Twitter's Radical New Way To Experience Live Events

Photographed by Nina Westervelt.
Twitter isn't just for celebrity pearls of wisdom and varsity douchebags; it's also great for up-to-the-second commentary about live events (like the Oscars) or breaking news (like the Nepalese earthquake in April). The platform plans to make that experience even more immersive with an upcoming feature that blends tweets, Vines, and Periscopes.

It's called Project Lightning, as revealed by Buzzfeed, and it gathers breaking news videos and images into what Buzzfeed San Francisco bureau chief Mat Honan calls "a visually driven, curated collection of tweets." Let's say you're watching the Grammys. In the Twitter app, you can tap a hashtag to get more Grammys-related coverage. You'll see full-screen images and videos pulled from Twitter and Vine, plus live feeds from Periscope. You'll read hand-picked tweets that best and most accurately represent what's going on, and you'll get a more complete picture of what's happening. A team of editors selects and filters this content to surface the best, most balanced, and most relevant.
Twitter's been suffering from serious financial woes — which culminated in its CEO stepping down last week — so this is likely something the company hopes to make some money off of through increasing user engagement. (Twitter plans to eventually debut seven to 10 of these curated events each day, so it's not just something limited to super-special occasions like the Super Bowl.) And, like Apple with its upcoming News app and Snapchat with its impending news and political coverage, this pushes Twitter from a platform that simply surfaces news to one that decides what's newsworthy.

As it stands now, this presents a potential problem. The tech industry — you know, those companies making the apps and products we get our news from — is notoriously lacking in diversity. With these same companies in charge of deciding what's newsworthy in the first place, will we also lose some of the spontaneity and variety of opinion we normally see in our feeds? At least Twitter's taken one step in the right direction: Its female VP of Global Media, Katie Jacobs Stanton, is heading up the initiative. However, it may have started on the wrong foot:

Project Lightning will debut in a few months on both Twitter's website and its apps. Live llama news coverage may never be the same again.

More from Tech


R29 Original Series