We meant to comment on this piece by Lucas Siegel from [email protected] for days, but never got around to it; the title was “My Opinion Is Right: Comics Press is Crippled Like No Other Industry” but despite that bold statement, the offending incident came from Marvel’s very active staff Twitter community

There has been a bit of an uproar on Twitter in the last 24 hours, primarily instigated by three big names at Marvel Comics complaining about tweets, posts on the microblogging social network, being reposted on websites such as this one, CBR, and many others. The contention by Tom Brevoort, Brian Michael Bendis, and Joe Quesada is that this shouldn’t be done without permission or even payment to the person who made the original 140 character or less post.

This was really a tempest in a teapot — Joe Q, in particular complaining about people reposting his Tweets — let alone PAYING to do it — was odd, since he’s one of the most media-savvy comics personalities out there. It seems that the agita — if it wasn’t all a big put-on — on Marvel’s part was over Twitter aggregations like this gathering up CB Cebulski’s advice on how to break into comics.

Setting aside the fact that apparently Cebulski actually GAVE permission for [email protected] to collect his thoughts, the main thing it made US wonder was…why on earth would ANYONE post any information of any real value on Twitter?

As our colleague Calvin Reid observed to us the other night, Twitter is like a 24-hour rolling cocktail party. There really isn’t enough time in the day to read EVERY Twitter in your feed, and why would anyone want to? CB went to the trouble of typing out some very sound information on breaking in to comics — and then it rolled on. Back to CB’s daily culinary adventures, Wil Wheaton’s making dinner for his kids, Themediaisdying posting about some magazine closing, Wossy making a TV show, and a thousand complaints about computer problems.

Has Twitter crested yet, please God? Well, Techcrunch reports the dual assault of Ashton Kutcher and Oprah has overrun the levees:

Twitter’s march towards world domination continues apace. This morning comScore released its global numbers for March, 2009. Worldwide visitors to increased 95 percent in the month of March from 9.8 million to 19.1 million, according to its estimates. This compares to 9.3 million visitors in the U.S. alone.

What really amuses us is the Internet’s supposed “march of progress”. Six or seven years ago, when blogging was just getting started, we remember countless web articles on how you needed to blog to extend and market your brand. Now we are reading countless blogs about how to use Twitter to extend and market your brand. What’s next? We predict some kind of rolling symbol site — like in the Matrix — where folks just type in little pictures to say how they’re feeling — the bad news is that everyone will need a Chinese computer keyboard to participate.

And what’s a “brand” anyway? Is it the same thing as, gasp, content?

The Twitter fad is notable in that everyone PREDICTS it’s a fad and not a new means of communication, even while they’re trying to make use of this new means of communication. What really worries us is that so much on the web is far less lasting than that moldy, uninteractive print. In its own way the closing of GeoCities is a massive loss of information. If you want to see the Web as it existed ten years ago just find any webpage hosted on GeoCities. And yet, these were mostly pages written by people who were driven by passion. They were also trailblazers of web info, scanning and writing and posting information that has since been disseminated in Wikipedia and the other pro sites that come up whenever you Google anything. They were the frigging pioneers!

Yahoo is closing it GeoCities site this year.

Yahoo bought GeoCities for more than $2.9 billion in dot-com-priced stock in 1999, when GeoCities had more than 1.1 million users. However, while the idea of having a personal presence on the Internet has caught on, GeoCities turned out to be a backwater, not the mainstream.

“We will be closing GeoCities later this year,” Yahoo said in a note on the site. “We’ll provide more details about closing GeoCities and how to save your site data this summer.”

For perspective, Harry McCracken does a “Where are they now” for the top 15 websites and brands of April, 1999 and it’s not pretty.

And now, it looks like the entire publishing world might go the way of GeoCities.

This piece from Rumpus by Steve Hely nicely captures the churn of the Attention Economy (as AdAge, of all things, dubbed it)

It’s not just the Kindle. There’s the iPhone. Blogs. Facebook. Twitter. Blortcejil. If your company doesn’t already have a business plan in place for how to deal with the coming rise of Blortcejil, you’re two years behind the curve. If you don’t even know what Blorcejil is, then you might as well pack up your typewriter and head off to Florida, because you’re as good as retired.

Luckily, in the confusion and chaos of the current publishing rEvolution, there are some people who are profiting. Like me. I’ve been offering my services to various terrified publishing companies. I’m a Post-Paper Evolution Consultant. My credentials are impeccable: I’m 29. I was practically raised by an original Nintendo, so I was there the first time a video game (Castlevania II: Simon’s Quest) showed a richness of characterization, lyrical language, and elegant plotting that rivaled the finest novels. I was blogging by ’02, Facebooking by ’04, bored of Facebook by ’06, thinking it was lame how thirty-five year olds got super in to Facebook in ’08. Like it or not, I’m the future.

PS: We’ve ganked the accompanying illo by Jon Adams — someone make a t-shirt FAST!

Unfortunately, the democratization of media access — where everyone’s opinion is available all the time — is making us less informed than ever, in favor of a “commentary” based “news” model. Just today the NY Times reports that CNN’s “middle of the road” news format has lost ratings ground to the strident voices on the right and left at Fox and MSNBC:

With its rivals stoking prime time with high-octane political opinion and rant, can CNN compete effectively with a formula of news delivered more or less straight?

Executives of competitors and even some of CNN’s own staff members say recent trends suggest the answer may be no.

“The people who watch these channels are news junkies,” said Phil Griffin, the president of MSNBC. “They’ve already had access to the headlines all day long on the Internet. In prime time you’ve got to stand out and make a splash.”

To return this to the more ridiculous and comforting world of entertainment coverage, this story from the NY Observer about how blogs and Twitter are killing the traditional Hollywood media paints the mismatch between the old school — where people got PAID to write — and the new school, where Twitter, the hottest thing going, but has yet to provide an inkling of an idea on how it will make money is laid bare:

“For one thing, you have bloggers who need traffic and are desperate for attention,” said Mr. Bart. “The overriding truth of the blogging community is they’re trying to figure out how to monetize their endeavors. So you have to call attention to yourself. On that side, you have a clear motive.”

We’re no fan of the level of “reporting” done at the Hollywood trades, but the loss of the authoritative source is getting to be a problem. And it’s one that newsmakers are increasingly taking advantage of, even the White House:

In separate interviews this week in their adjoining West Wing offices, press secretary Robert Gibbs and Deputy Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer talked at length about the multiplicity of sources – newspapers, network and cable television, radio, blogs – that comprise a news cycle that churns virtually around the clock. “There are so many outlets and so many places that are driving the news that, in the end, nothing gets driven,” Mr. Gibbs said.

“Nothing gets driven.” That describes our working day perfectly. By the time we’ve spent an hour reading Twitter to see what we should be writing about, we have no time left to write, because there’s another hour’s worth of Twitter to read.

To bring this full circle, with all due respect to Joe Q, BMB and Tom B., Twitter is all anybody’s got any more and they are really lucky that that’s what passes as news these days. It’s better to be Twittered about than not Twittered about at all. I doubt we’ll ever return to the days of a well-funded, undistracted press. In the meantime, we’ll all keep getting our news from the Underpants Gnomes.



  1. “why on earth would ANYONE post any information of any real value on Twitter?”

    Good question.
    By the way… I came to this post because I followed your link on Twitter. Haha!
    I’m not thrilled with the usage of Twitter, either. It’s just a tool, but how it’s abused is strange. How CNN and other media uses it to actually direct the news amazes me.

    As for Joe Q and others… as you noted, he’s media savvy enough to know the deal. Tempest in a teapot, perhaps. Perhaps not. Depends on the person’s view. It’s a new world. We’re just living in it.

  2. Great post (and I also got to it via Twitter even though I follow this site regularly) that should be required reading by anyone writing about the Internet these days. Thanks, Heidi!

  3. Twitter is definitely a great tool. I’ve been noticing a slight rise in traffic since I started using it to announce stories. It’s a great personalized RSS feed! In fact, Twitter reminds me a lot of, only with conversation.

  4. I had thought that the Marvel complaints about the Twitter articles were as much about the lousy work done on the articles as much as the lack of notification. Basically, Newsarama et al copies the Twitter feed (without even correcting for the order of the tweets), and then slapped ads on it, with little thought or anything else of value. It’s not as bad as someone stealing my RSS feed to a ghost site with ads on it to capture Google revenue, but it’s of little value.

