As our collective attention span wanes, people are consuming information faster than ever and flocking to content that only requires short bursts of undivided attention. Microblogs fit the bill: Brief, bite-sized content posted on social media platforms like Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, and Reddit, to name just a few. That content can be text, images, memes, videos, audio, or links to other websites. Microblogs are geared to mobile phone users and more popular than ever because they share short messages—often 200 characters or less–instantly.
Those quick hits also take less time to produce, making them an efficient and low-cost means of communication for many content creators. In the time that it would take to produce one long-form piece, microbloggers can create multiple, interactive posts that keep their audience engaged.
The challenge for news consumers is that it seems like nearly everyone is microblogging. Content from companies, ad agencies, PR firms, and influencers is all mixed in with news posts. Not to mention the microblogs filled with disinformation like the ones from these teens in the Balkans who post fake news for purely financial reasons.
With all these microblogs populating our social media feeds, it can be hard to tell the difference between real news and this other content.
So, to answer the second half of your question, having an audience and reporting on real events do not automatically make a microblog news. Microblogs are only in the news neighborhood if they embody the three distinguishing attributes of journalism: verification, independence and accountability.
A Twitter post by an independent and accountable journalist like @nytmike, who verifies all the information in his posts, checks all those boxes. An influencer like @kyliejenner, who has almost 200 million followers and makes $1 million per sponsored Instagram post (!) to report on a new product does not.
Your best bet to navigate this corner of our information ecosystem is found in the first key lesson of our course: Know your neighborhood.