Why does @NYTLive exist in the first place? There are 3.6 million reasons.
Some people follow @nytimes for politics, others for national trends, still others for New York City news, and so on. As long as the account tweets a little of everything, people are happy. But when really big news strikes — say, a hurricane — what do you do? Part of your audience cares a ton about it, while much of your audience does not.
“It’s something we always struggle with on the main @nytimes account,” Heron said. “We don’t want to go overboard and inundate people who might not be interested in following the story incrementally, but at the same time we don’t want to ignore a huge story and just send something out every hour.”
That is where @NYTLive becomes useful.
The new NYTLive Twitter account is not really so much about doing “faster and deeper” reporting as it is about recognizing that Twitter accounts have distinct personalities. Journalists working with audience interactivity and generation have been ferreting this out for a while.
After people start following a particular tweetstream, especially one they have decided to have sent directly to their mobile phones, they quickly either get comfortable with the content, tone and volume of what they are getting or they decide to unfollow.
If then later the content, tone and volume of that tweetstream suddenly change, Times Social Media Editor Liz Heron is absolutely right as she says in this piece that it will cause problems with your followers, annoyance being the least of the possible bad outcomes.
That is why we often recommend in special editorial projects creating new Twitter accounts for difference purposes and different audiences with their own identifiable personality of content, tone and volume. You don’t want to go crazy with it and have too many different personalities, of course. But this is yet another lesson in the difference between mass media and media for the masses.