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A promoted New York Times Twitter trend for paywall talk

If you’re a journalist on Twitter today, it’s probably an understatement to say this morning’s announcement of The New York Times’ digital subscription plan is blowing up your Twitter stream. But here’s something interesting we noticed: The Times is using a promoted trend (#NYTimesNews) to spread the word on the new pricing plans.

We’ve been down this road before, notably with the Washington Post on Election Day, and more recently when Al Jazeera English was trying to capture support for carrying the network here in the states. It’s a proven method of trying to spread a message or cultivate conversation on Twitter, as companies hope users take the flag (the promoted flag) and run with it.

That’s certainly the case with the #NYTimesNews trend — although they’re often running with mixed-to-outright-negative (along with the occasional “WHY ISN’T BIEBER TRENDING”) reactions from the Twitter world:

The Times plan, while obviously aimed at getting people to actually lay down the money for their product, has the side effect of triggering a broader discussion on the value of journalism that’s important to you. Those big discussions seem to come with everything the Times does, but it was one thing when the discussions were abstract. Now that we see the choices to be made, well, that’s when things start getting real.

One thing to think about in all of this: Who are the people taking part in the #NYTimesNews debate? Are they largely the fly-by audience who may not even see a change to how they read the Times, or are they the “bumpers,” as Ken Doctor might say, who’ll have to make a choice? Or does their presence on Twitter indicate they’ll keep happily entering through the social-media side door the Times is leaving open?

                                   
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Joseph Lichterman    July 22, 2014
The site known for social media and tech coverage has hired nearly 30 more editorial staffers since October and, like BuzzFeed before it, is expanding into more general interest news.