The Twaper caper: a joke with serious intent

If you logged on to our home page on April 1, you got a glimpse of what it would be like if a newspaper went all-Twitter, all the time. For some, it was an idea that was hard to take seriously. For others, it was a serious scare—if only for a while. For still others, it was a welcome development.

The joke spread—in part because a respected London daily newspaper, The Guardian, posted a story about its own move to Twitter for its news reports. An Associated Press story mentioned us both, as did industry magazine Editor & Publisher. Blogs and news outlets also picked up on our announcement.

Here at Mountain Xpress, we want to thank all of you who read, called, e-mailed and otherwise contributed to the experiment. We apologize to anyone who suffered undue concern over our tomfoolery. But we hope we’ve started a new dialogue about how best to use information-sharing tools like Twitter—a dialogue about collaboration, empowering citizen journalists and possibilities for the future.

Just to be clear, the Xpress Twitter-powered newspaper (or “Twaper,” as we dubbed it) was an April Fools’ Day stunt—but one with a purpose. Publisher Jeff Fobes’ manifesto and memo were artifice, as was the in-house drama here at Xpress. But if you got past the hyperbole, you saw some core truths lurking within the manifesto.

At the same time, we also hope we’ve opened some eyes to the possibilities of such cooperative efforts: Xpress really does want to cultivate passionate engagement. Unlike The Guardian, which simply ran a story, Mountain Xpress actually gave its main Web page over to local residents Twittering what’s news to them—everything from calendar events to their plans for the day to links to other news stories.

We think it’s important to track conversation around specific ideas and topics. Can Twitter help us do this? Are there better ways? We’re not sure, but we’d like to talk about it. And we want the community to know that the “Twaper” will continue to live on our Web site.

“This wasn’t just a joke—it was an experiment to see what would happen if we put all of our energy into making a Twitter paper, if only for a day,” note Fobes. “And I feel sure we will come away with things we learned and take our publication to a new level. We don’t just want to go back to where we were.”

At the same time, we also want to be clear on another point: our solid status as a local print publication. We know that the print edition always has been, and continues to be, the core of our business. Like everyone else in Asheville and around the globe, we’ve felt the recession. But we’re starting to see signs of recovery. Our Green Building Directory grew by nearly 20 percent this year. Our recent children’s issue also saw a significant gain in advertising sales. And our plan is to continue delivering the best mix of local news reporting, arts-and-entertainment features and the most comprehensive events calendar around. We believe that quality editorial content paired with advertising highlighting great local businesses remains an unbeatable combination.

Our most basic value hasn’t changed: “Local matters.” That’s true for our print edition as well as our Web site, where we continue to navigate some uncharted waters.

We welcome your thoughts.

— the editors

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2 thoughts on “The Twaper caper: a joke with serious intent

  1. nuvue

    The twit thing was okay, It reminds me of a toned down The Daily Beast. I read the Beast for its” tweets” and like the way you can click on any blurb to see a more in depth article.
    Maybe you could do the Mtn Express blurb

  2. Ken Hanke

    For some, it was an idea that was hard to take seriously. For others, it was a serious scare

    For me, it was and is both, though the scare isn’t quite what you meant — not in the least because it was hard to buy into the “last print edition” when the same page carried an advert for 65,000 copies of the dining guide.

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