Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for October 15th, 2014

Numbers always demand context.

Twitter is used by “only” 19 percent of Internet-using adults. That was the word Ann Friedman used in a Columbia Journalism Review piece, following up on the discussion of New York Times Twitter use started by Buzzfeed and continued by me, Times Executive Editor Dean Baquet and others.

Friedman’s piece gave reasons why a journalist might want to use Twitter as well as some why you wouldn’t. She’s enthusiastic about Twitter and I applaud her contribution to this discussion. But I’m going to pick at that one word, because others have used that 19 percent figure as a reason to dismiss Twitter. On Twitter and in a comment on Friedman’s post, people zeroed in on that number as a supposed sign that Twitter isn’t important (Ivan is channeling others here, not expressing disdain):

But 19 percent of adult Internet users is a lot. Let’s do the math:

How much differently would Friedman’s piece have read if she had written “a whopping 40 million Americans” instead of “only 19 percent”?

My opening point was that numbers demand context. So here’s some context for you: 19 percent of adult Internet users or 40 million Americans is more than:

The point is: Internet use is huge and 19 percent of its users are a lot of people. Google, Amazon and Facebook have bigger audiences, I presume, maybe a few more. But there aren’t many bigger digital audiences than Twitter’s.

And, as I’ve said many times before, Twitter is an excellent tool for finding sources on breaking news, liveblogging and many other journalism uses that have nothing to do with the potential size of your audience.

Don’t use 19 percent as a measure of how small Twitter is. It’s a measure of how big Twitter is.

Update: I remembered this after initially posting. I made a similar argument here a couple years ago, when the numbers were smaller.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

Guidepostsnot-my-willGreat writing reaches across the miles and years, touching people in ways, places and times the author could never anticipate.

I remember as a boy visiting a Tokyo bookstore how impressed I was when I saw the name of my grandmother, Francena H. Arnold, in English letters down the spine of a book whose title and contents were all in Japanese. That was Grandma’s work reaching across the miles, around the world from the Chicago home where she wrote her books in longhand.

The “Tillie’s Treasure” item above, from this month’s Guideposts, a devotional magazine, shows how Grandma’s writing reached across the years:

Tillie … gave me Francena Arnold’s classic Christian novel Not My Will, about a young woman struggling to make the right choices in life. Tillie thought it would help me in my faith journey. It not only did that, but this first “grown up” novel in my collection inspired me to become a writer myself.

(more…)

Read Full Post »