Seriousness sells, but who’s buying?

I don’t understand Twitter. I had an old account as DougJBalloon where I tried to fuck with people I don’t like, but I used a little too much force and was widely blocked. Now I’m kicking it old-school with a more confusing handle RobertEGalt, and am having a bit more success, though not much more.

Anyhoo, I don’t think number-of-twitter follows is the best metric of anything, but….it’s amazing how many more followers NYT columnists have than WaPo columnists do. It’s not just that the “stars” — KThug, Bobo, Friedman, Kristof — have lots but that even the ones no one reads — Bill Keller, Charles Blow, Gail Collins, Ross Douthat — all have at least 20K, and usually much more than that. At the Post, only Dionne, Milbank, and Robinson — who, along with Will (edit: and Krauthammer) count as the stars — have more followers than John Cole does.

It’s pretty clear that liberal columnists have a lot more followers than conservative ones (Douthat has by far the fewest of anyone at the Times, from what I can tell), but even so, a typical Times columnist seems to have about 10-20 times as many followers as his WaPo counterpart might. The Times stars are mostly over a million, the WaPo stars are more like 50K; the Times nobodies are 20-80K, the WaPo nobodies are 2-6K.

The Post tries to position itself as the calm, sober, centrist, nonpartisan, Burkean editorial page. Looks like no one is interested in reading that kind of shit.

Update. Each paper has “an aggressive Twit-whoring policy for its columnists“. WaPo pushes it a little harder with links to the columnists Twitter feed at the end of every column. Also, the Times circulation is only about triple the Post’s not 10-20 times as large.

Update. Krauthammer is the exception to every rule — he has 250K followers.

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90 replies
  1. 1
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Perhaps the NY Times’ reputation as the “paper of record” plays into its popularity and the popularity of its top columnists in contrast to the Washington Post.

  2. 2
    Betty Cracker says:

    Maybe the Times has an aggressive Twit-whoring policy for its columnists? I dunno…

  3. 3
    DougJ says:

    @Betty Cracker:

    WaPo seems more aggressive about it.

  4. 4
    KG says:

    @Patricia Kayden: that’s my guess as well. Plus, I would guess that the NYT’s columnists would get better syndication than the WaPo columnists because of being associated with “the paper of record.”

    Or it could just be that the NY metro area is a helluva lot bigger than the DC metro area so they have a much deeper pool of local followers?

    ETA: NY metro has 18.8 million people, DC metro has 5.7 million…

  5. 5
    Hill Dweller says:

    @Betty Cracker: FWIW, Krugman admitted the other day he has nothing to do with his twitter account. It apparently exists solely to link his columns/blog posts.

    As for WaPo, they employ Rubin and a bunch of Bush flunkies. No one outside the Beltway takes that rag seriously.

  6. 6
    Another Halocene Human says:

    New York is a bigger town and when the papers collapsed a lot of people in a large region started taking it daily.

    WaPo is the wonk paper but when it collapsed it lost all interest even to DC area residents.

  7. 7
    Just Some Fuckhead says:

    What’s Twitter again? Start from the beginning.

  8. 8
    KG says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead: it’s like blogging for people with really bad ADHD

  9. 9
    TriassicSands says:

    Harold Meyerson, at the Post, is better than anyone at the Times, except Krugman. I guess being affiliated/connected in any way with Fred Hiatt doesn’t help a lot.

  10. 10
    David Hunt says:

    This reminds me of John Rogers rule that you’re not a real religion unless you have more adherents than Wil Wheaton has twitter followers. I love this rule of thumb as Wheaton’s 2.2 million+ followers means that Scientology doesn’t even make it 10% of the way to the goal.

  11. 11
    beltane says:

    The NYT has better columnists. Even the ones who suck are better writers than their WaPo peers. For example, we point and laugh at Jennifer Rubin but are often genuinely aghast at David Brooks. Why? Because Jennifer Rubin is just a patently silly neocon cheerleader while David Brooks is a relatively skilled propagandists who often manages to pull the wool over the eyes of unsuspecting liberals.

  12. 12
    catclub says:

    “who along with, Will, count as the stars”
    Are you telling me that Kraphammer is not a star at the WAPO?
    You could knock me over with a feather.

    Also, WAPO reminds me of Kapo in concentration camps.

