Twitter may have been born out of San Francisco's fast-moving startup culture, but its latest leader comes from a place far from it. Vivian Schiller, who will start as Twitter's first news partnerships leader in January, comes straight out of the old media world, where she's worked at a number of top organizations from NPR to The New York Times. Most recently, Schiller has been working at NBC News, and in a blog post today she explains why she's choosing to make the jump from "digital person in a media company" to "the media person in a tech company."
In part, her interest in Twitter seems to be much the same as her interest in NBC: she wants to use new technology to help media companies reach a broader audience. For her, that doesn't mean promoting the end of TV, print, and radio, though. "The cash cow must be protected," Schiller writes. "This is not a criticism by any means; it is a fact." Schiller says that these traditional mediums still bring in the majority of revenue for old media companies, and that for now, protecting this status quo is important. "Legacy dollars pay for foreign and investigative coverage that most startups can ill afford," she writes.
"There is a sense that anything is possible."
But even while at NBC, Schiller saw that a partnership with Twitter would be able to help introduce new ideas into the newsroom. She writes that working with partners is still "uncomfortable" for many old media companies, and it's possible that Twitter is hoping her experience with them will make forming those partnerships a smoother process. "I've committed the last 10 years of my career to finding ways to disrupt, but not destroy," Schiller writes. It seems that Twitter will allow her to continue that goal, only now from a new perspective.
Twitter has big ambitions as a platform for news, and Schiller's blog post also gives a hint as to what that might look like. "I'll continue to work toward the broader goal of Twitter as the instrument of a more informed and engaged citizenry," she writes. Among her goals will be helping news organizations reach broader audiences through Twitter. She'll also interface with Twitter's team to relay both what journalists and consumers need it to be able to do. "There is a faith that Twitter can change the world for the better," she writes. "I believe this too."
Though Schiller's new employer is located in San Francisco, she'll be sticking around the East Coast to be closer to top newsrooms. Details on her position and plans are still slim, but Schiller is being open about the difficulty of beginning it all. "Just to be clear, I know this will not be easy," she writes. But though she has concerns, her broader outlook is a positive one. "Twitter is a company as exuberantly optimistic as any I've seen since the early days of Turner," she writes. "There is a sense that anything is possible ... There is a belief that everyone who works at Twitter has the power to have a deep and lasting impact." Twitter's already had a major impact on the spread of news, and under Schiller, it certainly hopes to make that even more pronounced.