Happy Birthday Twitter: How UK Newspapers Stumbled Into The Digital Future


So, it’s the 7th birthday of the most important development in human communication since a young Alexander Graham Bell used a piece of string to connect two plastic cups  and pondered “this gives me an idea” [citation needed]. Twitter has come from nowhere, via everyone not on Twitter thinking that everyone on Twitter just uses it so say things like “might go upstairs later”, to its current position as Most Important Thing On The Planet. And that’s just our Twitter account we’re talking about.

As one might expect from what is now the print media’s most ubiquitous online reference point, the anniversary is being covered in just about every newspaper outside of the Anglesey Examiner, but the press wasn’t always so keen to cover Twitter. Join us now, as we delve through the websites of the UK’s national press (apart from the ones with uselessly hateful search functions) so see when each first covered Twitter, and in which context.

In ascending date order, then:

[UPDATE 22 March 2013: A few of the gaps filled in below, with thanks to a couple knowledgeable readers willing to engage in the dark arts of “knowing things” and “doing research”. An extravagantly angled tip of our titfer to both James and Mike Landers for the assistance.]

The Guardian: 27 November 2006

A Comment is free piece on the acceptability of letting the internet know you’re a real-life person, dammit.


Twitter is: “the ultimate in solipsism”.


[UPDATE: Reader, gentleman and walking infohub known only to us as ‘James’ writes in to inform us that The Times belong next on the list. Having deftly avoided the Great Paywall of Murdoch by using proper research database Newsbank, James reports that The Times first covered Twitter just a few weeks after the Guardian. Here’s the skinny:

“The honour for the second reference and indeed the first direct article about it goes to The Times, a two line piece in their "The Click" column in Times2... dated Tuesday 12 December 2006:

The site twitter .com, started in March 2006 as a side project of Odeo, an audio website, is based on the concept of friends and strangers answering the question, "What are you doing?" Subscribers areinvited to tell everyone that they are getting ready for work, they have "just bit into a hot chilli"...or whatever.”

Visit our lavishly furnished comments deck for the full comment from James.]


Financial Times: 23 March 2007

Not too much to report, given that you need to subscribe in order to read articles, but the FT are pretty quick out of the blocks, with the Tech Hub section running an article on the fledgling service.


Twitter is: “Microblogging for the lazy.”


[UPDATE: It’s possible The Telegraph could be amongst the early adopters, though we’re still not sure exactly when. Reader and gentleman Mike Landers informs us (via the comments of this article, we don’t have a network of spies or anything):

“The Telegraph jumped on the bandwagon early. When I spoke to Orlowski (yeah yeah I know) in Spring 2009 he said it was an open competition between a couple of hacks at the Guardian and their Telegraph counterparts to get as many pieces about it as possible.”

Which does makes sense, with the Telegraph being one of the first – if not the very first – UK newspapers to have a renowned online operation. Though the search function on their website is still wincingly awful.]


The Independent: 4 April 2007

An article about Twitter, funnily enough.


Twitter is: According to Tom Wetheredge, a ‘net user asked about the microblogging site for the article, “a perfect example of how the internet can keep us too connected."


The Sun: 7 September 2007

In what you could describe as either a sober report on those affected by a tragedy, or an early example into snooping into the social network accounts of victims (which would be perhaps a little unfair, no matter how much we dislike The Sun), a reference to students present at the Virginia Tech shootings using the service to express their panic as the attack was taking place.


Twitter is: a website which “which asks contributors to tell it what they are doing”.


Daily Mail: 30 April 2008

A piece about how Steve Jobs is evil.



Twitter is: A “one-line blog website”.

Later, the first article about Twitter itself appeared on 24 July 2008 (“New SMS site Twitter grows 600% in a year”), and the first time it tried to crowbar it into a manufactured ‘scandal’ was on 19 December 2008 (when Jonathan Ross – on his post-Sachsgate hiatus – used it to ‘brag’ about daring to enjoy himself).



Daily Mirror: 19 December 2008

Another slice of faux-outrage about that evil, wicked Jonathan Ross boasting about enjoying himself.


Twitter is: a “new messaging website”, despite actually being almost three years old by that point.



