Most influential media Twitter feeds

Computer scientists find surprises when they rank top 100

Today’s media landscape is unsettled ground, still shifting in the aftermath of that earthquake called the Internet. The proverbial kingdom and the power aren’t as much about how many doorsteps feel the thud of a daily paper as about page views, click-throughs, diggs and tweets.

But the Gray Lady and her peers are hanging on.

A new analysis of which media outlets wield the most influence in the internet community finds that many of the “legacy” media still have pull.

Computer scientists Daniel Romero from Cornell and Wojciech Galuba from the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne study online influence through the lens of the social networking site Twitter. Science News recently covered their work with colleagues at Hewlett Packard’s Social Computing Lab, which revealed that influence online is more than just popularity; having the most followers on Twitter doesn’t mean you rank. Real power — as measured by how many people actually click on a tweeted link — is determined by who those followers are and how discriminating they are about passing a message along.

Using an algorithm devised in that analysis, the researchers have now analyzed tweets containing links to Web pages that were sent from June 15 through July 22 in 2010. The team culled tweets sent from media outlets — both traditional and self-described (so real news was competing with sites like the Onion). Of the more than 500 media outlets who regularly send tweets into the ether, CNN, Time, the BBC and the New York Times all ranked in the top 25. Coming in at number one: tweets from Mashable, a site dedicated to breaking news in the tech, digital and, fittingly, the social media worlds.

Even though the online information stream is endless, the cream does rise to the top, the researchers note. Influential tweeters tend to have really good content, says Romero. For example the Boston Globe’s remarkable photo blog, The Big Picture, ranked third in influence even though it has a relatively paltry 24,000 followers. And its regular offering of high-quality photojournalism can be consumed in minutes, another hallmark of content that tends to make the grade, says Galuba.

The full list is here. And, oh yeah, coming in at 100th on the list of most influential media tweeters: a certain science magazine that’s been around since 1922.

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