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Summary:

Twitter’s deal with SoundCloud to embed audio in tweets isn’t just a deal that gives the Berlin music startup a ton of exposure: it’s a signal that while Twitter may carry a threat for media companies, it could be a serious alternative to Facebook.

SoundCloud tweet

Twitter just achieved a holy trinity of snackable multimedia: you could already view Instagram pictures and YouTube videos within tweets, but now you can also listen to SoundCloud sounds without ever leaving Twitter.com.

If it sounds a little Facebook-ey, it should — this, along with the other parts of the ‘expanded tweets’ announcement, shows Twitter stepping up far more explicitly than before as Facebook’s most plausible rival. Deals with the likes of SoundCloud and DailyMotion square up to the media embeds found on Facebook’s profile walls, while partnerships with The New York Times, Der Spiegel and others provide a counterpart to Facebook’s content apps.

Mathew has recently put forward some strong arguments for why the mainstream media should see Twitter as a competitor, or even a threat, but with the announcement of expanded tweets it’s worth re-evaluating what the platform has to offer, particularly in comparison to Facebook.

Because it looks to me like Twitter just extended not only an olive branch to the content industry, but a lifeline too.

Who’s in control?

As Berlin VC Ciarán O’Leary astutely pointed out a couple of months back, “Facebook is turning into AOL – it wants to be ‘the internet’.”

For media firms, an app pact with Facebook is Faustian by nature: it may achieve virality, but it involves letting Facebook keep their customers within the confines of its walled garden. There’s a whiff of desperation about the whole idea, like record companies trying to mitigate declining sales by giving up control to Apple.

Twitter, on the other hand, is all about links to the rest to the web. Yes, snack-size content like sounds, pictures and short videos will probably be consumed within the Twitter environment. But Twitter’s fast-moving nature will also lead a lot of people to click through to the original site so they can go back to their stream view.

In SoundCloud’s case, for example, the firm is not only getting its content out there more, but also gaining a way to invite people back to its own environment.

And as for longer-form content providers such as the newspapers, they’re getting a preview facility more analogous to that provided by Google News than anything else. Except this time they’re giving their explicit permission, thus avoiding the type of rancor seen in Germany, where some publishers claim Google News snippets steal their content without permission. Previews like these are drivers of traffic, not ends in themselves.

Easy reading

Most importantly, viewing the story won’t involve installing yet another app that comes with a number of why-do-they-need-this permissions. It will simply mean clicking through to a normal website — crucially, the one owned and controlled by the content producer. With Facebook’s ad framework still not a sure thing, there should be some comfort in that.

Twitter has also made sure that its expanded tweets let the reader follow the profile of the story’s publisher or writer. That’s pretty much analogous to liking a Facebook page in this context, but it rounds out Twitter’s offering nicely.

Sure, getting into bed with Twitter does carry some risk. Just as Google News gave news providers a helping hand while also changing the rules of their game, the type of curation that sneaks in from commercial deals could end up having more than a promotional effect.

But overall, it doesn’t look like a bad deal. Twitter product team director Michael Sippey described expanded tweets in Wednesday’s announcement as the “easy new way to discover content from the web”. Note: not “to discover content within Twitter”.

As a content provider, I’d be a lot cooler with that approach than with Facebook’s. And as someone who loves the open nature of the web, I’m glad someone’s giving the content industry an alternative to Zuck’s walled garden.

  1. Would Twitter ever do an IPO? I wonder what is their strategy in order to avoid what happened with Facebook. Looks like these social networks are loosing growth and power. The next trend could be crowdfunding with sites such as http://www.rockthepost.com and http://www.kickstarter.com

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    1. Phucka PhaceBuuk Friday, June 15, 2012

      WallStreet would shut it down before it happened. They have no real service to offer the real world.

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  2. Reblogged this on vijaya prasad.

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  3. Robert Scoble Thursday, June 14, 2012

    This is awesome, I’ve been putting a ton of stuff into Soundcloud lately at https://soundcloud.com/scobleizer including quite a few interviews with execs.

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  4. >> now you can also listen to SoundCloud sounds without ever leaving Twitter.com.

    Not yet, I think. I can’t get it working, anyway. (@bradhill)

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  5. “Twitter has also made sure that its expanded tweets let the reader follow the profile of the story’s publisher or writer. That’s pretty much analogous to liking a Facebook page in this context, but it rounds out Twitter’s offering nicely.”

    Analogous, except for with Twitter, you know with 100% certainty that all your followers have the chance to see your tweets in their feed, rather than Facebook’s paltry 12 or 13 percent. Twitter is definitely shaping up to be a force to be reckoned with.

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  6. This is a great move by Twitter and as a frequent Soundcloud user, I’m always having to go back and forth between windows/tabs. Now it’s all in one location…brilliant.

    What other ‘expanded tweet’ functionality do you think will be coming down the line?

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  8. Greg Golebiewski Sunday, June 17, 2012

    Very good! Twitter can be a much better “search” engine or a discovery tool, as the tweets with links to original content come with friends’ or experts’ recommendations, not some algorithm.

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