Daily Star: 9 January 2009

Jonathan Ross again. Note the helpful and newsworthy revelation that Ross posts “up to 23 updates a day”. How DID he get time to literally spit in the face of every innocent man, woman and child in the UK with all that going on, eh?


Twitter is: “currently the hottest networking site on the web.”


Daily Express: 14 January 2009

The newspaper, who possibly needed to explain what the internet was to its readers as late as 2008, waited until tabloid bĂȘte noir SHAMED JONATHAN WOSSY WOSS does a thing on it before mentioning Twitter.


Twitter is: An “online […] blog”. As opposed to all those offline blogs you get. On parchment.


Sadly, no results from the Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard or Metro, due to aforesaid search rubbishness, though you’re all welcome to delve through their archives in search of early Twitter mentions. Google site searches by date don’t work for them, by the way, as that includes results for modern-day Twitter mentions embedded in each site’s CSS.

Meanwhile, for the four newspapers who provide useful search functions allowing for a breakdown by year, here are some charts. Everyone likes charts. Wholly non-scientific, what with each of the following including uses of the word ‘Twitter’ in the context of both the website and the noise birds makes, but interesting. Well, slightly interesting. Possibly only if you’re us.







NEXT UPDATE: The last ever instances of ‘Google Plus’ in UK newspapers. Or not.


This Bird Has Flown (Alternatives To Tweetdeck Air for Windows)

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The history of mankind is peppered with stupidly short-sighted decisions. “What? Supply enough lifeboats for everyone on board? Oh, like that’ll be a good PR move for our unsinkable vessel. GET OUT”, for example. Or, if you’d like a more contemporary example, Twitter have decided to deactivate the version of Tweetdeck that runs via Adobe Air. And by ‘deactivate’, we don’t just mean “stop providing support for it” or “stop making it available for download from their website”, we mean “if you' have it installed on your desktop computer, it’ll magically cease to function at some point during April 2013.

Yep, when faced with the problem that many people are still using the old version of their desktop client rather than the web-based ‘standalone’ version because the new version is a fiddly, unfriendly, nasty chunk of web-based fudge, Twitter have decided to make people get with the times by, well, smashing their favourite toy and telling them to go out and get the new one. They’re SO good at internet!


Yep, instead of updating the ’yellow icon' version of the app to cope with the forthcoming Twitter API update, it’s being left to rot. Which is slightly annoying for all the people who’ve tried other Twitter desktop apps, including the newer ‘blue icon’ version of Tweetdeck, and found them all sorely lacking. As for using Twitter’s actual website to use Twitter… well, some of us prefer to attempt doing a dozen things at once, cheekily ignoring the fact we’re not concentrating properly on any of them.

You see, following in the footsteps of Windows XP, Tweetdeck Yellow (as we’re going to call it from now on) was pretty much a victim of its own success. It was so damn good at what it did, there was no compelling reason to move on to supposed ‘upgrade’ Tweetdeck Vista. Sorry, ‘Tweetdeck Blue’ (we’re not sorry). Somehow, people don’t buy into the whole “Well, it’s worse, but it’s newer” ethos (see also: iTunes 11).


A Messy Kwelfnuve To You All

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On the one day of the year when people have something better to do than visit an unpopular blog that was quite good for a month in 2007, a rare update! It’s a complete (in several parts) Christmas episode of defunct Aussie panel show Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation. Because hey, if you understood the reference in the title of this blogpost, you’re all about relatively obscure comedy miscellanea.

Piggywiggywiggywiggywoo, everyone!


The BrokenTV End Of Year Video Extravaganza Part One: The 20 Best Songs Of 2012

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Inarguably so. Having spent every single minute of the last month listening to every single song recorded in 2012 (with no sleep, often listening to six or seven songs simultaneously in order to get through them all), we've whittled them down to the twenty greatest songs pumped out into the world since 1 January 2012. And here they are, presented to you in the form of a badly-edited video that hopefully won't be removed as soon as we upload it. Enjoy. And probably grumble about how there aren't enough guitars, but shush.

View in full YouTube-o-vision here. Hover over the oblongs on the bottom-right of the video window when each song is played to leap to full versions of each song.