  13. 13
    aimai says:

    I think its obvious why Douthat wouldn’t have many twitter followers. The ones that do sign up probably die of boredom and intellectual inanition. That being said I think its proof that Douthat and the entire raison d’etre for the rightwards tilt of the NYT op ed page is ridiculous: its like the inverse of “every woman wants him/every man wants to be him.” Liberals hate to read him/conservatives aren’t interested in his mealy mouthed shit. Who is going to follow that twit on twitter? he’s only part of the conversation at all because the NYT responds to pressure from a small number of right wing nuts. Its like responding to Bill Donohue of the Catholic League because you think he represents a, you know, league and then discovering he’s one angry guy with an attitude and a fax machine. He might be a very loyal twitter follower, but he’s still only one guy.

  14. 14
    Chris says:

    The Post tries to position itself as the calm, sober, centrist, nonpartisan, Burkean editorial page. Looks like no one is interested in reading that kind of shit.

    Of course not.

    Democrats are sick to death of the endless stream of “both sides do it but Al Gore is fatter” 1%er condescension that comes out of the mainstream media – better almost to just read the fascist rags that make no pretense at objectivity.

    Meanwhile, Republicans don’t even read past the “both sides do it,” they just burn the paper in an autodafe lest their minds be contaminated by exposure to any further heresy.

    Meanwhile, the demographic of people who’re actually somewhere in between the two parties has shrunk to almost nothing.

    The mainstream media is talking to itself and no one else.

  15. 15
    beltane says:

    @aimai: Andrew Sullivan would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

  16. 16
    joel hanes says:

    WaPo aspires to be the reflected voice of the Beltway elite, to provide topics and context for conversation at Sally Quinn’s parties. At this, it succeeds.

    Do they care that hardly anyone outside the Village reads their stuff? It doesn’t seem so from their actions.

  17. 17
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    @KG: I think it’s more like IRC.

  18. 18
    amy c says:

    NYT sent me a survey recently, or directed me to a survey when I was on their site, not sure which. I am not a subscriber, but some metric told it that my input would be valuable, I guess.

    Anyway, it asked me if I used twitter (yes) and how I use twitter (for amusement, mostly, though sometimes for news). Then it asked which NYT accounts I follow on twitter. I said Krugman, and it gave me a bunch of options as to what I like about his twitter and what I want to see more of from him on twitter. Politics? Breaking news? Humor? Personal stuff?

    Then I backed the eff out of there and told the survey I followed no NYT writers on twitter, because it was crystal clear that the results of this survey were going to dictate what these people had to tweet about, and that just seemed too depressing to contemplate.

    As soon as I told the survey, never mind, I don’t follow any NYT writers after all, it booted me out.

  19. 19
    scav says:

    Pish. Twit followers can be purchased in bulk like a claque.

  20. 20
    David Koch says:

    Dougie,

    you’re just figuring out in the year 2013 that old white archie bunker wingers don’t like to read, and that they depend on a prehistoric concept called morse code radio.

  21. 21
    beltane says:

    Krauthammer has 250k followers? Given his level of insanity, he could use 250k minders.

  22. 22
    jamick6000 says:

    @joel hanes: +the people who want to feel like they’re at one of Sally Quinn’s parties.

  23. 23
    dedc79 says:

    I’ve lived in washington for over 10 years now and i’m proud to say i’ve only purchased that piece of garbage newspaper once in that entire period (the day after obama’s first election).

    The sad thing is that their national coverage, as bad as it is, pales in comparison to how bad its local coverage is.

    The sports section is alright, but the weather report is worth checking only if you want to know the opposite of what the weather is likely to be. The crossword puzzle wouldn’t challenge a reasonably smart first grader.

    They did, for a time, have a decent book review, but not anymore.

  24. 24
    catclub says:

    @Chris: “autodafe”

    is that like a gas powered autoclave?

  25. 25
    Roger Moore says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    What’s Twitter again?

    Broadcast text messaging.

  26. 26
    rachel says:

    Krauthammer is the exception to every rule — he has 250K followers.

    People looking for their weekly dose of bile, no doubt.

  27. 27
    jamick6000 says:

    Doug, just out of curiosity, who’s blocked you?

  28. 28
    Chris says:

    @joel hanes:

    WaPo aspires to be the reflected voice of the Beltway elite

    I wonder if they even realize how inherently hated all over the country that makes them. Everyone hates the royal court of Washington, from one end of the spectrum to the other with most of the people in between. Even Hollywood and Wall Street don’t come close.

  29. 29
    David Koch says:

    Krauthammer is the exception to every rule — he has 250K followers.

    but that’s only because he’s on fixxed news every day.

