heir to CNN’s 247 coverage? Probably not.
What we get on Twitter is Kutcher’s perspective on the world. Fun though that may be, and exciting as it may be to feel close to all that Hollywood glamour, it is still just Kutcher’s perspective. Just as each journalist on CNN has a perspective. Just as Perez Hilton and every other blogger out there has a perspective.
So is it really a new way of consuming media? Or just a new way of consuming Ashton Kutcher? I have a suspicion that it’s the latter and in that case I’ll leave that to Demi's Chihuahua.