And yes, we do know the intro to that video goes on for too long. We’ll try harder next year.



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Yes! After what feels like 19 months, 713,000 hours of pointlessly televised rhetoric and 4.2 billion idiots on Twitter who don’t even live in America banging on about it as if it makes them somehow seem ‘interesting’ (hello!), the 2012 US Presidential Election Night Of Nights is here. And to mark it, the biggest ever prize giveaway that your super soaraway BrokenTV has ever seen. (Up to) FIVE THOUSAND POUNDS! And more realistically, at least one DVD boxset of the underrated US drama series The Riches (season one) starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver both being way better than you’d expect them to be could be YOURS. (Terms & conditions apply.)


That’s a BRAND NEW AND SEALED copy of the above DVD box set. And it could be yours. YOURS. “Why?” you may ask. It’s because we love you, dear reader. And because we’ve accidentally bought two of them from eBay because we’re a bit thick. Our stupidity equals BIG CASH PRIZES FOR YOU*.



Simply take part in our super What Will Be The First Letter Of The First Word David Dimbleby Says During Tonight’s Live BBC One Coverage Of The US Election Results On BBC One At 11.35pm Tonight Sweepstake, exclusive to our Twitter followers.

Here’s the playgrid, containing the rules, current players and more information. All you need to do to enter is make sure you’re following @BrokenTV on Twitter, and have the ability to pick a letter from the alphabet. That’s it!

In addition to the lucky winner bagging the above prize, those picking certain letters CHOSEN ENTIRELY AT RANDOM BY THE BROKEN TV COMPUTER, HONEST could win up to £5000 in super top tax-free cash prizes. And if THAT weren’t simple enough, we’ve even told you what those letters are! It’s like we’re allergic to money!

So. Without any further ado, THE SWEEPSTAKE.


It really is as simple as that!

(Winner posted on Twitter and here at about 11.40pm. Or, this update removed quietly when no-one wants to take part. You MONSTERS.)

UPDATE 10.52pm

All letters now GONE, as above. The winner of our competition will be revealed LIVE ON BBC ONE AT 11.35PM.

UPDATE 11:47pm

And it’s over! With David Dimbleby opening ElectoFestUSATwoKayTwelve (which is the name that the US Senate recognises for the US Presidential Election, we believe) with the words “The White House…” (followed by some other words that we couldn’t hear over the sound of our tears and rage). This means that @alanjenson is the big winner, not only of the DVD boxset (which – BREAKING – he has just declined on Twitter, which means a rollover for 2016), but of an EXCLUSIVE BrooPeter badge, which permits the holder free access to all manner of National Trust attractions and museums. (Mainly because the EXCLUSIVE BrooPeter badge is actually just a really big gun with a safety pin stuck to it.)

Anyway, there you go. Bit of fun, wasn’t it? Apart from the bit where we realised we were recording the BBC1 Wales coverage of US Election Night 2012, which skips the first half hour due to Week In Week Out being on before it. Oh, BBC One Wales.

Anyway, we’re not bothering with a live blog this time round. Y’know, as a kind of ‘protest’ against everyone on the internet not bothering with this blog any more (hey, what do you want? Updates more than once a month?). Instead, we’ll be twattering on over on Twitter. BrokenTV are we. Will we post searing satire like “hey! Fox News aren’t that ‘Fair’ and ‘Balanced’ after all!”? It’s a slam dunk!


The Only Song You Need For Your Halloween Party Soundtrack

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Tracy Jordan - Werewolf Bar Mitzvah (RAC Mix). Brilliance.


Run Wrake (1965-2012)

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As reported on BoingBoing, underappreciated animation genius and illustrator Run Wrake has sadly passed away after losing a battle with cancer at the horrendously young age of 47.

By chance, we’d only recently stumbled over his YouTube channel, which seems to have gone largely unnoticed. Help remedy this by visiting it right now. If you need any special reason for doing so, because his work is so richly and wonderfully creative, the majority of it being from the 1990s, where opportunities for such weird and wonderful work to be seem by the public were – in comparison with nowadays – tremendously rare, cropping up in the likes of BBC/MTV’s Liquid Television or late night Channel 4. This also coming from the days before the ubiquity of programs such as Flash or After Effects made animation more accessible, Wrake became an inspiration for the new breed of offkilter animators, whose work now receives the audience such majestic oddness deserves. Think of Wrake’s work as being a midpoint between Terry Gilliam and Cyriak Harris, sadly without it ever really finding the audience it deserved.