  30. 30
    DougJ says:

    @jamick6000:

    Charles Lane, Josh K-something from Hotline, a few others.

  31. 31
    jl says:

    ” The Post tries to position itself as the calm, sober, centrist, nonpartisan, Burkean editorial page. Looks like no one is interested in reading that kind of shit. ”

    I guess… Like an incoherent booze-poisoned dipsomaniac tries to position himself as sober while he upchucks and lurches into every piece of furniture he can knock over as he staggers through the house.

    And no one is interested in that shit.

    Maybe the WsPos sheer general news and opinion awfulness on the good faith front has hurt their good columnists and bloggers. Big chunks of the WaPos is so squalid and hilariously and transparently bad, there is a neighborhood effect.

    Below is a small example that Dean Baker pointed out:

    The Sequester Can Be So Inconvenient!
    http://www.cepr.net/index.php/.....convenient

  32. 32
    MikeJ says:

    @amy c: We want a columnist with attitude. He’s edgy, he’s “in your face.” You’ve heard the expression “let’s get busy”? Well, this is a columnist who gets “biz-zay!” Consistently and thoroughly.

    We’re talking about a totally outrageous paradigm.

  33. 33
    crosspalms says:

    A couple of years ago I needed to buy a copy of the WaPo in Chicago (for work). No dice. Even called their local bureau, and they had no idea where I could get one. NYT has a national edition I get on my porch every morning and I can buy in most stores. I know both papers are available online (up to a point, anyway), but the absence of the physical thing probably plays a role.

  34. 34

    but I used a little too much force

    I’d say you’ve driven this post as far as you could.

  35. 35
    jl says:

    @amy c:

    ” Then it asked which NYT accounts I follow on twitter. I said Krugman, and it gave me a bunch of options as to what I like about his twitter and what I want to see more of from him on twitter. Politics? Breaking news? Humor? Personal stuff? ”

    Maybe the marketing flunkies who wrote the survey could have checked which NYT Twitter accounts were just announcement services run by robots? I dunno.

    Because I am a depraved person, I never bail out on surveys with nonsense like that. I forge ahead and provide as much malicious disinformation as I can.

  36. 36
    ricky says:

    @scav:

    What is the bulk price for a claque of twit followers paid by the average tweet leader?

    Are claques bundled, like mortgages? Do you pick up a gaggle of shitty twits for every quality one? Or can you pay a premium for a really high quality claque following?
    You know the kind I mean…the ones which will follow you right off a cliff.

  37. 37
    Tonal Crow says:

    @low-tech cyclist:

    but I used a little too much force

    I’d say you’ve driven this post as far as you could.

    But he hasn’t abandoned it.

  38. 38
    jl says:

    @ricky:

    ” Are [twit] claques bundled, like mortgages? ”

    Twitterati with paid followers should be required to invite 5 percent of them home for dinner every month. That would be a good safeguard for the integrity of the twitter derivatives market.

  39. 39
    Seanly says:

    I signed up for a twitter account and while I linked to a few folks I don’t ever check it. Seems kinda pointless… I was late to the whole texting thing though so what do I know?

  40. 40
    jamick6000 says:

    @DougJ: solid. I’ve been blocked by John Podhoretz (tough-guy neocons are sensitive *shock*) and Dan Gilbert

  41. 41
    The prophet Nostradumbass says:

    This posts title just reminded me how Dave Mustaine is now a born-again evangelical wingnut birther dickhead.

  42. 42
    scav says:

    @ricky: Well, first googled has 1,000 for 8$, so cheaper than that for the pros. Personally, I’m waiting for tranches of twit-follower-futures, served with crunchy bacon and aioli.

  43. 43
    Tonal Crow says:

    @jl:

    Are [twit] claques bundled, like mortgages?

    Twitterati with paid followers should be required to invite 5 percent of them home for dinner every month. That would be a good safeguard for the integrity of the twitter derivatives market.

    Not a bad idea. But I have heard that ALEC is pushing legislation that would allow Twitterati to eschew inviting “qualified paid followers” to dinner. A “qualified paid follower” is any follower recruited by a “qualified paid follower certification authority”, a “qualified paid follower certification authority”, in turn, is any entity designated by a “qualified paid follower certification authority certifier authority”, ad nauseam. Long story short, if you follow all the links, Bobo gets to determine who Twitterati have to invite for dinner, and who gets to put his or her hand on whose inner thigh.

  44. 44
    Tonal Crow says:

    @scav: I am so going to buy follower-default swaps on those.

