Posts filed under 'Guest Post'

The top newspapers on Twitter? Try this list

Guest post by Mathilde Piard

In the past few days there’s been a blog post about the top 25 newspapers on Twitter that’s been making the rounds. In fact, it’s been circulated so far and wide that I’ve heard about it from multiple coworkers who don’t tend to run in different Twitter and/or reading sharing circles as I do, and who were wondering why two of our newspapers weren’t on the list (the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and the Austin American-Statesman).

The problem with the post over at The Wrap is that it worked off a list from from the fall. Back then, the Journalistics post only looked at the top 25 newspapers in terms of circulation because it was part of a series comparing those exact 25 papers on Twitter, Facebook, website traffic, and Google PageRank. I commented on the recent blog post to point this out, as did Jeremy Porter, the author of the original list at But because Dylan Stableford hasn’t clarified in the post that his list is just for the top 25 newspapers by circulation (although he did update it to include at the bottom a few of the omissions, thank you) and since most people don’t read comments anyway, I figured it would be best to just provide my own list of the top 25 newspapers on Twitter, one that actually goes by number of followers on Twitter, not circulation.

Some will argue that ranking Twitter accounts by number of followers is a load of hogwash, either because Twitter’s recommended list skews things or because it’s not a good measure of “engagement”. The truth is, you could argue the same about any type of metric. Companies don’t share specific traffic numbers, so the only way to compare websites to each other is to use ComScore’s number of monthly unique visitors. Uniques don’t measure how long visitors stay on sites, how many page views they provide, how many comments they leave or pages they share with their friends.

Which leads me to my next thought: we shouldn’t have to resort to manually compiling lists like these of top accounts on Facebook and Twitter (by the way, Chris Snider does this every month for the top newspapers on Facebook). MuckRack has rankings of journalists by beat and region, but only tracks individual journalists, not brands. Jeremy Porter had a great idea when he compared newspaper circulation with other online metrics – but it would be great to see that kind of stuff for more than just the top 25 (mostly national) papers. And why look only at newspapers? I keep secretly hoping Cory Bergman at Lost Remote will compile a list of top TV accounts on Facebook and Twitter, since he’s one of the only ones to cover what local television stations are doing with social media – but again, he shouldn’t have to. (UPDATE: actually, he already did, ha!). Wouldn’t it be cool to compare TV ratings or radio cumes with online stats? And why keep it to media organizations? There are so many brands out there that fudge the line between media, and, well, everything else. Just like ComScore tracks unique visitors for websites, it should also track number of Twitter followers and Facebook fans.

Anyway, here’s my list, and here’s my methodology:

- I used the top of a list that Robert Quigley had compiled on this very blog in the wake of the original Journalistics list (which didn’t really state clearly that it was part of a series comparing how the top 25 newspapers tacked online in a variety of metrics, so it too drew a lot of criticism from people who didn’t get it at first, including myself. Apologies Jeremy!) However, I kept to just the top 25-ish, because frankly I don’t have time to be as thorough as Robert was and go through nearly 200 newspapers.

- I’ve kept the list to US newspapers – no online/iPad only publications and I also took The Onion off the list. Sorry guys, it’s just easier to compare apples to apples. All the more reason somebody like ComScore should be tracking this for everybody, not just newspapers, perhaps not even just news orgs.

- In the case of the San Francisco Chronicle and the Arizona Republic, I went with the Twitter accounts that Jeremy Porter/Journalistics and Dylan Stableford/The Wrap used rather than the ones Robert Quigley had on this blog – as in, @sfgate instead of @sfchron_alert and @azcentral instead of @arizonarepublic. That seemed only fair since Robert’s list used @bostonupdate instead of @bostonglobe and @coloneltribune instead of @chicagotribune. That explains why the Chronicle went from 51st to 18th place, and Arizona Republic from 158th to 25th.

- I also added the Minneapolis Star Tribune, which The Wrap and Journalistics lists did have, but Old Media New Tricks did not. Interesting to note, it looks like the username used to be @mn_news and was changed to @startribune without claiming the old username. So I just did, to avoid someone else perhaps ill intentioned grabbing it. Hey Minnesota Star Tribune folks, if you want @mn_news back, holler and I’ll gladly hand it over.