A few examples:

PING BATTER PONG: In 1998, when MTV’s M2 channel launched on the new Sky Digital platform, it opened with an hour-long compilation of Run Wrake’s work. Those were (as we’ve said several times before) the days when M2 was quite simply the best music channel ever to grace television, happily playing host to acts you’d likely never see on the more mainstream MTV channels, as well as giving as much credit to directors of music videos as they would to the artists. Factor in that there were no adverts (hey, probably hardly any viewers) and it’d happily give up an hour of primetime to French hip-hop, and as we said, best music channel ever. And here are the first three minutes. Of it.

THE SHOWBIZ SET: In 2002, Channel 4 broadcast the wonderful documentary The Showbiz Set, looking from the formative years of television to its golden age. It was so wonderful in fact, that we named it 17th Best Television Programme Of The 00s. Chopping together a plethora of famous faces from the varying eras covered in the show, Wrake’s title sequence set the scene for it well.

NME GALLERY: We first came to recognise Wrake’s work from his artwork for the NME (when it was good, which was when we read it). Often taking a photo of the artist in question and transforming it into something otherworldly and fascinating, Wrake’s illustrations always seemed to leap out of the page and draw you in to a 700 diatribe from Johnny Cigarettes on the new Blaggers ITA album (or such).

JUST A MINUTE: More recently, Wrake produced this promotional piece for the BBC, highlighting (and we have to say, enhancing) sixty uninterrupted seconds on Sudoku from Paul Merton. Taking on the dual aims of being strange and inventive, but without being offputting to the Radio 4 audience it was aimed at, Wrake put together a piece that flows as expertly as Paul Merton’s yapping mouth does at its best.

FUTURE SOUND OF LONDON - WE HAVE EXPLOSIVE: Unsurprisingly, him having worked for the NME for so long, Wrake also lent his talents to a number of music videos. Many of which (such as his work for Howie B) are sadly unavailable to view in the UK (yeah, cheers BMG), but this example from Future Sound

of London shows just how well Wrake’s trademark style combined with similarly inventive sounds conjured by noise wizards FSOL.

MEAT STREET 2: Wrake’s most recent upload to YouTube, from just a couple of weeks ago, the second part of what was (at least intended to be) an ongoing narrative. While this may indeed have been part of an earlier work (the video doesn’t have a description), the abrupt ending to it comes across as a bit of a gutpunch, given the circumstances.



Run Wrake, 1965-2012
www.runwrake.com | vimeo.com/user10255055/videos | www.youtube.com/user/runwrake


Bye Then, Analogue

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Though luckily, BBC Northern Ireland were on hand to make sure it didn’t just fizzle out without a suitable salute. As you can see here:

They’ll have a job topping that when digital broadcasting is switched off in 2078 (to be replaced by all television being put out in edible pill form). Lovely stuff.


So. What Did The American Media Make Of That Bit In The Olympic Closing Ceremony With Rodney and Del-Boy In It, Then?

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Wondering how the US media covered the bit of the Olympics closing ceremony where “Del Boy” and “Rodney” appeared? Here’s what the New York Times live blog said about them:


Sadly, they don’t seem to have picked up on the BIG news that Eric Idle was (presumably) the first person to say (sing) the word ‘shit’ during an Olympic closing ceremony.


Oh well. Can’t have it all. More of this kind of thing soon, perhaps.

Oh, one more thing. No-one retweeted the best joke we made all night on Twitter, so we’re going to post it here. Now, where out of context it makes even less sense than it did at the time.


Well, we say joke…


Yeah, Er, Thanks, But…

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Our Twitter feed feels slightly tainted now. This is possibly payback for us trying to display a modicum of understanding for the subjects of BBC Two’s Young, Bright and On The Right when we previewed it in last Saturday’s Guardian Guide :(