It's not a retweet .. is it?
August 22, 2018 6:54 PM   Subscribe

Why do news sites double-publish tweets?

Many news sites -- e.g. the NYT -- when they reference a Twitter post in the text of an article, also publish what looks like a screen print of the original tweet. Why?
posted by LonnieK to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The original link can become invalid if the person in question deletes their tweet.
posted by saeculorum at 6:57 PM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yup, future-proofing against deletion or the death of Twitter. NYT is especially likely to be aware that stuff will fade away; they have articles from the 1800s in their archives., and even articles of theirs from a decade ago sometimes have stylesheet failures if they're from a less-mainstream section.

The 'screen prints' are Twitter embeds; they will die if the Tweet dies, if Twitter dies, or if even tech changes that old embed codes fail. That's why, if you are signed in to twitter, you can like the tweet, view Trump's profile, or view the tweet itself... all from the embed.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 7:22 PM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Neither of these replies answer the question. Why do they publish both? I've often wondered this too. Why even publish a live link? They're journalists publishing news, not social media hyperlinkers.
posted by Pig Tail Orchestra at 7:29 PM on August 22, 2018 [1 favorite]

I assume they show the active link as a form of source.
posted by chasles at 7:45 PM on August 22, 2018 [5 favorites]

I appreciate these answers, but no.
The NYT can store screen prints and publish them if challenged. But why do they publish the original, any more than the Bill of Rights, the Magna Carta, the Domesday Book?
And it's not just the NYT.
Beuller? Anybody?
posted by LonnieK at 8:11 PM on August 22, 2018

i'm not sure what your exact question is. why does the NYT or any other news site embed tweets into their stories? here are a couple thoughts from someone who's been in the political news game for over ten years though no, i don't work for the NYT:

MOST LIKELY IN MY OPINION ----> it's added value for the reader to continue reading the story rather than clicking the link to read the full tweet. the penetration rate of news articles is already pretty low, so once you've gotten someone to scroll down and read your full article, you want to try to keep them on your site rather than go somewhere else.

ALSO LIKELY -----> from a design standpoint (oh hi i went to college for journalism and design), breaking up chunks of text with visuals (be it photos, tweets, video, interactive datasets, whatever) helps guide the reader's eye away from fatigue or overload. it also adds white space, which gives eyes a brief chance to rest from chunks of text.

- if you note in the story you linked, the full text of the tweet is actually not quoted. the new york times pulled various sections from the tweet and divided it over 2 grafs, but even then, the tweet in full is not quoted. embedding the full, unedited tweet gives transparency to the reader rather than having to wait for the reader to challenge.

- it's good SEO practice. outbound links are often considered one of the best ways to achieve a high pagerank. when multiple news organizations are posting basically the same story at the same exact time, wouldn't you take any advantage you can to get a higher position on google?
posted by kerning at 8:26 PM on August 22, 2018 [11 favorites]

Visually impaired people use screen readers but they can't read the text in a picture.
posted by irisclara at 8:27 PM on August 22, 2018 [9 favorites]

Twitter has a mechanism for embedding a tweet inside a webpage, which is what you are seeing in the bottom portion of the screenshot posted on imgur you linked to. This comes from Twitter's servers, so if the tweet gets deleted or twitter goes down or the user has blocked third-party embeds (like me; I don't want twitter or other social networks tracking what I read, so I don't see the embedded tweet) or whatever, it will become unavailable. Thus, in order to preserve the contents of the tweet in the context of the article, they incorporate it into the article itself. Consider that they may use the same copy for their newsprint edition, which cannot embed tweets.

This is basically the same answer flibbertigibbet gave, which you appear to have dismissed out of hand, and I don't understand why this answer is not sufficient for you.
posted by Aleyn at 8:56 PM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

If the question is more towards the other side, i.e. why add the embedded tweets in the first place if you're going to quote them, I don't have a strong answer there other than that Twitter makes it easy to do so, and visitors to the NYT website can interact with the tweet directly without leaving the article if they want to, and presumably NYT sees value in doing so.
posted by Aleyn at 9:06 PM on August 22, 2018

Why even publish a live link?

Because linking to the actual tweet is responsible sourcing. It allows users to go to the actual tweet and interact with the author, follow, like, etc. It's good etiquette to link to the source. They add the actual text to the article so that the salient point they are trying to make from the tweet doesn't disappear when/if the tweet does.
posted by gemmy at 9:15 PM on August 22, 2018 [3 favorites]

Thanks all, but you're missing the big picture.
The NYT, WaPo, WSJ quote people ALL THE TIME.
What they DON'T DO is follow every quote with a screen print -- of the quoted email or postal letter or online reply -- or an audio file of the phone conversation, or a video, etc.
SO: Why do they publish the tweet? (And it's not really the tweet, but a reproduction -- but that's another Q).

The answer that by doing so 'they preserve the original' -- come on. They have ScrnPrint. They have servers. They can preserve anything. Just like you and I can.
But they don't publish every source for everything.
Why tweets?
posted by LonnieK at 9:16 PM on August 22, 2018

Well ok: do they include screen prints of tweets in the printed paper edition? I'm going to guess not. Meanwhile, I don't think the NYT has a television program but televised news often does include audio of phone conversations, video clips of video source material, etc.

