Fresh Take on “Influence” ...


The search for influence in the tech industry can at times resemble the hunt by Ponce de León for the Fountain of Youth.


That’s why a fresh approach to defining influence from Apollo Research caught my attention.

Before going further, if you’re not familiar with the company, Apollo measures media and influence in the tech sector, selling services to both companies and consultancies.

Here’s the Apollo approach —

The greater the reach of a given media property, the more value we tend to place on the media property and its journalists. There are thousands of journalists who write about the tech industry. But who are the actual journalists who wield influence over the nearly 3,000 tech journalists in the U.S.? To answer this question, Apollo analyzed the tech journalists by examining their peer following on Twitter.

I like this approach.

It’s pragmatic. It’s logical. You don’t need a Ph.D. in predictive analytics to understand it.

In short, these are the sources where a tech journalist goes to stay informed as well as for potential story ideas and sanity checks.

Like where a barber goes to have his hair cut.

Or where a chef goes out to eat.

Based on this definition, this chart captures the most influential 30 tech writers in the U.S. (highest percent of overall pool of tech writers who follow on Twitter).Tech Writers Reach 01-16Some observations:

  • Five of the most influential tech journalists toil at Re/code. I figured Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg would make the list. I think Peter Kafka, Ina Fried and Arik Hesseldahl cracking the top 30 reflects the strength of the Re/code brand.
  • While big media brands dominate, keep in mind that many of the journalists got their grounding in the tech trades like Harry McCracken at IDG publications, Ina Fried at CNET and Ashlee Vance at The Register. And the inclusion of John Gruber and Jason Snell proves the “independent” still has a place in this universe.
  • I’m pleased to see Mary Jo Foley recognized for her influence. She’s honed her craft for over 30 years going back to writing for Electronic Business.
  • The storytelling matters. I can’t claim to consuming very noun and verb penned by these 30 journalists. Still, I read many of them regularly, and they’re masters at finding the drama in innocuous topics. Ashlee Vance is particularly skilled in teasing out the humanity in enterprise computing. We still use The Atlantic story by Alexis Madrigal that examines the Pringle potato chip as a technology in our storytelling workshops.

If you’re plotting ways to snag a “follow” from one of these top 30 journalists, your odds are slightly better than Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber.”

Moving to the specifics, here’s what you’re up against.Tech Writers Followers 01-16Rolling up the numbers, it averages out to a 174:1 ratio of followers to following. The data says Robert Scoble is your best bet at 9:1. On the other end of the spectrum, Walt Mossberg offers lottery-like odds at 1,096:1.

As a second data point, Apollo identified the top influencers from U.S.-based tech writers excluding the writers themselves (and not including those with celebrity status).Reach Excluding Tech Writers 01-16Again, a few comments:

  • Only two publications that fall under the “pure” tech umbrella — TechCrunch and the Verge — make the list.
  • Dispelling the myth that the tech journalists have no sense of humor, The Onion shows up in the sixth slot.
  • I was surprised to find Techmeme MIA. By surfacing articles that serve as reference points in other pieces, it provides a short cut to what’s trending and varied perspectives.

On the topic of Techmeme, our campaigns often prioritize media properties from what’s termed the Techmeme Leaderboard.Techmeme Leaderboard 01-16In short, coverage in a media property on the Techmeme Leaderboard increased the probability of syndication, repurposed content and backlinks from the story.

Before closing out, I want to thank Richard Laven at Apollo for sharing his firm’s research and the dialogue.

As always, I welcome questions and comments. If you’d like to reach out directly to Richard, he’s at richard[at]

Update (2/3 8:51 am): Stephen Spector took the time to create a Twitter list for the top-30 journalists which you can access here.


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