Twitter is the place to go for what’s happening and what people are talking about right now — a constantly updated “front page,” you could say. As Buzzfeed’s former Editor in Chief Ben Smith once said, "Twitter is the beating heart of news."
With just one scroll down your timeline, you’ll inevitably encounter global headlines and what people are saying about them. This is the reality of consuming the news these days; it’s live, in real time, and coming from a collective of voices. As a result, newsrooms have learned to be nimble in the face of constantly innovating technologies and platforms.
“In media right now, we’re trying to figure out how to break down the fourth wall and talk with our audience,” says Matt Adams, Engagement Editor at NPR, “so they get a better understanding of how a story comes together and our journalists can explain how they cover stories.”
The latest tool at their disposal is Twitter Spaces. Newsrooms like NPR and USA TODAY are using the new feature for interviews, panels, dispatches from the field, and even fun activities like trivia and quizzes. Spaces allows hosts and guests to have live, audio conversations that are easily accessible to their audience. A Space can be pre-scheduled so that people know when and how to tune in, or they can start on-the-fly to cover breaking news.
“There is something about this format, an intimacy, that really allows you to listen to what people are saying,” says Felecia Wellington Radel, Engagement Editor at USA TODAY. “You’re in the moment in the conversation, and that’s different from other audio formats like podcasts.”
So what makes a news story or subject perfect for Spaces? According to Wellington Radel and Adams, the opportunity for an ongoing conversation is key. The platform allows for a close connection with a wide audience, which promotes engagement and a breadth of perspectives — especially if Q&A is involved.
“The power of Spaces is really in the audience,” says Adams. “Seeing what they have to say, what questions they have, their thoughts and opinions, they become part of the story in a way. We’ve had conversations from Spaces turn into digital stories, found new sources, and even conducted interviews there. It’s a way to continue to learn different people’s stories.”