  45. 45
    Woodrowfan says:

    It used to be that in the morning you’d see the Post in the driveways of a lot of house in my neighborhood, and the Times in a few. I don;t see a morning paper in any driveways now. We get Sundays for the funnies and the coupons but that’s it.

  46. 46
    daverave says:

    @beltane:
    I’ve noticed that the Dooshat bashing has really fallen off around here lately. Sullivan would have provided a more constant stream of garment rending perhaps. I thought the NYT should have gone with Larison. I find him readable and not insane most of the time.

  47. 47
    Roger Moore says:

    @jl:

    Twitterati with paid followers should be required to invite 5 percent of them home for dinner every month.

    How does that work if the “followers” are just computerized figments? Do they have to have a server rack in their dining room that temporarily hosts the fictitious accounts, or is it enough to invite over the person who created the fictitious accounts?

  48. 48
    jl says:

    I wonder if it would be possible to measure a Robert J. (no relations to late Paul) Samuelson effect on WaPo cred. And cripes, Richard Cohen is a WaPo columnist.

    Just those two guys, think what they do to the general reputation of the place. Probably WaPo weather, pets, comix, and home & garden coverage is OK enough to keep average WaPol pundit followers above zero.

    Some parts of the WaPol are like an Andy Kaufman version of the Onion.

  49. 49
    jl says:

    @Roger Moore: the home wifi better be stocked with lots of tasty bits. (Edit: make that ‘bytes’ har har)

  50. 50
    joes527 says:

    @Just Some Fuckhead:

    What’s Twitter again? Start from the beginning.

    … 44, 45, 46, 47.

    I think you know.

  51. 51
    ThatLeftTurnInABQ says:

    I have a dream that my little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the character count of their content.

  52. 52
    Hungry Joe says:

    @beltane:

    Andrew Sullivan would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

    Pee-wee Herman would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat. Sissy Spacek would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat. Chase Headly (Padres, 3B) would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

  53. 53
    Roger Moore says:

    @Hungry Joe:
    Drying paint would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

  54. 54
    Ben Franklin says:

    Seriousness sells, but who’s buying?

    It’s for sale @ the BJ Store….marked down 75%.

  55. 55
    Sad_Dem says:

    @David Koch: I would have guessed that a large number of his followers are comic book fans who think he’s Spiderman’s archnemesis.

  56. 56
    Tonal Crow says:

    @beltane:

    @aimai: Andrew Sullivan would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

    Yeah. At least Sullivan has some self-consciousness and willingness to self-reflect, though he also has a tendency to reflexively punch hippies.

  57. 57
    jnfr says:

    Ezra’s got over 300k, and Greg Sargeant is over 50k. That’s something, though they’re still lefties so they don’t count.

  58. 58
    Culture of Truth says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ: ha

  59. 59
    Hungry Joe says:

    @Roger Moore:

    Drying paint would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

  60. 60
    beltane says:

    @Tonal Crow: Sullivan would piss us off quite often. Douthat can’t even manage that; he’s just an easily ignored nobody.

  61. 61
    Keith G says:

    Wow. Interesting.

  62. 62
    jl says:

    OK, I am really slow. I get it now. DougJ wants twitter followers.

    Is there a way DougJ could give them away at BJ gear store?

    Like, a special clickbox when you buy a Tunch mug that automatically signs you up as a RobertEGalt follower?

    That might work. Might take a discount on the stuff to move the twitter sign ups, though.

  63. 63
    Roger Moore says:

    @beltane:

    Andrew Sullivan would have been a more interesting choice for the Douthat slot than Douthat.

    Daniel Larison would have been a good choice for the Douthat spot; a number of people suggested him at the time. It would be very interesting to have a conservative who did more than just advance the latest talking point from conservative central.

  64. 64
    jl says:

    WP seems to have eaten my comment, but (stuffed) Jeremy Bentham seems to have a twitter following. Wonder if it is bigger than DougJ’s?

    Stuffed Jeremy Bentham is covering the FriedmanUnitSFest.

    Sounds like real head to head competition for RobertEGalt.

    Sorry DougJ, do your best. Hope you can do better than a Twitter account run by a stuffed mummy in a glass case.

    See De Long’s blog for details.

  65. 65
    Redshirt says:

    Twitter was pretty awesome during the Boston stuff.

    Hey Doug! Have you engaged Donald Trump via Twitter yet? He seems ripe for the trolling.

  66. 66
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Redshirt: How about Sa-rah? I haven’t heard from her in awhile!

