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GPs, feedback and the Twitter revolution

Journalists are always looking for new ways to engage their readers. Whether it’s through email, telephone or carrier pigeon, we thrive on feedback – positive or otherwise.

By Steve Nowottny

Journalists are always looking for new ways to engage their readers. Whether it's through email, telephone or carrier pigeon, we thrive on feedback – positive or otherwise.

To describe Twitter as the new kid on the technological block is pushing it, given it's been around for a couple of years now. But it's fair to say that journalists are still getting to grips with its potential – and working out what, if anything, its long-term significance will be.

Pulse has been on Twitter for a while, of course. You can follow us at http://twitter.com/pulsetoday - we've just had our 800th follower join.

Now Pulse's new Digital Content Strategy Manager, Niall Hunt, is persuading reporters and editorial staff on the magazine to follow suit. As editor of PulseToday.co.uk, that means it's time for me to set an example and take the plunge. I started on Friday, and you can follow me at http://twitter.com/stevenowottny.

(Niall is himself a veteran Tweeter, and you can also follow Pulse's deputy editor Adam Legge).

So far, it's going well. For those who haven't used it, Twitter is simply a way of communicating quickly and instantly online, in 140 characters or less.

For a news reporter, for whom being first is everything, it's a tool full of possibilities. No more phoning in the latest developments, or waiting until you get back to the office to file a story. Given the ability to update your Twitter by text message as well as from a computer, it's possible to report events pretty much in real time.

A bewitching idea then – but here's the kicker. In a world where it's possible to instantaneously publish pretty much anything, what matters is not just who's sending out messages, but who's reading them. The sneaking suspicion among a lot of Twitter sceptics is that there are a lot of people on transmit – and not a lot of people receiving.

This concern is magnified when it comes to the GP community, it's fair to say. Many GPs are pioneers of new technology and keen to embrace the next big thing, and one such reader has already welcomed me to Twitter.

But equally, others are less enthusiastic. Of our 800 followers currently, only a small minority are actually UK-based practicing GPs. It's not clear how many GPs are currently on Twitter, or have the time to Tweet if they are. And even as I write, our editor is desperately wrestling with the fax machine to ensure we're able to receive a communication from a reader who's yet to embrace the Web 2.0 revolution.

So, is Twitter a valuable way for us to communicate with GPs? Clearly it's important that we represent all of our readership, and engage with them in whatever medium they feel most comfortable.

Over to you. If you're a GP on Twitter, please say hi – again, it's http://twitter.com/stevenowottny. But if you're not on Twitter, don't forget that we want to hear from you too. By email, telephone or carrier pigeon - whatever works.

By Steve Nowottny By Steve Nowottny

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