Twitter: “Blurb 2.0”

On: October 11, 2009
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About Thomas Wielemaker
Graduate of UvA's MA in New Media New Media and Digital Culture, Thomas Wielemaker currently works as new media strategist whilst also pursuing his interests in information visualization.


The acceleration of communication is a product of our growing need or desire to handle larger amounts of information in shorter periods of time. As efficient as this may sound, there has been somewhat of a public outcry against this tendency’s effect on our increasingly condensed expressions, which have been described as unfulfilling or incomplete. Twitter is the latest victim of these accusations. Tweets are commonly parodied because of their banality but twitter’s commercial potential should not be underestimated. It is the next step in a long line of increasingly targeted advertising.

The term “blurb” was coined at the beginning of the twentieth century and is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as “a brief publicity notice, as on a book jacket.”  Today, the blurb has become synonymous with a brief summary or description of a text or product, usually as a form of advertisement. The blurb quickly became the best way to market a book. Subsequently, advertising in magazines saw a decrease in lengthy reviews of texts or products as brief testimonials and celebrity endorsements began replacing them. Products in supermarket aisles followed suit and nutritional information briefly summarized each food bite into standardized units. As the internet was in its infancy and long after the development of radio and television, advertising had become a handful of exhausted, short catchphrases, jingles and cliches.

Web commerce soon replaced trips to the malls with clicks on the mouse and customers have come to rely more on product specifications and customer reviews. Twitter has become the quintessential blurb of web 2.0 commerce. It comes as no surprise then that the rise of websites like and has come concurrently with the rise of twitter. These websites generally put one item on sale every day. All these sites use twitter as a major vehicle to attract web traffic by tweeting short descriptions of the items for sale that day including a link to the sale page. People who use twitter on a daily basis thus receive a regular supply of blurbs for electronic gear or apparel being sold at, generally, very low prices. These websites, by way of twitter, have replaced the need to search for sale prices and rely on a high following to attract the maximum potential customers who, presented with opportunity, feel persuaded to purchase the item. In this way, twitter is serving our commercial interests particularly during this recent recession.

On his website, Dave Fleet argues that twitter is in danger of shifting into what he calls the “Trough of Disillusionment” of Gartner’s hype cycle because it has failed to meet the inflated expectations set by the media. This may be a result of estimates that only a small percentage of twitter’s users are active. Fleet goes on to argue that this coming “trough of disillusionment” will benefit twitter as company use and user expectations will have matured. I believe we are seeing the beginnings of this maturation. This mature marketing already exists with tweeting blurbs for low-cost, quality products that are in high demand. With increases in use attributed, in part, with the recent success of smartphone twitter apps this kid of short term sale advertising on twitter will continue to grow through the trough.




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