5 Ways Journalists Can Use Twitter

Social media and journalism are becoming more and more intertwined, and while the debate rages on if social media is a part of the journalism industry, Twitter, Facebook and the like shouldn’t just be reserved for the marketers and brand community managers out there. There’s an even greater potential for journalists to leverage the power of networking with Twitter, but before you sail into unchartered territories, you first need to know how to navigate the waters.

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Top 25 U.S. Newspapers On Twitter

While the Top 50 U.S. newspapers seem to be just starting to build up their fan base on Facebook, Twitter has been a priority for a while. If you were to rank the Top 25 U.S. newspapers by Twitter followers, the order would be much different than if you were to rank them by circulation.

When it comes to Twitter followers, The New York Times is the top bird with more than 2.6 million followers. To illustrate how impressive this follower number is, The Wall Street Journal only has 464,591 followers in the #2 spot. The New York Times is the ONLY newspaper from the Top 25 with more Twitter followers than print circulation.

Maybe The New York Times has such a huge Twitter following because it was the first of the Top 25 to join Twitter, way back in March 2, 2007. Probably not, since The Contra Costa Times, The Washington Post and The Oregonian all joined later that month.

How do the top 15 U.S. newspapers stack up when you rank them by Twitter followers? Here’s the list (click on the link to follow the newspaper on Twitter):

  1. @nytimes – 2,668,948
  2. @wsj – 464,591
  3. @washingtonpost – 204,514
  4. @latimes – 83,335
  5. @usatoday – 72,929
  6. @newyorkpost – 57,605
  7. @chicagotribune – 34,490 *
  8. @denverpost – 32,755
  9. @dallas_news – 24,726
  10. @seattletimes – 22,286
  11. @suntimes – 18,952
  12. @freep – 18,851
  13. @nydailynew – 15,744
  14. @houstonchron – 14,108
  15. @azcentral – 10,407
  16. @oregonian – 10,338
  17. @phillyinquirer – 9,819
  18. @SFGate – 9,508
  19. @clevelanddotcom – 7,943
  20. @MN_News – 7,008
  21. @NJ_News – 6,181
  22. @SDUT – 5,886
  23. @tampabaycom – 3,168
  24. @insidebayarea – 2,810
  25. @cctimes – 2,705
  26. @mercurynews – 2,536
  27. @newsday – 2,302

* UPDATE: it has been brought to my attention that The Chicago Tribune also has @ColonelTribune, a Twitter account that boasts a following of more than 845,000 Twitter followers. It appears this is their primary account, which would put them in the #2 spot on this list.

While we’re on the topic of newspapers and Twitter, I was surprised to see that only The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times have Verified Twitter accounts – one two out of 25 of the top U.S. newspapers. As a credible source of information, you would think having a verified account would be a high priority for all the organizations on this list.

Note: these numbers are a little over a week old as of the posting date, but they were gathered within a one-hour timeframe to get the most accurate snapshot. I also realize newspapers have more than one Twitter account in some cases – I went with the primary Twitter account for the newspaper, versus any individual celebrity that might work for the paper.

Can Twitter Make You a Better Editor?

You have anywhere from three to ten seconds to capture and hold someone’s attention in a conversation. On Twitter, you have 140 characters. Realistically, you have about one second if you consider the number of Twitter users (100 million+) and the number of tweets per second (1,000–4,000, pending on the current events). The point? If you don’t have a snazzy lede (am I old school for still spelling it that way?) you’re never going to get clicked.

So, tweeters got smarter. They saw what worked and what didn’t. They found ways to cut out the unnecessary info and focus on only the good stuff. They jazzed up their call to action. Basically, they became editors — and good ones at that (some of them, at least). Self-editing and style guidelines are now more important than ever because people can easily get content somewhere else. While Strunk and White never imagined a need for a well-defined Elements of Twitter Style, it does beg one question: Can Twitter make you a better editor? [Read more…]

The Elements of Style: Twitter Edition

I have at least four copies of The Elements of Style. Originally published in 1918 by William Strunk, Jr., this book has truly stood the test of time. It’s been a great writing resource for me over the years, even though there are still dozens of its rules that I break with each blog post. I recently read the book again and noticed how many of the rules are relevant for Twitter and other short-form, social media writing.

