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BLOG: Meet the new mainstream media: YouTube and Twitter

Robert X. Cringely | June 28, 2013
Last night, while the whole world wasn't watching, the Internet replaced cable news. It's been a long time coming

Mark it on your calendars: June 25, 2013. That's the day mainstream media was officially declared DOA, replaced by YouTube and Twitter.

Mainstream media is dead, long live memestream media.

Admittedly, the 24/7 cable channels were declared brain dead a long time ago. Their physical atrophy has also been apparent for quite some time, and they will no doubt take an agonizingly long time to waste away into nothing. But last night was a turning point.

Last night, while the networks were running programs about blueberry muffins and the Kardashians, a drama was unfolding in the Texas Legislature, carried live on YouTube, with a running commentary by several thousand talking heads on Twitter.

The new network(ing) order
Some 170,000 people tuned into the YouTube feed provided by the Texas Tribune, most of them a long way from the longhorn state. They watched as State Senator Wendy Davis attempted a 13-hour filibuster against an anti-abortion statute during which she was not allowed to sit, lean, drink, eat, or go to the bathroom. She also wasn't allowed to stop talking or stray even the slightest bit off topic.

Her goal was to filibuster until midnight, when the special session of the legislature called by Governor Rick Perry would expire and the bill would die, at least for the time being. When after 11 hours the Republican-controlled chamber decided Davis had broken the rules by going off topic and declared the filibuster over, Twitter erupted. When that august body held a vote passing the law, two minutes after the midnight deadline had passed, then retroactively changed the timestamp on the bill back to 11:59 pm, the anger and ridicule were palpable.

Meet the new mainstream media: YouTube and Twitter

I'm not going to get into the politics surrounding this fight. There are plenty of opportunities for that elsewhere on the Webbernets. Today, traditional notions of chronology prevailed and the bill was deemed to have failed. Tomorrow, who knows what will happen.

But the prevailing theme soon morphed from whether Texas legislators are a few cattle short of a full herd to "where was the media during all of this"?

Last night, three of Twitter's top 10 trending topics were about the filibuster. At its height, the hashtag #standwithwendy was being retweeted nearly 5,000 times per minute. Texas Tribune, a nonprofit nonpartisan public media organization most of us had never heard of, went from a couple thousand followers to more than 50,000. What were the 24/7 cable shows doing?

Meet the new mainstream media: YouTube and Twitter

And this:

 

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