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If Twitter is a wire service, then Google's (Nasdaq: GOOG ) social network, Google+, is a budding TV station. Last week, an enterprising reporter from a Missouri NBC affiliate used the network's "Hangouts" function to compile a live video fed of interviews with Norwegian residents in the wake of the attacks there.
The effort was a success, and it was reminiscent of Twitter circa 2008, when the microblogger made headlines for its role in helping to report attacks in Mumbai, India. At that time, unsubstantiated hearsay mixed with eyewitness accounts to create a compelling -- if confusing -- account. Big Media hasn't been the same since.
G+ doesn't face the same controversy. As MediaBistro's Ethan Klapper rightly points out, the Google-y network is an "all-in-one" solution that combines elements of Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. The combination is what allowed KOMU-TV reporter and anchor Sarah Hill to gather sources quickly, and then, with a few clicks, go straight into a multisource interview.
Whether this ought to matter to Google investors isn't yet clear. But I imagine it's awfully disruptive to Twitter, which can only watch as its IPO window closes. Investors once enthralled by hot names such as LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD ) and Renren (NYSE: RENN ) are now confronted with a U.S. debt crisis that shows no signs of abating. Hot names aren't hot anymore, and Twitter's edge in delivering news in real time -- while still present -- could be giving way to more comprehensive services.
Expect Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) to take note. CEO Steve Ballmer has gotten religion on social search, and his company's ties to Facebook are well known. Mix in Skype and you have the beginnings of a well-positioned G+ rival. And Twitter? Well, at least it's on the iPhone.
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