Time Puts Twitter on Cover, at Vanguard of American Economy

What could Time magazine possibly have to say about Twitter that hasn't been said in a thousand prior magazine and newspaper articles, and on Oprah? That it drives the American economy. In fact, Twitter is the new GM!

Park Sloper and Gawker hobby horse Steven Johnson delivers that depressing punchline at the end of his Twitter cover story, out tomorrow:

It was the Japanese who would destroy us in the '80s; now it's China and India. But what actually happened to American innovation during that period? We came up with America Online, Netscape, Amazon, Google, Blogger, Wikipedia, Craigslist, TiVo, Netflix, eBay, the iPod and iPhone, Xbox, Facebook and Twitter itself. Sure, we didn't build the Prius or the Wii, but if you measure global innovation in terms of actual lifestyle-changing hit products and not just grad students, the U.S. has been lapping the field for the past 20 years.

That's right: America might not make actual things any more, but at least we've learned to occupy our time talking endlessly and unprofitably to one another, in an entirely massless location, about which other entirely massless things deserve our time and/or increasingly worthless borrowed dollars.

It's a sort of self-eating economy only slightly more sophisticated than the financial services orgy of the prior 10 years, which ended disastrously. We just can't stop doing this sort of thing. Yay?

This is what I ultimately find most inspiring about the Twitter phenomenon. We are living through the worst economic crisis in generations, with apocalyptic headlines threatening the end of capitalism as we know it, and yet in the middle of this chaos, the engineers at Twitter headquarters are scrambling to keep the servers up, application developers are releasing their latest builds, and ordinary users are figuring out all the ingenious ways to put these tools to use. There's a kind of resilience here that is worth savoring.

That's the sort of sweeping, certain conclusion sure to please Time's Economist- loving editor Rick Stengel. How's it doing on the media platform of the future, though? Time's James Poniewozik reports:

Time Puts Twitter on Cover, at Vanguard of American Economy