The most Twittery journalists of them all

<b>Exclusive</b> A year-end look at some journalist stats on Twitter (including the most-followed journalists) provided by MuckRack, a sort of LinkedIn for media professionals.

Sree Sreenivasan
Sree, who teaches digital media at Columbia, is the university's first chief digital officer.
Sree Sreenivasan
5 min read
Profile photos of the 10 most followed journalists on Twitter; do you recognize them all? The one in fifth place (top row, extreme right) isn't disgraced baseball player Manny Ramirez, but a journalist who is using a shiny Red Sox moment as his Twitter profile photo.

Which journalists have the most followers on Twitter? Not surprisingly, they are often the ones with the biggest platforms off Twitter as well. Another way of looking at it: If you've built a big brand on places such as CNN, MSNBC or the New York Times, you can drive up your follower counts easily. (Keep in mind that raw follower counts only tell us part of the story. There are many journalists who have far fewer followers than the big stars, but whose tweets are more likely to be clicked on, retweeted, etc.)

Regular readers of this blog know that I'm on a quest to try and figure out what works -- and what doesn't -- on social media (see posts that analyzed a successful tweet; discussed new findings about engagement on Facebook; and looked at how a low-ranked tennis player raised her profile via Twitter).

So I asked Greg Galant (@gregory), co-founder of MuckRack, a startup that bills itself as "the destination for journalists on Twitter and social media," to share stats from his service. Think of MuckRack as a sort of LinkedIn for journalists (though it doesn't really compete with that platform and you have to do nothing but connect MuckRack to your Twitter account to get started). What it does is provide the most useful directory of journalists on Twitter and one of the best ways to track journalists -- by media outlet, by beat or by country/city/region. It's free for journalists; PR folks and others pay $99 and up a month of it (includes a 30-day full-refund guarantee).

MuckRack's directory currently has more than 10,000 journalists spread over six countries (U.S., Canada, U.K., Ireland, Australia and New Zealand), with the U.S. being the most comprehensive. If you know of journalists not listed on MuckRack (including in other countries), they can add themselves and create a profile and showcase their work. Here's my profile, as a sample. Galant (who also co-founded the Shorty Awards, which I help judge), sent over the following stats, letting CNET News reveal them for the first time (these numbers are as of a few hours ago; they will change in time and as more journalists register themselves on MuckRack, especially after they see this post).

Top 10 most followed journalists (with links to their MuckRack profiles):

  1. Anderson Cooper: 3,455,256
  2. Piers Morgan: 3,004,433
  3. Rachel Maddow: 2,434,423
  4. Larry King: 2,319,449
  5. Bill Simmons: 1,931,155
  6. George Stephanopoulos: 1,814,086
  7. Chris Hardwick: 1,757,790
  8. David Gregory: 1,584,068
  9. Dr. Sanjay Gupta: 1,567,922
  10. David Pogue: 1,454,191

You will note that in the photo collection above, the fifth spot on the top row doesn't show Bill Simmons (@BillSimmons), the rockstar sports columnist and writer, but a highlight moment of his beloved Red Sox. He can get away with that, but the rest of us should use recent, clear, recognizable photos of ourselves (in 2010, I broached the subject of why your profile photo matters).

Top 10 publications with the most journalists on Twitter:

  1. Associated Press: 471
  2. New York Times: 463
  3. Wall Street Journal: 327
  4. Bloomberg News: 310
  5. Guardian: 293
  6. Reuters: 238
  7. USA Today: 186
  8. CNN: 175
  9. LA Times: 174
  10. Sky News: 141

Top 10 news organizations with the most people following their journalists (sum of the followers their journalists have):

  1. CNN: 12,936,330 total followers
  2. New York Times: 10,361,924 total followers
  3. ABC News: 8,080,255 total followers
  4. NBC News: 4,886,734 total followers
  5. Guardian: 4,653,253 total followers
  6. ESPN: 4,468,903 total followers
  7. MSNBC: 3,927,080 total followers
  8. Fox News: 3,248,385 total followers
  9. CNBC: 2,699,308 total followers
  10. BBC: 2,136,011 total followers

This list doesn't include the main news-org accounts. Galant wrote to say, "We don't track the media org main accounts. When we started, we specifically avoided them since they were mostly regurgitations of RSS feeds. Now that they're more interesting we might add them in future." If you know a sturdy list of the top news-org accounts by follower count, please let me know (@sree or sree at sree.net).

Once you start playing with MuckRack you will see the benefits of connecting with journalists within its interface. Galant, in a SoundCloud interview embedded below, explains many of its features.

But there are a couple of other reasons to spend time on MuckRack. One is that you can find journalists by specific beats, not just broad topics. For example, you can use the advanced search to find several journalists who cover dance, rather than just a broad listing of arts journalists, ditto for fracking, instead of just energy, or online education, instead of just education (some of the links will work only for registered journalists or those who've gotten the pro accounts).

Another useful, but obscure, feature is that the tweets it displays by journalists are only the ones that don't start with "@," reducing the clutter you seen when you visit a Twitter stream of someone who uses a lot of @ replies.

I also like the fact that there's a special trending list for MuckRack's journalists themselves. Considering how Twitter's worldwide, country and city trends are usually overrun with topics that are time-wasters, obscure shenanigans and Justin Bieberalia, MuckRack's list is much more newsy and relevant, though, as you can see in the comparison below, sports dominates on the weekends.

A look at trending topics on Muckrack (left) and Twitter worldwide trends.

One last list from MuckRack. These were terms that trended the most on the site this year.

Biggest Muck Rack trending terms:

  1. Romney
  2. #Syria
  3. China
  4. London
  5. Santorum
  6. #Egypt
  7. Olympics
  8. Florida
  9. Christmas
  10. #London2012 frequency 2061

Yes, I, too, am surprised to see "Obama" missing from the list, unless it's because journalists "split their votes" by using "POTUS" or "@BarackObama" too often. Twitter handles don't trend in both MuckRack's algorithms and in Twitter's, says Galant. "It could be that while there was a more constant amount of coverage and mentions of Obama, there where more surges of coverage for Romney and Santorum due to the primary battle," he wrote in an email.

As part of my short audio interviews on SoundCloud with entrepreneurs and other interesting folks, I asked Galant to talk about MuckRack and how journalists and PR executives can make best use of the service. You can listen to his tips (including some on how startups can get more attention) below or at this link: