Mar 192009

Complexity iPhone Camerakit App 22Ever since I joined Twitter (GaryPHayes) I have been fascinated by the subtle ‘etiquette’ of being followed, following and timely updates (as well as the enormous growth and creative potential twitter now affords). It is also interesting watching those traditional media brands and celebrities with a non-twitter and web 2.0 online reputation enter into the fray. What effect do they have? Do they corrupt this young new channel before it has found it’s own feet or is the invasion of old brands and celebs part of its maturation?

Laurel Papworth has far more in-depth coverage of this movement and etiquette across many and various posts on her main blog here but one thing became evident to me as traditional media and celebrities started to ‘infiltate’ Twitter – the instant emergence of old world, short head, long tail distribution. Those brands (individual and companies) already popular in other media on setting up in twitterville started to gain followers like magnets, they swarmed to them – in many cases regardless of what they were tweeting (film and pop stars particularly). We also see old form media channels such as news updates, emerging as useful ‘feeds’ and gaining instant popularity too. Merging with all these are the new stars, traditional bloggers find the transition to micro-blogging easy and so on and so on…

As Twitter has an open API the stats are relatively easy to pull out and there are quite a few sites that do much better analysis than mine below such as TwitterFacts blog, Damon Cortesi and TweetStats. For my little effort below thanks to Twitterholic and its dynamically updated top 1000 (based on followers), I was able to do a quick big picture overview – data taken on the 17 March 2009 !. Before we dig down into the charts themselves a quick high level stat on the Top 1000 tweeters

The top 1000 tweeters have generated 3.45 million tweets and are following 12 million but being followed by 35 million. (note: followers and followings are of course not unique, but the updates/tweets are)

The first chart is what I simply call the  Twitter Long Tail. Starting at the far left with top tweeters CNN Breaking News and Barack Obama at 543k and 486k respectively we move across to the 1000th top tweeter in the world Brad Will with just under 8k followers. I have highlighted a few random tweeters in-between for reference – key thing to note of course is the obvious almost perfect Long Tail shape (I would imagine over time this would smoothe even more – we are still early days)


The highlighted selection here include world renowned bloggers Robert Scoble and Darren Rowse (problogger), passionate artistes Imogen Heap and Stephen Fry, TV getting in on the act Ellen Show and Letterman plus trad media and social media folk. It is interesting for example that The Ellen Show Twitter ID appeared on the 16 March and generated around 200 000 followers off the back of one show – sadly there were only a handful of updates and virtually no following back, a poor user experience – traditional media really needs to make sure it doesn’t corrupt these ‘delicate’ new media channels as it so often does and then tells everyone they don’t really work!

While we are on the global view worth noting that adding all the followers up (thats means each persons follower amount) we end up with 35 million (remember that will contain many duplicates). The point though is to demonstrate the short head’ness here where followers are effectively a ‘rating’ (abstract) of popularity.

Of that 35 million totalled followers

  • 55% are in the top 100
  • 67% are in the top 200 and
  • 85% are in the top 500

To demonstrate this rather spookily smoothe long tail curve I removed the top 50 (that have rather exponentially big figures) and looked at the top 50-500. I started to think also here about the number of updates – do updates bring in followers or is it all about pre-twitter trust and reputation – of course its a to be calculated mix of the two of them – but look below at updates and position…
I went further down this road and looked at the top 100 and their update distribution – the spikes are named. Fascinating again to see that updates do not equal popularity (OK that’s obvious and I will stop labouring that one) but there is a significant high amount of updates going on the in 13-30 areas – remember though we are looking at the creme-de-la-creme of tweeters here and might be too ‘zoomed in’ for meaningful insight?


If your still with me, for reference, here is a quick snapshot of the top 50 World tweeps based purely on following (now you can go and follow them all!). As I keep saying this is not the whole story as we can see – for example CNN following 1 person (is pure broadcast) and Al Gore with only 14 updates (is pure pre-twitter reputation – or 14 amazing world shattering tweets?! – I will go with the former). Of course automated tweeting is rife and there are many in the top thousand who have or are resorting to bots to send messages in their ‘down time’. More after the list…

Some time ago I thought a twitter quotient that took into account updates/followings too is important and the chart below is the same top 1000 tweeters now ordered by a Gary algorithm (made famous on Twitter Agency and Laurel’s post of Australian Journalists on twitter), which changes the landscape significantly. Reproduced from my little contribution to twitter agency here.

Here is a little formula I just cooked up called the Tweet-GQ (Tweet Gary Quotient) that works out a Twitter rating. To be considered as a valuable system to be used on top 100s etc. Before I go into explanation, here is the secret formula

( ((Following/3)+Followers) x (Followers/Updates) ) / 10

This takes into account the raw numbers of followers weighted over following. More importantly it then has an critical multiplier – that of how many updates you do in relation to the followers you generate. So simply, it rewards high numbers of followers but also takes into account how many tweets or updates it took you to get that many followers.

To do this yourself without needing a degree in pure math (or an online calculator – to be done by someone). Here is a simple 3 step DIY version.

  1. Divide followings by 3 and then add this to followers – write the number down
  2. Divide followers by updates – write the number down
  3. Multiply the two numbers above and divide by ten – et voila. Your very own TweetGQ


Finally and while I am on this twitter topic heres a lovely mosaic of 360 out of my current 1300 followers…seems so insignificant now 🙂 But this shows off the power of open API – each of the faces are clickable and therefore followable – is that a word. Bye for now, see you in the twitterverse.

