Last night, at the All Things D’s D:Dive Into Media event in Dana Point, California, Peter Kafka sat down with Twitter’s CEO Dick Costolo to talk about the company and get an idea about the direction it was going. In case you’re interested, the entire conversation was liveblogged and you can read it here. But as I was reading it, I found something interesting about the conversation — Twitter is redefining its role in the world of communication. Some may think that it’s a medium to broadcast their message across the Internet, but rather, Mr. Costolo is telling the world, at least today, that Twitter is just the messenger. In fact, they’re not a media company. He responds that they’re in the media business whereby they distribute traffic and are one of the largest drivers to all sorts of other media properties. So by that definition, the media companies are those that are using the service to broadcast–brands, startups, politicians, and the average citizen.
During this interview, Twitter’s CEO was pressed on a whole lot of issues like SOPA and PIPA and even the 2012 elections. Many probably criticized Twitter for not participating in some sort of “black-out” a couple weeks ago over the Stop Online Piracy Act and Protect IP Act that was being debated in Congress, but Mr. Costolo defended Twitter’s actions by saying that “there were 3.9 million tweets that day about SOPA and PIPA. When you’ve got an amplifier like that, you don’t pull the batteries out of the microphone.” Seems logical to me because how else are you going to communicate your anger while still protesting? It seems that Twitter has taken on the life of the messenger quite well and that you shouldn’t “shoot the messenger”. In other words, just like communication was done through paper mail or telephone tree or even email and message boards, so too now can people use Twitter as that medium and it seems Mr. Costolo is letting the service be all about the people and allowing them to communicate – as long as it adheres to all local laws.
As for the 2012 election, Mr. Costolo believes that it’s going to be the Twitter election — more than 2008 was. Why? Because it seems that all party presidential candidates and other potential office-seekers are using Twitter to get their message across. Just look at how yesterday, California Senators Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, joined Twitter. The fascinating thing about 2012, according to Mr. Costolo, is that this was apparent during this year’s State of the Union: “When Obama made the spilled milk joke, there was this collective groan, and we didn’t have to wait for the pundits to tell us that. Republicans live-tweeted.” News happening isn’t late breaking anymore…it’s just breaking. Mashable has analyzed these comments and believes that Twitter has become an essential platform for reaching voters and for gathering and responding to feedback in real-time — and they’re entirely right. No longer are we going to have to go attend a rally just to get 30 seconds with that candidate to ask them questions or ask one of their surrogates. Instead, if the candidate is serious about talking to as many people as humanly possible, voters can send a tweet and get some sort of a response back. Moreover, evangelist voters can create a rapid grassroots effort to help get out the vote as well.
Twitter has definitely helped shape the way people communicate with one another and as I look at the company, I don’t see another AT&T or Verizon or media company that controls the Internet airwaves. Rather, it’s a technology that we can use to communicate. No longer is the pen mighter than the sword…it’s the tweet that rules.