Here are some guidelines for tweeting adapted from or inspired by The Elements of Style. I hope you find these suggestions helpful and entertaining: [Read more…]

Is Twitter A Credible Source?

“If you’re twittering, you can go to Hell! Go to Hell! How do you end up with an ego that you’re that interested in your own life?” – Lewis Black

Lewis Black has a bucket-full of opinions when it comes to blogging and the social media phenomenon Twitter. I could go on and on about Black and his rants, and I could go on and on about my initial thoughts on the Twitter craze (which weren’t too far off from Black’s), but I’d primarily like to look at the opposite end of the spectrum: Twitter’s usefulness in finding/reporting the news. [Read more…]

How Not to Be Annoying on Twitter and Facebook

Where there are social networks, there will be people who abuse them ­— and you certainly don’t have to go far to find them. Just rewind back to Friday morning for example: Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff littered Twitter with tweets announcing the firing-squad execution of Ronnie Lee Gardner, which stirred up just as much controversy as the actual execution itself.

Social media missteps like this happen more frequently than we care to blog on, and in a time where communicators can’t get away with avoiding the conversation, there’s one question that’s going to keep surfacing (other than what’s going on with the World Cup): Where is the line drawn between interesting tidbits and overly annoying posts? So, in an effort to help answer this trending topic, I’ve pinpointed three of the most common ailments that strike social media newcomers. [Read more…]

Online Apps and Tools to Make Your Life Easier

If you haven’t participated in a #journchat discussion yet, you’re missing out. The quality of the discussion is better than ever, as Sarah Evans has continued to build a strong, dedicated and passionate community around current topics in journalism, public relations and social media. If I had to give you one reason to swing by on Monday nights, I’d say you’re guaranteed to learn something new, make new connections and stay ahead of the curve on what’s going on in your industry today (is that one thing?).

One good example I’ll point out is from Question 5 of this week’s discussion, which asked participants to share the online applications, tools and resources that make their lives easier. I captured some of the most-common suggestions below, organized to the best of my ability, in hopes you find at least one resource useful in your daily work. [Read more…]

Twitter PR Worth $48 Million Last Month

I’m sure most of you saw the coverage this week that Twitter’s PR was worth $48 million over the past month, according to media monitoring company VMS. First off, hats off to VMS for the (very) timely use of its data to hitch itself to all the Twitter buzz wagon. I wonder how much VMS’ publicity was worth this week? If there’s anything your organization can do to tap into that buzz machine, do it now.

While there is some debate among PR professionals over how the value of PR should be measured, particularly the value of publicity, there’s no question that the media’s love affair with Twitter has catapulted the company’s brand value in a very impressive fashion. What’s most impressive to me is they seem to have generated the publicity through no direct effort of their own. I was unable to find any reference to Twitter having a PR manager or agency, but my guess is somebody is prepping them for their interviews (then again, this isn’t their first go at this). There has to be ridiculous demand for Twitter’s spokespeople from the largest media organizations of the world. And frankly, that has to be a blast for them right now. [Read more…]

Reporting the News: If You Ain’t First, You’re Last

Is it more important to be first or to be right when reporting the news? When reporting the news today, to steal a quote from fictional race car driver Ricky Bobby, “If you ain’t first, you’re last.” Take for example the sad news of Michael Jackson’s death yesterday. AOL-owned TMZ was the first to report that Jackson had died. And sadly, they did get it right.

You have to wonder whether TMZ really talked to a source, or rather just gambled and got it right. Does it matter? Had TMZ been wrong, we would have forgotten in a couple of hours. Instead, they were mentioned as the source by every news organization (not to mention in thousands of tweets). I’m sure there are thousands of people who had never heard of TMZ before yesterday. [Read more…]

Process Journalism and Its Twitter Enabler

Michael Arrington recently wrote about an interview he did with NPR about the idea of Process Journalism. In the post, Arrington says “Process Journalism is the posting of a story before it’s fully baked, something the New York Times officially despises, but they do it to.” The Times jab is a reference to a recent article that suggested blogs like TechCrunch posts rumors before a story is verified.

It’s hard to single out any media outlet for being more guilty of rumor mongering than the other these days. While TechCrunch may roll with a story faster than traditional media outlets might, that’s part of the reason blogs like TechCrunch have transformed the way we get our information (and why we love them so much). [Read more…]