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Get your twitter mosaic here.

Aug 122006

I was quite shocked when I heard the news that TOTP (Top of the Pops) is to close down after 42 years and some 2100 episodes. Is this the first of many major ‘heritage’ media brands that are just becoming irrelevant in today’s easy find, on-demand and share with everyone emerging media landscape? Will many major brands simply not be able to turn back time?

Moving recently to the other side of the planet I am somewhat removed now from this cultural icon that became one of a few must see’s during the UK weekly schedule and Thursday evenings (thenFriday) was once THE place to decide what vinyl or CD to buy at the weekend. But I also have a personal connection to the brand having been the producer for six months of the interactive TV pilot back in 1999 which also coincided with a major brand face-lift – more on that later. The BBC News report “BBC Calls Time on Top of the Pops” though captures some of the mixed reaction to this and hints are some of the reasons why this has happened…

In a statement, the BBC said the weekly programme could no longer compete with 24-hour music channels.

“Noel Edmonds said he thought it was “dangerous” to “throw out one of the most recognised brands in TV today. It’s a huge commodity and kids are still listening to music, even if they are downloading it. It’s a tragedy when a broadcaster doesn’t understand such a powerful brand.”
“Top of the Pops has been overrun by video of music on TV.” Said Jimmy Saville. Mike Read, who was a presenter in the 1980s, said: “It was a situation that was obviously coming because of dwindling audiences.”

Top of the Pops – (perhaps paraphrased to ‘best examples of contemporary pop music’) has simply become irrelevant. It appeared to many of its audience as a live performance but, and I hope not to spoil the fantasy, it was never live in the last 10 years or so – I was close to the varying degrees of miming that took place on a pre-record a day before. No TOTP was nearer to a talent show than an up-to date place to really find out about new music. A weekly batch of eight songs selected by a couple of ‘programmers’ prior to a Monday morning production meeting was never going to survive in a world of twenty 24/7 digital music channels, peer-to-peer sharing and the likes of iTunes/iPod. No in the music long tail, a weekly sheduled programme that shows a handful of some of the music at the head of the tail would only survive if it had something truly live or unique.

The TOTP enhanced version, got a a few special XMas airings in a cut down form, but more importantly as a pilot was responsible along with a Wimbledon pilot, for convincing the BBC to do interactive broadcast media. In the pilot, we wanted to explore in one of the many features, a range of ‘extras’ such as those rare backstage glimpses that at least appealed to the ‘goss’ in all of us. But that was not enough. Neither was the ability to sing along in karaoke mode or a link to the video for those who were never keen on the staged ‘screaming kids’ pre-record. One thing I put in the pilot interactive TV version that never made it to the tx versions may have been its saviour (if there was a continous presence on 24/7 digital TV) and that was the web 2.0 elements. Alongside all the ‘insight’ information about the acts I was insistant on including in the pilot community areas that included simple casual games, emails, chat, voting and instant messages from viewers and forums around the show (see the images attached). But most big broadcasters are simply not very good at this sort of stuff, and chicken out, often with excuses of it being too difficult to moderate, or fall back on the technically too expensive excuse (I know we did) – so best leave that to the millions using free, easy to use, open source web 2.0 publishing software then – geez and we wonder why audiences are on a broadcaster exodus. But back to TOTP I really believe that the brand should have been given a chance and rather than a half hearted attempt at the eTV version around XMas specials, a TV 2.0 version would have allowed this particular icon to jump the chasm created by the latest tsunami sized digital wave. But that will never happen and the BBC Worldwide, commercial website, or the weaker version, may continue for a while until the brand itself fizzles out in the next few years.

The editorial stance that TOTP had that is now seen as an irrelevant voice to the music youth in the UK must shock other large media brands who believe their editorial team are truly representing what audiences want to consume. I even fear for MTV and those other 24/7 music loop channels who will be very soon relegated to ambient background or occasional party channels as the audience simply shifts to on-demand, shared playlists and only really trusts a global ‘collective recommendation’ system. An individual simply has their own personalized Top of the Pops, which incidentally changes moment to moment. No the editorial winners in the future are not teams sat inside boards rooms, those existing ‘heritage’ aggregators of content (magazines, broadcasters, film studios, newspapers) they will simply be a ‘wisdom of the crowds’ range of trusted filters. An avid music fan in Wisconsin becomes as important as the programmers at MTV or BBC – music will be found by searching for groups of trusted like-minded ‘browsers’ – Top of the Pops becomes Top of the Aggregators.

To put a slightly different slant on it, the distribution channel is now irrelevant for most media consumers, they can get their content in many ways, no now the important thing is trusted sources of links to content. YouTube and GoogleVideo will of course do the same to TV programming over the next few years that MP3 (etc) did to the music industry and TV music programming. The only TV programmes that will survive will not be the ones who simply plop their content a day earlier on iTunes but ones that differentiate themselves from the masses – those who build brand across multiple platforms and more importantly create a web 2.0 blanket around it. If viewers cannot resonate with the content they simply forward it and forget about it. Those brands that do have the ability to receive and incorporate audience content (and not of the “home video show” type – I hate it when some TV folk tell me that is already happening!) – but allow them to offer content and weave it into the fabric of the offering, which becomes effectively what TV magazine programmes used to be – a collection of what people like to see in one package. That will be far more important than anything sixty people, a well equipped six camera shoot studio and the record business can come up with.

Posted by Gary Hayes ©2006