Social media has changed politics (and elections) forever. But that doesn’t mean traditional commentators and pundits have lost any of their influence when reporting on politics. Journalists still have a key role to play in driving conversation through these new channels of communication.
Take for example chief reporter at The Australian, Andrew Burrell (@AndrewBurrell7). His use of Twitter in particular has given him the kind of social influence and reach that traditional papers used to dream of just from print.
If we just pull the figures on the most influential people writing about the WA election, Burrell is sitting three from the top. In fact, his posts on the WA election have spread to more than 2 million potential readers on Twitter alone.
In contrast, the total readership of his print publication is estimated at 311,000 on a weekday.
But he’s not the only journalist who’s watched their tweets spread far and wide over the past 30 days.
Down at number 10 on this list is ABC Perth journalist Jacob Kagi.
His tweets have reached more than 400,000 potential pairs of eyeballs. That’s not bad when you consider election analyst and all-around polling legend Antony Green has been seen by around 700,000 people.
You can see the ABC has had a huge impact, the Greens and Labor get the best spread of the political parties, and there are a handful of lesser-known influencers.
John Wren was a Melbourne businessman and an Australian Labor Party affiliate, made famous in the classic political novel Power Without Glory. Wren died in 1953, however his eponymous Twitter account has seen tweets on the WA election spread to almost 1.5 million accounts.
@Qldaah is Queensland reporter David Marler, another ‘ordinary’ influencer, writing for blog No Fibs. He’s also a fixture in most Australian political conversations.
The ‘spread’ of a Twitter user refers to the additional audience brought as a result of organic sharing of their posts.
They might make one comment, only to have it repeated tens, hundreds, or thousands of times.
But it’s not the only measure of success. And unless reporters are using hashtags consistently, it’s possible their tweets won’t get picked up in a broad sweep.
So it is worth looking at other measures to rate the press pack on their punch.
We’ve talked about Klout before in relation to the politicians’ social influence. But some journalists and news brands have Klout scores that positively dwarf those of the pollies.
Colin Barnett and Mark McGowan each have Klout scores of 62 — not bad but not fantastic.
A national reporter like ABC’s Leigh Sales has a Klout score of 68. @JohnWren1950 scores 69 (higher than ABC Perth), while Buzzfeed’s Mark Di Stefano has a Klout of 74.
Of course, national reporters get to cover big national stories. But it can be harder to build a following when your beat is state politics.
— Jessica Strutt (@JessicaStrutt) March 8, 2017
This is where former The West Australian journalist turned radio jock Gareth Parker leads the pack. He commands 8500 followers on Twitter, 550 clear of 6PR Radio’s Lisa Barnes and 3000 ahead of the ABC’s Jessica Strutt.
(Can you match the WA reporter with their Twitter profile pic? Our full watchlist appears at the end of this post.)
Another 6PR reporter, Oliver Peterson, takes the lead when you look at tweets per day, with 20/day on average, followed by Strutt and Parker on 16/day and Barnes and the ABC’s Andrew O’Connor on 15 each.
But tweeting doesn’t equal engaging — as this graph shows:
The most engaged journalists on Twitter are the ABC’s Nicholas Perpitch and O’Connor, both of whom get high retweets and shares because of this.
Social media is as a leveller. Anyone can have influence on these channels now, without needing access to a full printing press. And to be an online influencer during the lead-up to an election you no longer need to be a member of the media to be heard.
Still, in this era of fake news, it’s good to see that, on the whole, trustworthy brands, serious journalists, and heritage brands are still influential sources of political coverage.
Here’s the complete list of reporters whose activity we have tracked for the past week.