- Because I removed The Onion from the list, I’m only confident about the top 24 or so listed. Beyond those, I had a quick look around the various lists to find the lucky #25, and that’s how I realized the fudging up of the other accounts like the Chronicle, Republic etc, so I extended the list to beyond 25, as a means or righting a previous slight I suppose J. If I missed your newspaper, I apologize. I’ll happily share the Google doc with you so you can add it yourself, or if you feel like updating Robert Quigley’s list of 200 papers (thus further emphasizing my point that someone like ComScore should really be tracking this stuff instead)

- A word about growth rates since the October lists: The Chronicle, Star Tribune and Washington Post lead with 127%, 91% and 84% (followed by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution with 63% – shameless plug, they are one of Cox Media Group’s papers ;) – and a handful of others in the 40-50% range). Interestingly, there is one account that had a negative growth rate: The Chicago Tribune @coloneltribune account with -2%. Ouch. I wonder what the story is there.

Top newspapers by Twitter followers

See the Google doc.

Piard is the social media manager for Cox Media Group Digital

13 comments April 8th, 2011

Guest post on story comments: How I won over Mr. Potter

Yesterday, Old Media, New Tricks published a Q&A with an intriguing character named Roadgeek. If you manage a community, you know Roadgeek well (or at least a character much like him). He’s a voracious reader, a constant commenter — and a sharp critic of the mainstream media. Austin American-Statesman charity beat reporter Andrea Ball contacted the commenter, who writes from behind a movie character’s image, in hopes of figuring out what makes him tick … and she won him over. Here is a guest post by Ball, who explains how she did it and what she learned.

Guest post by Andrea Ball

I contacted Roadgeek in a fit of agitation. I had just written a story about homelessness and, in the comments section, he called me a “sob queen” and referred to my work, in general, as “treacle.”

I had just come off a nasty period where people had been calling me names on our website. One person called me a drama queen. Another told me to help the health care crisis by losing weight.

So when I saw Roadgeek’s comments, I was feeling particularly thin-skinned. I have a tendency to take the comments to heart anyway, but I was feeling pretty raw that day. I wrote to him and essentially whined about how he hurt my feelings. I know. Ridiculous. But being a professional doesn’t make me inhuman. I don’t think commenters realize how hard it is for reporters to see themselves called incompetent and stupid day after day after day.

We have an exceptionally difficult job. Every day we’re talking to new people, processing numbers and government jargon, scouring often incomprehensible documents, and trying to write it all within serious time and space constraints. But our readers routinely tell us that their third-graders can do a better job than we do.

My husband routinely tells me not to read the comments, but I can’t help it. I have to approve them for my blog. And I often get tips or story ideas from the readers in that way.

I often write to commenters, telling them I have seen their words and would like to continue the conversation. Sometimes, I’ve ended up interviewing those people for stories.

But Roadgeek was different. He came back at me hard. At first I was like, “What a psycho.” I even sent the email to few people in office. They laughed and told me to drop it.

“I can’t!” I insisted. “I must respond! I’m not going to let him think he scared me and that I’m off crying somewhere.”

“I see this as the beginning of a sick relationship,” my friend answered.

Before I responded, I re-read Roadgeek’s email and clung to the constructive parts. I realized that he had articulated a few sentiments to me in a way I’d not heard before. Suddenly I understood why some people really have a problem with my stories and it was something to ponder. I wrote back and told him that.

I was so excited when his next email to me was nice. I literally ran around the office saying that I had reached the pinnacle of my career and could now retire. (And yes, I know how freakish that is.)

Through this experience, I’ve learned that commenters aren’t always who they think they are. Yeah, some of them are just foul. But a lot of them are just venting and, when pressed to articulate their thoughts, are actually very insightful. They can really broaden your perspective. Roadgeek has done that for me.

I’ve also learned that keeping a cool head — which I am not known for — has its benefits. I could have popped off a nasty email to Roadgeek and made an enemy. Instead, I took a step back. Now I have a relationship with someone that challenges me in a positive way. When I write a story, I have a crotchety Jiminy Cricket on my shoulder screaming, “NO TREACLE!!”

As I’ve told all my coworkers, “I’ll never win a Pulitzer, but I’ll always have Roadgeek.”

22 comments August 31st, 2010

Reporters Look to Expand Horizons with Backpack Journalism

(NOTE: This is a guest post by  Leah Betancourt.)

Journalists are increasingly looking to expand their skill set or even reinvent themselves during this challenging time for the news industry. Some are doing it on their own terms.

Former newspaper reporters Alexis Grant and Adam Jadhav have a lot in common. They both quit their full-time reporting jobs they loved to travel abroad while blogging and shooting photos and video along the way.

Blog Fixture of New Venture

Grant set a goal for herself that after she had been working at the Houston Chronicle for three years and if she had enough money saved, she would take a long-term trip. When she was 27, she left her job as a health reporter in 2008 and spent six months traveling to several French-speaking African countries.

Alexis documented her travels through a blog

Grant freelanced for newspapers and magazines, but stressed that it supplemented the trip costs, but didn’t pay for them completely. She also tried blogging for the first time and put most of her effort into that. She also blogged so her family would know where she was.