So I think there's your answer: they include media according to the medium: the Internet is built on linked content (including embedded pieces of others' content way back in Ted Nelson's Project Xanadu transclusions in the sixties!) so they have it in their reporting. TV is visual so they intercut talking heads at desks with clips or live interviews from remote locations. Print is dead, so it uses inserts of pictures of things happening alongside text saying what was happening.
posted by traveler_ at 9:23 PM on August 22, 2018 [10 favorites]

Because they can? It's easy to include a tweet or a FB/IG post as an embed in an online article. All it takes is copying/pasting the URL. If you had to screenshot a postal letter to include, you would have to screenshot it, upload it somewhere, and then link it. Same with audio. That's way more complex and time consuming. And they do include those types of sources for quotes sometimes, just not as often.

I agree with traveler_: include what makes sense for the medium.
posted by gemmy at 9:28 PM on August 22, 2018 [2 favorites]

I recognize this doesn't entirely answer your question, but what the NYT is displaying is the tweet. It's not a reproduction. If the tweet were to be deleted, its media content would go missing from the NYT webpage. As the tweet gets more Likes and Replies, the count will increment. The tweet is hosted by Twitter, not the NYT.

You can create an example of this yourself at Twitter Publish. That embed function is how NYT is publishing the tweet on their site, even though it's hosted by Twitter.
posted by reeddavid at 10:00 PM on August 22, 2018 [4 favorites]

Many readers want to follow the link to the source, see the# of likes, maybe like or retweet it; that is, to some extent, the whole point of the web. Also, it functions as an illustration.
posted by theora55 at 11:03 PM on August 22, 2018

But they do include links to PDFs, court documents, speeches, etc., where practical and the source itself is the story. In the article reporting on the Cohen case, they include a screenshot and link to download the plea. This article is specifically about Trump’s reaction, and Trump responds via Twitter. Therefore it’s embedded. If he’d done a press conference, they’d have included the press conference and quote the relevant parts in the story. Plenty of other tweets aren’t embedded if they’re there for background/reaction rather than the thrust of the story. For instance, this article on Twitter suspending Alex Jones quotes but doesn’t embed the response quote from Infowars.
posted by snickerdoodle at 12:38 AM on August 23, 2018 [9 favorites]

Because it is a primary source that is easily embedded into the article. That is the actual tweet, not a photo of the tweet. When you have an actual primary source that is responsive to browser size AND functions as a visual element to break up the wall of text AND ticks off the "includes interactive element" requirement that I'm sure all writers/editors have at this point in time, why not use it?
posted by kimberussell at 5:33 AM on August 23, 2018 [4 favorites]

You sound really skeptical, but when I was in media we made the decision (I advocated for it) to embed Tweets basically for the reasons discussed above:

1. It's quick and easy and breaks up the wall of text at no cost to the publisher, which is huge when (as in our case) most articles online never came close to the traffic required to pay for the cost of them* (the few really big hits helped, but most articles were put online at a loss.) We weren't as diligent at the screen grabs, not being a paper of record, but we did do it for articles we thought would outlast the Tweets for whatever reason.

2. It's part of (excuse the language of those Ancient Times) being a good "netizen" as well as service to the reader.

3. The people we embedded Tweets from were more likely to tweet out a link to the article (see #2) and give us some traffic (see economics in #1.)

4. I felt it gave us credibility to use the tools available to link to sources when those tools did not impact heavily on editorial or production costs, and Twitter and eventually Facebook made that easy for us.

There may have been some bias towards Twitter since journalists were sort of early adopters in a way but really, it was that simple.

* When this post was published, this described almost exactly my job, which was not at The Atlantic. Ad revenue has only gotten worse since then, hence paywalls.
posted by warriorqueen at 9:22 AM on August 23, 2018 [6 favorites]

Following on warriorqueen's point 2, you could just as easily ask why don't more online news sources link directly to their sources, given that this is the web, and you can link to anything. Allowing readers to check out primary sources for themselves easily would help people become more informed, wouldn't you agree? Twitter provides a nice mechanism for embedding tweets (which are not "screen prints", they are live bits of an embedded webpage that Twitter provides, and I don't understand your insistence otherwise), and it provides something a bit richer than a simple link, so why not use it if you're thinking of providing a link anyway?
posted by Aleyn at 12:27 PM on August 23, 2018 [1 favorite]

One reason may be what others have mentioned -- since this is basically content from Twitter's servers being loaded inside the larger NY Times web page, the numbers of likes, retweets, and replies are updated in real time. That feature, and the fact that Twitter makes it so easy, may motivate this embedding being done more frequently when a tweet is cited.

(some internet scallywags have taken advantage of this: when they find out one of their tweets is included in an article, they'll change their display name to say something rude about the institution that published it. since the updates are in real time, the change will display in the actual article, often without the publisher noticing for a while.)

A vaguer, less rational reason is just that Twitter seems to have pretty good PR with journalists. Most US journalists and others who work in media are heavy Twitter users, and likes/retweets/followers/etc all seem to be much more salient to them than to normal people. (Yes, I'm being slightly critical here.) So Twitter provides the service, it's easy, and in the mind of a journalist it makes sense since Twitter is hugely important and where they spend a ton of their time and mental energy.
posted by vogon_poet at 7:32 PM on August 23, 2018

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