Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite Died - An Icon Of American Culture

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A few minutes ago, a part of me passed away: the most trusted man in news Walter Cronkite died. It's now 5:21 PM PST as I write this, and it's as hard in its way as the passing of Michael Jackson was almost exactly two weeks before.

I'm not going into a long blog post about his stats, just what I remember. Walter Cronkite was American Culture of the time, and the way many have wanted it to be, I think: smart, smooth, certain, definite, classy, and professional. I watched him through my childhood and remember feeling robbed when he was forced to retire in the mid-80s.

Cronkite was CBS News, and the one place that this young African American could look to and not see or even think of prejudice. Yes, it was revealed that he was liberal later, but that never was an issue: I just assumed that he was too smart not to be. Yes, I wrote that.

Walter Cronkite 

(Indeed, after I wrote this, my Mother called to remind me that Cronkite was the mentor of the late Chicago anchor Michelle Clark, who worked at United Airline with my mother before moving to journalism. My Mother said "It was remarkable in those days for someone like Cronkite to reach out to a young black woman and help her as he did.)

Walter Cronkite was the person through which it seemed we vetted what information was important, and what was not. I came to associate the space program - America's "Can Do" period - with him. I think I watched every single launch and can remember the ones later that didn't have him at the CBS helm; they just were not as important to me.


Walter Cronkite represents the best of America and our culture. Like Michael Jackson, he will never be replaced. A sad day. May he rest in peace and enjoy his trip to Heaven.

The Top 10 On Twitter In Oakland, LA, SF, and San Jose

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(NOTE: This is an update including data from San Jose, CA, by request.)

Who's on the "Top 10" list of Twitter users in Oakland, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and San Jose? There's no question but that Twitter, the microblogging service, has become a "must be on" new media system with an engaged and loyal core group of users, all microblogging about events, activities, news and opinion. The San Francisco-based firm has grown from small beginnings just three years ago to 19 million visitors (or 17 million if one goes by the digital research service in April in what was a dramatic 83 percent jump over March, and in that month alone Twitter went from 9.8 million visitors to 17 million visitors, perhaps the fastest expansion of a new media service in the short history of the industry. It's clear that Twitter, as Eric Schonfeld with the tech industry website said, is working to become "the pulse of the planet."

As Twitter has grown so have the number of ways of measuring a twitter account holders effectiveness, or "Twitterers" as I call us. Perhaps the best Twitterer evaluation system is "Twitter Grader" made by self-described "serial entrepreneur" Dharmesh Shah. I am rather addicted to his application because it not only lets one know how effective they are on Twitter, but how they rank in their city, which is the most fun part of it all. In his blog at the site, Mr. Shah or "dshah" as he goes by explains how the final Twitter Grade is calculated:

1. Number of Followers: More followers leads to a higher Twitter Grade (all other things being equal). Yes, I agree that it’s easy to game this number, but we are looking at measuring reach and I did say all other things being equal.

2. Power of Followers: If you have people with a high Twitter Grade following you, it counts more than those with a low Twitter Grade following you. It’s a bit recursive, and we don’t get carried away with it, but it helps.

2. Updates: More updates generally leads to a higher grade — within reason. This does not mean you should be tweeting like a manic squirrel cranked up on caffeine and sugar. It won’t help either your Twitter Grade or your overall happiness in life.

3. Update Recency: Users that are more current (i.e. time elapsed since last tweet is low) generally get higher grades.

4. Follower/Following Ratio: The higher the ratio, the better. However, the weight of this particular factor decreases as the user accrues points for other factors (so, once a user gets to a high level of followers or a high level of engagement, the Follower/Following ratio counts less).

5. Engagement: The more a given user’s tweets are being retweeted, the more times the user is being referenced or cited, the higher the twitter grade. Further, the value of the engagement is higher based on who is being engaged. If a user with a very high Twitter Grade retweets, it counts more than if a spammy account with a very low grade retweets.

As you can guess, one's Twitter grade can be all over the place. As of this writing, mine is 99.8, which means out of out of 2,747,790 Twitters, there are just 4,953 who are better than me at this point in time. But a month ago my grade was 99.9 and last week it was 99.7. But since I'm hyper competitive, adding followers at a regular daily clip, I want to know where I stand in Oakland, California, where I live. With that, here are the top 10 users on Twitter who live in Oakland, followed by Los Angeles, then San Francisco, and listed by name, grade, and number of followers:


1. mistahfab - 100 - 22,270
2. acedtect - 99.99 - 16,070
3. mollywood - 99.98 - 20,394
4. mrdaveyd - 99.9 - 3,094
5. bulldogreporter - 99.8 - 1,736
6. pandora_radio - 99.9 - 26,434
7. zennie62 - 99.8 - 5,988
8. ktvu - 99.8 - 2,445
9. mc_lars - 99.8 - 3,912
10. stocktwits - 99.8 - 85,623

Los Angeles

1. christinelu - 100 - 10,760
2. ijustine - 100 - 601,005
3. wilw - 100 - 958,546
4. laist - 100 - 7,398
5. mattsingley - 100 - 18,166
6. drew - 100 6,003
7. Mayhemstudios - 100 - 30,569
8. eonline - 100 - 1,040,375
9. lotay - 100 - 56,319
10. mitchelmusso - 100 - 211,947

San Francisco

1. missrogue - 100 - 28,127
2. briansolis - 100 - 27,621
3. ev - 100 - 1,095,917
4. parislemon - 100 - 10,084
5. Techmeme - 100 - 14,604
6. wired - 100 - 71,402
7. kynamdoan - 100 - 23,681
8. loic - 100 - 28,743
9. widgetbox - 100 - 14,093
10. gigaom - 99.99 - 5,674

