I wrote not that long ago about what I think that Twitter should do to make the platform more attractive to non and infrequent users, and Buzzfeed is reporting that they have had something in the works for a while to make it more accessible to people.
Called Project Lightning, this feature will curate the best Tweets on breaking news or major events, such as award shows and sporting events, and make them accessible in a variety of ways. This will take advantage of Twitter’s major draw of being the place for breaking news1 while not requiring people to be hardcore users that are always logged on to see what’s happening.
Launch one of these events and you’ll see a visually driven, curated collection of tweets. A team of editors, working under Katie Jacobs Stanton, who runs Twitter’s global media operations, will select what it thinks are the best and most relevant tweets and package them into a collection.
The upshot of having actual human people select the Tweets instead of a bot or algorithm that you can ensure that they are relevant and perhaps get some Tweets in that aren’t getting the attention they should. Further, a LOT of spam accounts try to glom onto hashtags and trending topics, so this will also filter out a mess of unrelated Tweets.
In addition to being able to see all of the selected Tweets in a feed, you can also choose to follow the feed itself, which will allow Tweets to show up in your feed as they are added so you don’t have to have two windows open or toggle back and forth. The curated feeds will also focus on providing images, videos and vines, the latter two which will autoplay when you swipe them. Again, this will help to bring in people who aren’t as reading oriented and like to focus more on media surrounding an event.
Advertisers should love this
This opens up a great opportunity for Twitter to sell advertisers on being included in the list of curated Tweets. Brands could work with Twitter to create relevant content or offer promoted content in the form of videos and vines of major events sponsored by companies, much in the way they do now, but with the benefit of being 100% sure that people looking are going to be interested in sponsored media.
Additionally, having an on the fly marketing team available to work with brands to add advertising in curated feeds during breaking news events or during events could be another way to bring in additional ad dollars. Major events tend to be the time that Twitter gets the most traffic, so if the Lightning Project managers to do a good job of leveraging the platform’s immediacy, they could stand to greatly increase their attractiveness to advertisers.
Political topics are going to be ugly
The only issue I see with the implementation of Project Lightning is going to occur when there are political or highly contested issues. If you have several curators with a particular opinion, you’re likely to see only Tweets added that support their beliefs on the issue. With a variety of highly contested elections coming up in locations throughout the world, people only seeing information from one point of view – that of curators – could have a significant impact on how individuals vote.
Take the website Twitchy, a right-leaning American website that curates what it considers to be the most newsworthy Tweets. Many on the left consider to be the website a wretched hive of scum and villainy whereas many conservatives consider the site to be a go to for getting updates on what’s happening in the world.
Whatever someone’s feelings on the site, it is ultimately just picking and choosing particular Tweets and embedding them, very similar to the way that Project Lightning is going to work. All it will take is a selection bias to turn Twitter’s curated feeds into one that attempts to influence politics and related issues.
 Although you can, in theory, get current news from Facebook, good luck in finding it in their mess of curated posts, which have an at best tenuous connection to chronological order.