In Dust we Trust.

September 24, 2009

A couple of strange things happened yesterday. Most people in Brisbane or Sydney were witness to a gigantic cloud of red dust clamouring over the cityscape, myself included. What was even more interesting though was just how comprehensively social media outlets Twitter and Facebook covered the event.

When I woke up that morning, it wasn’t Sunrise that alerted me to the strange weather conditions. It wasn’t a newspaper. It wasn’t even news.com.au or google news. It was the numerous tweets and status updates of friends and followers that told me something was up. By all means, using social media as an outlet for disseminating news is not a new concept. But for me I’d never actually been witness to a true social news event like the dust storms that occurred yesterday, so naturally I was a little sceptical. Not anymore.

In particular, Twitter was ablaze with dust-related tweets, uploads and the inevitable Little Britain references. By around about 10am Sydney was the third most tweeted-about topic on the site. The ability for users to easily upload their own photos never seemed so handy. It was a shot of an almost-invisible Centre-point Tower that showed me just how bad the storm was.

And let’s not forget YouTube. Around about 2pm I saw a clip shot in a phone in a backyard of Broken Hill of an absolutely incredible moment. When i first watched it it had about 8,000 views. By 8pm it had hit 30,000. It’s now close to reaching 100,000 viewers. All in the space of 24 hours.

Since interning with Musicadium I’ve come to appreciate how effective using Twitter and Facebook as marketing tools can be. It was only today that it’s ability to act as a news service dawned on me. And when you compare it to some of the drivel that comes out of news.com.au, the quality of writing is pretty similar as well.

By the time the actual 6pm news rolled around, the dust storm was well and truly over. Even on the most traditional of news formats, the amount of viewer-taken photos and videos that were shown was amazing. More perhaps than even the professionals. It really blows any arguments against the powers of citizen journalism out of the water.

As Twitter continues to grow, both as a social networking and news platform, we will only see more and more events like this occurring. Of course, I still stand by the idea of looking out the window to see the weather. Much more reliable.

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