Just a quick thought about content & Twitter this morning…

Back in 1999 when we created one of the first live news blogs on the Internet at Stratfor.com, we tripped across a very, very interesting phenomenon.  We learned that the existence of content didn't necessarily make it discoverable.  If you as a user are reformatting, repurposing, or commenting on content, you are in effect changing that content and helping it evolve.  Stratfor.com became an overnight success not just because we did something unique, but because we also put widely available international news/intelligence content into a refined, discoverable format.

Thinking more broadly, search made vast libraries of content discoverable by a large group of people, but only after Google and others transformed large articles & web pages into indexed & short-form summaries like the one below.  This is probably the best example of how evolved content attracts more consumer eyeballs.  If left in its original form, sure it is available but people won't necessarily be attracted to it.


Think about what we're seeing with Twitter today — it's the same sort of content evolution but rather one with human intervention leading the way.  People scan articles that they read — via RSS, Web browsing, their favorite Web sites, forwards from friends, etc.  People then tweet or re-tweet their favorite articles, usually with some commentary which repurposes that content & makes everyone a potential distributor.  Industry experts have talked for years about how "human-powered" search/discovery was the next evolution of the Internet.  It's happening a little at a time before our very eyes.  I don't think Twitter will totally supplant the old way of doing things, but it is another example of how technology helps make content more fluid — easier to consume, repurpose, and ultimately discover.

Despite the fact that we still argue over these points in 2009, content wants to be free and broken into individual elements for consumption/repurposing.  I suspect that there are a number of business opportunities even today in making certain types of high value content more discoverable for audiences who don't enjoy enough transparency.  We are in one such business.  Liberating information & making it more transparent is good business in 2009 and probably will be for quite awhile.