San Jose

1. Jowyang - 100 - 48,277
2. techCrunch - 100 - 942,676
3. techchat - 100 - 21,494
4. mediaphyter - 100 - 12,019
5. djc8080 - 100 - 75,009
6. RoundTableSJ - 99.99 - 12,109
7. KingArthurSV - 99.99 - 8,946
8. shelisrael - 99.98 - 16,046
9. charlief - 99.97 - 15,026
10. alltop - 99.97 - 7,675

Oh, and just for grins, the top 10 Twitter cities are:

1 London H9 United Kingdom 63.53
2 Los Angeles CA United States 70.80
3 Chicago IL United States 67.08
4 New York NY United States 71.52
5 San Francisco CA United States 74.00
6 Toronto 08 Canada 67.12
7 Atlanta GA United States 70.60
8 Seattle WA United States 67.91
9 Boston MA United States 69.14
10 Austin TX United States 69.98

Nope, Oakland's not on the list, nor is San Jose. But on the matter of San Jose, you may have noticed that the vast majority of Twitterers are people like "alltop" (who is Guy Kawasaki), but then we have RoundTableSJ with over 12,000 followers, proving that companies, like restaurant chains, can successfully use Twitter and establish a base of followers.

Top Cities have celebrity Twitterers

You may wonder why Los Angeles and San Francisco have so many Twitterers with 100 grades. The answer's a simple one: the vast majority of them are celebrities and micro celebrities who have vastly more followers than people they follow. In San Francisco, the number-one-ranked "missrogue" is Tara Hunt's the queen of online community consultants, and just wrote a book called "The Whuffie Factor" about how to improve one's use of social networks. "EV" in San Francisco is Twitter CEO Evan Williams, who has over a million followers. In Los Angeles, "iJustine" (Justine Ezarik) has over 600,000 followers and that number's sure to grow because today she's a "trending topic" on Twitter due to her new live show on USTream.Tv and as I watch this, she's actively trying to push "Harry Potter" out of the way for the number one topic spot today.


Twitter Influencers

What all of this says is if you want your message to get out a large audience you have to work with these Twitterers or become one of them. When one gets over 2,000 followers, and updates over 10 times a day, they can cause others to share their news and information in a process called "retweeting". Or think of how Ellen DeGeneres used her 1.9 million followers to gain signatures for an online petition to stop the proposal to reduce the time animals are held in shelters before being euthanized. Some question the value of Twitter, but those who do, universally also just aren't good at it.

Oakland needs to grow more celebrity Twitterers, and of the top 10 in Oakland only DaveyD and myself are consistent bloggers. Considering the number of bloggers in Oakland, that's a shame. Maybe I should move to San Francisco or Atlanta. And on that, one can make a strong argument that the top Twitter cities are also the best ones for the consumption of online content.

iJustine In San Francisco To Be On Live!

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Thursday, I happened to notice that famous vlogger IJustine was on because around 3 PM, she was one of the "trending topics" on Twitter; she was on, doing a live stream from their San Francisco office. When I clicked in, she was talking about new iPhone apps, and how they work, or more to the point, trying to figure out how a particular app worked.

While some laugh at iJustine, I take her work very, very seriously and so should many in media.   San Francisco Chronicle Executive Editor Phil Bronstein wrote a blog post a few weeks ago that took a shot at the emerging culture of media celebrity, all the while missing the fact that it's via achieving online stardome that traffic and revenue are generated.  It's the central new media model and iJustine - one of LA's top Twitterers as I blogged about today - is the perfect person to watch and learn from.

iJustine calls herself a "new media chick" and Apple fan girl who's Twitter profile announces that she is the Internet.   Her real name is Justine Ezarik and since her first foray into "lifecasting"  - which is a form of vlogging,  kind of a live diary - with USTREAM, has become an Internet star largely because she embraces the medium and has an honest, tech savvy-yet-curious acting approach (Ezarik sees iJustine as a character who's most popular group are teenage girls, according to Gawker's famous blogger Emily Gould.)  Having started with USTREAM, in 2007 she jumped over to the then-new competitor to become the new model of their lifecasting show process replacing the founder Justin Kan.  In 2008, she rejoined USTREAM.

Ezarik's follower and subscriber numbers are just plain amazing: over 600,000 Twitter followers, 121,000 YouTube subscribers (like me, she's a YouTube partner, which means she earns money from her video views), and her YouTube videos commonly draw between 50,000 and 100,000 views in one week.  She became famous after turning the camera on herself to show and complain about a 300-page iPhone bill from AT&T, which casued the company to alter its billing format.

Later, AT&T hired Ezarik in a new media initiative that failed to "go viral" as they expected.  It's wasn't her fault, but borne of the fact that the phone giant didn't allow her to make the videos and keep them within her site and subscription system, in fact the best performing videos were those placed on her blog and YouTube channel.

The key to her success is that she's fearless: willing to turn the camera on herself without care for what others think.  The result is she gains from the primal fact that we're all voyeurs wanting to look into the lives and habits of other people.  Ezarik gives the public want it wants.

What the public wanted today was iJustine on a live stream and that's what they got. Because of her use of her base of Twitter followers, she was able to drive her name to near the top of the "top trend" subjects, but failing to replace "Harry Potter" in the number one spot.

The lesson for media types is this: get a small camcorder and practice talking into it, downloading the video, editing it, and then posting it on YouTube, or   Then do it again and again and consistently, developing a following over time, join various social networks, and establish a blog to promote what you do.  And most important is not to care what people are going to think; that's the one dynamic that stops many in this area of endevor. 

But not Justine Ezarik.