Q&A: Twitter amplifies newspapers, says Sunday Times’ @EleanorMills

By Gordon Macmillan

Twitter and newspapers enjoy a close relationship, which we wrote about last week in detailing new research. The #NewsOnTheTweet research from Newsworks (@newsworks_uk) and YouGov (@YouGov) revealed that as many as 59% of UK Twitter users follow newspaper brands, sub-brands or journalists.

To get a journalist’s perspective, we spoke to @EleanorMills, the @thesundaytimes editorial director and a respected columnist, who offered her views on how Twitter amplifies newspapers and gave us her top tips for using the platform. Mills says that while Twitter’s biggest impact on the newspaper industry is how journalists look for breaking news, another real benefit for her as a columnist is the immediate interaction with your readers.

As she observes, “You absolutely know if you’ve written a good column, which people are responding to or whether it has slightly gone flat out there in the ether. So it is that sense of real reciprocity and knowing what’s connected and what hasn’t. And also getting that feedback.”

You often get very good ideas for other stories or other issues from the kind of feedback you get on Twitter.

@EleanorMills, editorial director, The Sunday Times

It’s well established that many big stories break first on Twitter. We have seen it time and time again in the UK, as for example when Sir Alex Ferguson retired, the first picture of the royal baby was revealed and the recall of Parliament over Syria took place.

According to Mills, we’re witnessing big changes in how breaking news reaches us as Twitter not only leads the news cycle but also frames the coverage. She points to the now-famous Oscars selfie Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) orchestrated as a prime example.

“I think [the Oscars selfie] has been a pretty ground-breaking change in the way that news happens and it has also then been on every single front page. So you are really seeing Twitter not just leading the news cycle in telling newspapers where they should be looking but then also creating even the way in which that news coverage is framed. That is new. I think the whole concept of the selfie and the Tweet is curating how we all see the world,” she says.

When it comes to the @thesundaytimes, @EleanorMills cites how powerful Twitter can be for columnists and highlights how people like @JeremyClarkson often lead the discussion. She says it is an example of how “newspapers and Twitter really need each other” and how Twitter amplifies the work journalists do.

Because of its immediacy and brevity, she notes that Twitter is very different to other social platforms. Here @EleanorMills shares her top tips for using the platform: