Will Twitter Disrupt News As We Know It?

Vivian Schiller's resume is impressive. It boasts former positions as CEO of National Public Radio, senior vice president of NYTimes.com, and senior vice president and chief digital officer for NBC News -- not to mention stints at CNN and Discovery.

Where does someone with a resume like this want to work next? Twitter (NYSE: TWTR  ) .

Making the hire just weeks before Twitter went public, her role as head of news and journalism partnerships gives investors a tweet-sized clue into Twitter's big plan to play a major role in news.

Getting publishers on board
Twitter has become a viable news outlet. Some tweets, like billionaire investor Carl Icahn's tweets about Apple, have even been known to move the market. Publishers often rely on Twitter to provide news more rapidly. President Obama used Twitter to declare his victory in the 2012 U.S. presidential election. Astronauts have tweeted photos from space. It's the future. Twitter will play a major role in news.

But just how important is news to Twitter? It's crucial.

According to Twitter's S-1 filing, the social platform creates value for users through a virtuous cycle -- a virtuous cycle in which news plays a central role:

Although we do not generate revenue directly from users or platform partners, we benefit from network effects where more activity on Twitter results in the creation and distribution of more content, which attracts more users, platform partners and advertisers, resulting in a virtuous cycle of value creation.

Platform partners, as defined by Twitter, include publishers, media outlets, and developers, who have integrated with Twitter and distribute content on the platform. Twitter specifically lists BBC, CNN, and Times of India as examples. In other words, publishers pay a major role in helping Twitter's business grow. As head of news and journalism partnerships, therefore, Schiller will certainly be busy.

Not without Facebook watching
Facebook (NASDAQ: FB  ) , too, seems to believe there's value in getting publishers on board in using its platform as a means for important news distribution. In a position that seems to mirror Schiller's, Facebook has a VP of media partnerships -- a role that belongs to Justin Osofsky.

Even more intriguing, Osofsky's aspirations for Facebook sound a bit Twitter-like: "We are committed to building features that improve the experience of discovering and participating in conversations about things happening in the world right now, including entertainment, sports, politics and news," he explained in a September press release announcing the company's plans to give tools to news organizations to allow them to tap into Facebook's public feed.

As the much larger player, with 1.19 billion monthly active users and 728 million daily active users compared to Twitter's just over 230 millionmonthly active users, could Facebook make Schiller's job more difficult? Sure. But Twitter's move to hire an industry veteran to reach out to publishers shows the smaller social network is taking the challenge seriously. Twitter wants to change the way we receive breaking news.

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