Twitter wants to make it easier for you to find news, and today decided to do so by adding a “related headlines” section to newsworthy tweets—whether the authors of those tweets like it or not.
Related headlines only appear on the Twitter website—specifically, that is, on the permalink page for any given tweet. They will point to Web pages that embedded the original tweet. (Related headlines, however, won't appear on the tweets embedded in those pages themselves—just at their permanent home on Twitter.) The new feature aims to provide context beyond 140 characters and to connect users with more in-depth stories about a given topic.
Essentially, related headlines act as backlinks supporting the publications and websites that embed Twitter posts.
Twitter demonstrated the feature with Jason Collins’ tweet referencing his coming out as the NBA's first openly gay player. The related headlines section to that tweet now provides links to nine different websites documenting reaction to Collins' announcement.
Who Pays The Piper?
Many publications and authors will be happy to have the social network throw them some traffic, but some users find it intrusive that Twitter is deciding what readers of their tweets will find relevant:
Hey, Twitter: WTF are you doing, adding "relevant" links to my posts? How about letting me decide what's relevant? https://t.co/iigjygGk9C— Dan Gillmor (@dangillmor) August 19, 2013
Until now, users have exercised some control over what gets attached to their tweets, simply because Twitter took its cues from the links, photos and videos users chose to include. Twitter, however, chooses related headlines (presumably algorithmically), giving it the ability to associate new links with particular tweets, even if the original author didn’t share them.
According to a related post on Twitter's developer blog, publishers who are already using embedded tweets will be among the first to have their article headlines linked to the tweets in question. Twitter will roll out the feature to additional publications and partners "in coming weeks."
The company didn’t say how it will determine the order in which headlines appear, which could give it leeway to charge publications, or even advertisers, for ranking. With sponsored tweets quickly filling up our Twitter feeds, it's not a big leap to think that both Twitter and its advertisers can capitalize on link placement, as prominent Twitter users like actor Wil Wheaton have been quick to point that out.
By adopting related headlines on tweets that become news, Twitter clearly aims to maintain its position as a premier news source while opening up a new channel that provides feedback to its online publication "partners"—i.e., those that embed tweets, extending Twitter's reach as they do so. But as it adds another way for users to follow the news, Twitter is also starting to curtail its users' control over the context in which their tweets appear.