    Had the article been “Here’s the best 3 of CB’s tweets, and here’s a link to his feed”, I don’t think there would have been a word of complaint. That one article was *30* tweets cut-and-pasted. A bit excessive.

  5. Ray, sure but how else were you supposed to get CB’s sage advice in one place? I admit, I toyed with the idea of doing the same thing, but as someone at [email protected] mentioned, collecting tweets is DAMNED TOUGH.

  6. Who cares about Geocities’ history? It’s long since ceased to be of any use or relevance whatsoever, as other push-button web creation systems came along that were far better at the job than it ever was. Game, set, and match. And if all that stuff that was on everybody’s old Geocities sites has been picked up and put on Wiki et. al, then what’s been lost? Answer: Nothing.

    Someone please wake me when people get over neophilia and start looking at the ‘Net pragmatically instead of feeding their egos by blaring on and on about a self-aggrandizing Star Trek-lite future that never comes.

    And if Steve Hely is serious about Castlevania II, then I advise publishing companies to simply burn their money in-house and save themselves the time.

  7. Looking further at Hely’s piece, it’s obvious that he is, indeed, kidding about Castlevania. And everything else.

  8. Twitter is the Pet Rock of the Social Networking Age. Everybody’s got something better to do than to Twitter and, to quote Gail Simone (probably entirely out of context), “You’ll All Be Sorry!”

    — Rob

  9. Aww… as one of those that used Geocities as my first webpage way back in 96 (and it’s still up there) I’m a bit sad to hear that’s going to go. But I’m not surprised.

    I’m glad the news is getting out about it. Even in comics there are some old websites with useful info on them (ie Jess Nevins pages). I’m not so sure 100% of everything has been transferred elsewhere.

  10. Twitter is like a new Target store. Everybody goes to it when it first opens, and then it becomes as hum-drum as any other department store/technological fad. Passion will always triumph! (And you can twitter that!)

  11. For the life of me, I will not ever understand some people’s revulsion at Twitter. It’s only inane if a user chooses to use it in an inane way. Like any communication tool, Twitter can be used to great effect or to poor effect. The simplicity of the tool is the source of its versatility.

    As a comics person, I use Twitter to keep up with relevant news articles, webcomics updates, press releases as well as minor news from people I kinda know. It’s really whatever each user chooses to make of it.

    I’m too young to know what a pet rock was like, but it sounds pretty silly. Twitter actually can be used for something.

  12. I need to get on Twitter so I can tell everybody how much I HATE TWITTER!!!! Twitter is for twits.

    The problem is the natural tendency of people to go with what’s quick and easy rather than what’s right and true. I dislike how blogs pass for news outlets as it is, and twitter is boiling down blogs into bumper stickers.

    I think Twitter is cool for what it is, but it’s what people will turn it into that will be the real shame. There isn’t a day on the calendar that would not be improved by a bon mot from Warren Ellis or even Bendis. Yet, treating Twitter as if it is some revolutionary invention that will replace thoughts longer than 140 characters and contain sentiments that amount to more than something you would put on the front of a t-shirt… well, that’s where the real trouble starts.

  13. I remember posting a story on my website about Wowio not making payments after reading comments on Twitter. After posting the story, one of the commenters stated they wished I hadn’t posted the story as their comments weren’t ready or meant for public consumption. I didn’t mention it then, but I was stunned that the person saying this didn’t realize 1) saying something on Twitter IS saying something out loud, in public, for everyone to hear, and 2) I didn’t need permission to repeat what I had read on Twitter.

    It’s absurd for anyone to make the objections the Marvel people made. In actuality, they should appreciate the publicity, but what I’ve found is, the larger the comic book publisher, the more likely they are to be overly protective of publicity and marketing.

  14. “Who cares about Geocities’ history?”

    People who care about history, obviously. Following a comment like this with a disparaging one about “neophilia” seems a bit hipocritical.

  15. Hi that is a genuinely interesting view, It does give one food for thought, I am very delighted I stumbled on your blog, i was using Stumbleupon at the time, in any case i don’t want to ramble on too much, but i would like to say that I will be back when I have a little time to read your blog more thoroughly, Once again thanks a lot for the blog post and please do keep up the right work,