  67. 67
    raven says:

    @Redshirt: Yea, especially when people gave away the position of the cops.

  68. 68
    Redshirt says:

    @Tonal Crow: She’s fun too. But Donald has a special blend of the illusion of intelligence combined with greed induced stupidity.

  69. 69
    aimai says:

    @daverave:

    Maybe they noticed he’s a closet white supremacist, underneath his pose of reasonable conservative. I believe he still mourns the end of slavery, although in the nicest possible way.

  70. 70
    sonofsamantha says:

    yawn…if you are judging yourself or anyone else by how many fucking twitter followers you have then you have serious problems.

    It could just as easily mean you are a psychopath or spend all your time on there rather than having a real life in meatspace. Or it could mean you are an asshole that attracts lots of followers for the wrong reason.

    In short…it doesn’t mean shit.

  71. 71
    Trollhattan says:

    @rachel:

    I think they keep an open bet at the Reno sports book on when he’ll get his next face spackle. Should he accidently smile it throws the whole thing right off.

  72. 72
    Redshirt says:

    @sonofsamantha: Says someone with few followers…

  73. 73

    It’s difficult on twitter to spoof troll ’cause people can see your post history. Maybe lose the Doug Johnson? Just put your name as Robert E. Galt.

  74. 74
    CorbinDallasMultipass says:

    What do you mean by circulation? Do you literally mean “number of physical copies circulated”?

    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/washingtonpost.com

    http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/nytimes.com

    You can pay for the New York Times. Does purchasing a service make the consumer more likely to be involved over Twitter?

    When did each service integrate twitter historically? If the NYT was first to market maybe more initial twitter accounts started following?

  75. 75
    A Ghost To Most says:

    @ThatLeftTurnInABQ:

    Damn you! You made me blow my (legal in CO!) pipe all over my surface pro

  76. 76
    Foregone Conclusion says:

    The NYT is a paper read across the world, compared to which the Washington Post is the Potomac Local News & Advertiser.

  77. 77
    scav says:

    @Redshirt: Nah, more along the lines of those that judge their success by how throughly they can disrupt and dominate a thread (and it’s a vibrant and numerous cult). Closely related to those that think they’ve won an argument if they can drive people to rage and similarly pride themselves on their attractivess judging by how many others lose their lunch when the cultist strolls into the room.

  78. 78
    jeffreyw says:

    This is a great post. My brother in law made $5309 last week as a twitter follower working from home!

  79. 79
    Morzer says:

    @amy c:

    Was I wrong to suggest more humor and golf stories for Krugman’s Twitter?

  80. 80
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Foregone Conclusion:
    Not by me, not any more.

  81. 81
    Maude says:

    @jeffreyw:
    Wow. I just signed up for a place to do that. I only paid $1,000.
    /snark. Just in case someone takes me seriously.
    Can’t get birdies to sit still to take their pictures.

  82. 82
    Roger Moore says:

    @Maude:

    Wow. I just signed up for a place to do that. I only paid $1,000.

    I’ve heard George Soros pays well for twitter followers.

  83. 83
    Yurpean says:

    Oh God, Uncle McCain is on BBC2 at the moment, banging the Syrian war drums. He knows who the good guys are though (this is literally what he just said), so if you do bomb Syria, I’m sure it’ll all go swimmingly.

  84. 84
    Morzer says:

    @Yurpean:

    Well, if we drop Grandpa Walnuts with the first load of bombs we can be sure of diminishing our problems to at least some degree.

  85. 85
    muddy says:

    @Maude: Nail ’em to the perch?

  86. 86

    @Hill Dweller: Krgthulu has said that repeatedly. The only non-link Tweet ever from his account was announcing his Reddit AMA about 15 minutes before it started. That’s it.

  87. 87
    Tonal Crow says:

    @Morzer:

    Well, if we drop Grandpa Walnuts with the first load of bombs we can be sure of diminishing our problems to at least some degree.

    See! Some lib’ral on the internets disrespected a Republican, so we’re justified in filibustering everything Nobama wants!

  88. 88
    Central Planning says:

    DougJ, maybe you need to add a hashtag like #TCOT to your tweets.

  89. 89
    OGLibreral says:

    Hey, Tapper thought your Friedman/cabbie tweet was funny!

  90. 90
    Ted & Hellen says:

    I had an old account as DougJBalloon where I tried to fuck with people I don’t like, but I used a little too much force and was widely blocked.

    Good holy christ, you’re an idiot.

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