Twitter is a “Real-Time Network” Not a “Social Network”: Biz Stone [Interview]

Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, appeared on CNN’s Reliable Sources Sunday to discuss the impact that Twitter has on the journalism and news media industry. In light of his recent comments that Twitter could become a news network, this interview proved to shed some light on the direction that Stone wants to take the microblogging service.

Howard Kurtz hosted Stone, asking him several questions about Twitter in general, and about current events that Twitter has been implicated in, like the WikiLeaks cable leaks.

Kurtz began by asking why some prominent journalists still say they “don’t get Twitter” and think it’s full of people “tweeting about their lunch” – a common question that Twitter reps are dogged by in almost any media appearance.

Stone said that there was a gap in perception about Twitter. It’s really a real-time information network that’s used by people around the world. He went on to later say that part of the challenge that the Twitter team is facing right now is relevance – ensuring that people are getting the tweets that are most important to them.

Kurtz then asked about media partnerships that Twitter has made recently, particularly the Washington Post’s purchase of the #elections Promoted Trend during the Midterm Elections this past November.

Stone noted that the Promoted Trend was very effective for the Post, without going into details about how much it cost or how many conversions they saw (which would have been nice to know). He also said that partnerships like this were harbingers of more cooperation with journalists and the news industry in the future. The relationship between Twitter and the news industry is complimentary, and although he skirted the questions of whether this relationship would be financially profitable for these organizations, he was clear that Twitter can be a valuable source of breaking news for them and that he wanted to expand this role.

The drama around the Operation Payback Twitter account – which has been posting calls to attack certain websites perceived as wronging WikiLeaks – couldn’t be ignored in this interview. Kurtz asked about Twitter’s recent banning of the account, with Stone replying that it was banned purely based on a terms of service violation and not because of any political motivation. He also emphasized that Twitter is firmly on the side of free speech, and its entire network is based on the premise that the open exchange of information can have a positive impact on the world.

Stone also explained that Twitter is fundamentally different from what people normally think of as a social network. They never created that “friend model”, but instead focused on sources of relevant information. It’s a recipient-driven model, where people find, curate, and follow people they’re interested in.

When asked about his growing media presence and public recognition, Stone laughed. While he might have 1.5 million followers on Twitter,

“Internet dork’s aren’t necessarily the kind of people who get stopped in restaurants.”

You can watch Stone’s interview on Reliable Sources here.