Grant said that in her reporting job, she didn’t want to add another thing to her job, such as blogging. During her trip she learned she loved blogging. “I discovered a love for blogging that I didn’t know I had,” she said.

Slow and unpredictable Internet connections made things difficult. She said her biggest mistake was not setting up her blog ahead of time so she would have as little work as possible to do when blogging on the road. When Grant did find a fast Internet connection, she’d upload photos to Flickr. That’s how editors she freelanced for were able to access them.

Some of her freelance stories from her trip include, In modern Cameroon polygamy doesn’t pay and Baylor’s West African AIDS project perseveres.

When Grant got back, she decided to write a book full-time about the trip. Having just turned 28, she moved in with her parents in suburban Albany, NY. The travel memoir is loosely based on the blog. “There’s an element of personal journey to it,” she said.

She attributes writing the book to helping her improve her writing and becoming a better journalist. “I think that’s going to help me in my next job,” she said. “This is a chance for me to see how I could write in a different way.”

Grant launched another blog and a YouTube channel and posted her travel videos. She also joined Twitter. “Through my blog and Twitter, I was able to find others who are writing travel memoirs,” she said. Then she started a Ning group for writers of travel memoirs.

Today, Grant is job searching while living in Washington DC.

Search for Meaningful Journalism

At 27, Adam Jadhav went to Kenya nearly eight months ago. Since then he has been to Madagascar and India. He’s now in southeast Asia.

Jadhav left his job as reporter at the St. Louis-Dispatch covering poverty issues in July 2009 to go abroad as an international reporter. He admitted that a one-week reporting trip to Cuba in March made his desire to do international reporting stronger. In 2007, he was the newspaper’s multimedia reporter. In the summer of 2008, he launched the Post-Dispatch’s political channel on YouTube.

“I figured I could afford to spend a year or two out on the road tilting at windmills and (I hope) producing some meaningful journalism along the way. And I’m incredibly lucky: I had the savings, the lack of commitments, a supportive mother, professors and editors, the multimedia training and a healthy dose of moxie to do it,” he wrote in an e-mail.

At the same time, he launched a blog, where he posts videos, audio slideshows and photos. He said the blog is a personal outlet to share his trip with his family and friends, but he also posts updates about the work he’s covering during his travels. He also uses Facebook and Twitter to share information.

Jadhav also struggles with slow Internet connection speeds. He said that in Africa it can take up to two hours to upload a video, which also requires a constant connection to achieve. He uses YouTube as his video content management system because it’s ubiquitous and it offers the best chance for his video clips to get picked up elsewhere.

“YouTube is the starting point for my videos; they automatically spread to Twitter and Facebook. I absolutely think cross posting is a good idea and when I have something more worthwhile, I fully intend to post elsewhere,” he said.

He tries to focus on stories that will connect with U.S. audiences. For example an HIV clinic in Kenya has a direct connection to the University of Illinois in Chicago.

A few of his stories he has covered abroad include: Harley gunning for growing market in India, Kenyan males line up for circumcision and the Maasai Show. He has a few more awaiting publication and several finished pieces without a buyer.

Jadhav said he has spent far more time sending e-mails and looking up contacts as part of his business then doing actual journalism.

“The big, meaty stories are too expensive to really pursue without prior funding commitments. News feature and travel journalism is simply easier to sell,” he said.

He spent his first three months in India waiting for his residency and his work permit to get processed and approved, which was important because he eventually wants to work in India long-term.

Jadhav admits, however, his lifestyle isn’t for everyone. “I’m comfortable being marginally employed,” he said. “I’m not in a rush. I have savings to fall back on, and that I’m doing plenty of personal travel, adventure and language study.”

Jadhav doesn’t know when he plans on returning to the U.S. He’s moving to Ecuador in July for volunteer work and to pursue other stories. He tentatively plans to be in the U.S. in the fall to apply to an international development graduate school before returning to India early next year.

It isn’t just wanderlusts who want to do freelance journalism abroad. There are training programs for learning these skills and applying them professionally.

Teaching Visual Language

Bill Gentile, an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker, spearheaded the American University School of Communication’s Backpack Journalist Program, which launched April 1.

He said there’s a lot of spray and pray out there. In other words, shooting video and hope you’ve got something good. “That’s not what we’re talking about,” he said.

The project aims train people to speak a visual language. “The visual language really is a separate language. Too few people can really speak this language properly,” he said.

Program courses include photojournalism and social documentary, foreign correspondence and backpack documentary, according to its site. Workshops include “Storytelling: Backpack Journalism Style.” Gentile said they are working on certificate program.

The Backpack journalism methodology doesn’t work for every story, he said, but when it does, it’s much more intimate. Although Gentile fears that the methodology might be used as a cost-saving measure by news organizations.

He pointed out that no one is providing the platform, engaging the industry and practicing the craft of backpack journalism at the same time.

“We want to teach the real power of backpack journalism,” he said.

Freelance journalist travel tips:

From Alexis Grant:

  • Be flexible. It’s almost better not to have a plan.
  • Have your blog and social media tools set up and ready to use.
  • Make sure you have freelance contacts in place.
  • More tips from Grant

From Adam Jadhav:

  • Be ready for a tough, but really fun road.
  • Have as large of a toolkit as you can.
  • Be able to work across mediums.
  • Consider having something else to do with your time. There will be downtime while waiting to hear back from an editor or a source.


Leah Betancourt is a journalist who has written about social media, emerging media and community engagement for Mashable, Poynter and elsewhere. This is her first post for Old Media, New Tricks, and we’re glad to have her!

If you’d like to contribute to Old Media, New Tricks, you can reach us through  @mediatricks on Twitter.

20 comments April 26th, 2010

Lessons from FiveThirtyEight: How One Wonky Guy Kept Me Up At Night

(Guest post by travel writer Sheila Scarborough.)

Chicago-based Nate Silver, a baseball statistician and analyst with Baseball Prospectus, was ticked off about politics.

As a data-driven guy who appreciated precision, the sloppy use of political polling information drove him crazy. From his perspective, there didn’t seem to be a site that really dove into poll data analysis in a relatively balanced and knowledgeable fashion.

What do you do when you’re one smart person with a vision and enthusiasm? You launch your own butt-kicking Web site. Let’s talk about the power of his site and the lessons that both old and new media can draw from its success in the 2008 elections (538 is the number of votes in the Electoral College.)

I’m not a political journalist, only a news junkie citizen, but FiveThirtyEight kept me enthralled during the election. I would stay up past one o’clock in the morning, repeatedly hitting Refresh on my laptop screen so that I wouldn’t miss a single thing that Nate and his team posted.

What was so compelling?

  • Quality and depth of Nate’s information. Almost all of the mainstream media US maps predicted individual state election outcomes simply by coloring the state red or blue. Only FiveThirtyEight had minute color gradations (light pink to dark red, for example, indicating how much a state was predicted to go for Senator McCain.) Only FiveThirtyEight maps accurately portrayed the two states that split their electoral votes: Maine and Nebraska. Silver even showed a blue box around Omaha (the Second Congressional District) surrounded by red-tinted Nebraska, because the Obama campaign worked that area very hard to try to win its one Electoral College vote (and they did win it.) I loved this sort of detail. Lesson: Don’t dumb down your information. We’d prefer the full story.
  • Human interest narratives that also predicted election outcomes. Only on FiveThirtyEight did a tiny team of guys travel to multiple states to interview and accompany ground workers in both the Obama and McCain headquarters. Over and over, from Troy, Ohio to Grand Junction, Colorado to a damning photo in Florida’s Panhandle, it was obvious from their digging and persistent reporting that the Big Mo was in the Obama camp and not with McCain. I never saw this sort of detailed ground campaign storytelling anywhere else. Lesson: Show us what’s going on by telling gripping stories, even when those stories are buried in relatively obscure towns that no one else is talking about. We want to know.
  • A lively, engaged community makes a Web site even more powerful. I rarely saw such interesting readers and commenters as I did on FiveThirtyEight. Sure, there were the usual trolls and yellers, but there were a lot more people who were thoughtful and impassioned about the unfolding political process. Some got pushy, wanting to know why the latest daily Rasmussen poll analysis wasn’t up by a certain time. Others were concerned that Nate was still posting information at 3 am as the election neared its end. I began to recognize certain commenter names and would smile or groan based on what I knew to expect from them.Lesson: It’s not only about detailed data, or interesting stories – it’s also about the people who come to the site, hang out and chat.

One baseball stats nut who loved well-presented polling data. One bare-bones Web site. A couple more people running around in a car doing interviews across the country. Insanely detailed analytical posts about voters with dense explanatory graphics (my math teacher husband told me that they were “rectangular coordinate system scatter plots.”) That was it…that’s all that FiveThirtyEight had going for it, but they kept me up nights with “just” that.

What can your media organization do to keep readers up at night, hitting “Refresh” and trying to figure out how to read a scatter plot? Which reporters have that kind of passion and drive, and what can the organization do to help fuel their fire?

Sheila Scarborough is a writer specializing in travel, the social Web and NHRA drag racing. She’s also the co-founder of Tourism Currents: social media training for tourism professionals.

6 comments November 24th, 2009


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