Newspapers on Twitter – how the Guardian, FT and Times are winning

National newspapers have a total of 1,068,898 followers across their 120 official Twitter accounts – with the Guardian, Times and FT the only three papers in the top 10. That’s according to a massive count of newspaper’s twitter accounts I’ve done (there’s a table of all 120 at that link).

The Guardian’s the clear winner, as its place on the Twitter Suggested User List means that its @GuardianTech account has 831,935 followers – 78% of the total …

@GuardianNews is 2nd with 25,992 followers, @TimesFashion is 3rd with 24,762 and @FinancialTimes 4th with 19,923.

Screenshot of the data

Screenshot of the data

Other findings

  • Glorified RSS Out of 120 accounts, just 16 do something other than running as a glorified RSS feed. The other 114 do no retweeting, no replying to other tweets etc (you can see which are which on the full table).
  • No following. These newspaper accounts don’t do much following. Leaving GuardianTech out of it, there are 236,963 followers, but they follow just 59,797. They’re mostly pumping RSS feeds straight to Twitter, and  see no reason to engage with the community.
  • Rapid drop-off There are only 6 Twitter accounts with more than 10,000 followers. I suspect many of these accounts are invisible to most people as the newspapers aren’t engaging much – no RTing of other people’s tweets means those other people don’t have an obvious way to realise the newspaper accounts exist.
  • Sun and Mirror are laggards The Sun and Mirror have work to do – they don’t seem to have much talent at this so far and have few accounts with any followers. The Mail only seems to have one account but it is the 20th largest in terms of followers.

The full spreadsheet of data is here (and I’ll keep it up to date with any accounts the papers forgot to mention on their own sites)… It’s based on official Twitter accounts – not individual journalists’. I’ve rounded up some other Twitter statistics if you’re interested.

19 thoughts on “Newspapers on Twitter – how the Guardian, FT and Times are winning

  1. Steph Gray

    Thanks for your work pulling these stats together (and for the other excellent stuff on OJB) – very useful for us working with Press Officers in government to help explain the shape of the world outside.

  2. Jon Bounds

    >No following… Are newspapers bringing their no-linking-out approach to Twitter? Or is it just because they’re pumping RSS feeds straight to Twitter, and therefore see no reason to engage with the community?

    There are lots of ways to interact with “the community” on Twitter, and for non-personal accounts following is probably the least efficient – imagine someone (as it would have to be by hand) trying to pick the interesting bits out of 25,000 people’s tweets.

    You can use search, feeds for topics, your urls, your brand, you can respond to @messages – all without following anyone and in fact attempting to follow might only swamp the interesting stuff.

    It’s a hangover from old-fashioned networks with only synchronous following. The only reason to follow back is the “appearance” of listening – and I’d rather the truth (they can’t listen to all followers) than artifice.

  3. Rob Murray

    Nice post! Re the no following aspect – I think The Guardian has a particularly prescient strategy by allowing & encouraging it’s journalists to interact directly with their readers. I follow a good number of Guardian journalists, a few Times journalists and no Mail or Sun journalists. So the popularity of a newspaper’s journalists on Twitter seems to have a positive correlation to the newspaper’s online presence. I.e. more journalists interacting with web users equals more web users visiting those newspaper’s websites.

    This is because people buy people not companies. Readers love the fact that they can talk to journalists directly, using Twitter et al and they love it even more when said journalists reply to them. Jemima Kiss is a great example of this for The Guardian.


  4. Charles

    Yup – what Jon Bounds said. You don’t need to follow back. @guardiantech gets plenty of responses, and often tries to interact (or it’s handed off to a journalist).

    The ideal tool, not yet invented, would filter out the RTs from the “replies” or “mentions” feed. Maybe that’s the next revolution in Twitter clients…

  5. Steve Downes

    Thanks for this. It, and the responses pose an interesting question: Do readers engage with newspapers or journalists? If it’s the latter, it’s probably good enough to leave the following, RTing etc to the individual. If it’s the former (which I think it often is) the Press, in most cases, are continuing their path of not quite getting social media and hence experiencing an unprecedented decline.

  6. Chris Westfall

    I think the number of followers on Twitter is becoming an increasingly meaningless statistic for many publications using the service. How many of those thousands of followers are bots or dead accounts?
    The more important point of Twitter is the interaction.

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  10. Tracey

    Thanks for all this research! We’re just starting to use Twitter ( and I’m trying to figure out what the best tweeting strategy is to really build a following. This post is quite helpful!

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  13. Mouli Cohen

    Interesting coverage of tweet-journalism. It’s hard to address twitter’s effectiveness in following through on anything beyond merely making people aware of news in a superficial manner though. Twitter certainly provides a place for news-ies to find headlines, but these newspapers should be tying that concept to more substantive follow-through. I think a few of the sites on this list require membership fees (a la WSJ), so there’s only so far the tweets can take you.

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