They say that journalists are sometimes hired based on the Twitter $NYSE:TWTR) following they bring with them, much like the Rolodex salespeople are expected to carry. Bill Simmons, for instance, commands a Twitter audience of nearly 6 million followers. A tweet from him for a publication is worth its weight in the amount of gold his paycheck would represent.

But the publications themselves also see their Twitter presence as a major part of modern-day content distribution. The New York Times ($NYSE:NYT), for instance, has a Twitter following of a massive 43.9 million followers. That's more than the total number of digital and print susbcribers to whom the newspaper goes direct by a factor of more than ten. That's almost as many followers as Michael Jordan tweets has (to be fair to Michael, he hasn't tweeted since 2015).

Media outlets take their Twitter audiences very seriously. So who's winning the game? We've been tracking Twitter followers for several major (and not-so major) media outlets since 2016. Here's how they measure up over the past few years.

You can see how each outlet has down since 2016 by using the time slider. Or, if you have a few moments, hit play and watch as the various outlets grew, contracted during bot purges, and grew again.

When compaing these 13 outlets in a time series, it become more clear as to the lead the New York Times has when it comes to Twitter. In fact, it's extended its lead over ESPN ($NYSE:DIS) (to be fair again, ESPN has problems of its own) in the past couple years a fair emount. 

It's also interesting to see BusinessInsider ($BUSINESSINSIDER) and The Verge ($VOXMEDIA) jockeying for command of the Twitter tech audience, as the two have leapfrogged one another in terms of followers throughout 2017 to today.

Aside from seeing how the various outlets compare, this also serves somewhat as validation that despite the fact that new media outlets perfected the social media game, it's the old media outlets like The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal that command followers at scale regardless of the platform.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: