Twitter is a medium especially well-suited to self-indulgence. When it comes to the organizations that take up roost, though, the hands that supply the tweets are often hidden—and when it comes to media organizations, that invisibility offers a bit of anonymity that journalists don’t otherwise get a shot at. (Only a few Toronto media outlets’ Twitter accounts make blatant who’s helming them.) It’s not that anyone’s being surreptitious; it’s just not a convention to broadcast the authors.
So, then, most people who follow, say, The Walrus, may not know who’s meticulously typing out little 140-characters-or-fewer updates and sending them out to thousands of followers a dozen or so times a day. In an effort to pull the men and women at the tweet deck out of the closet, Torontoist surveyed the largest local-ish media organizations on Twitter (from magazines to newspapers to newsletters to TV channels to, yeah, blogs): we found out who runs them, and asked them to tell us, in 140 characters or fewer, what they do on Twitter and what they think is so damned great about the medium anyway.
Tweet-scludedMany Twitter accounts of more-established (read: old) Toronto media outlets are either wholly or almost entirely automated, which means they didn’t get to participate in our survey. Our apologies to The Globe & Mail (@globeandmail/@globetoronto), The Toronto Star (@TorontoStar/@StarGTANews), The National Post (@nationalpost/@postedtoronto), CTV Toronto (@CTVtoronto), Toronto Life (@toronto_life), CityNews (@CityNews), and the CBC (@CBCToronto)—they may have social media strategies and marketing or promotions or distribution directors, but machines can’t answer our questions.
(Also missing from our survey: any media organizations with fewer than 1,500 followers, as well as 680 News [@680News] and MuchMusic [@MuchMusic], who didn’t return our emails. MTV Canada [@mtvcanada] was interested in taking part, but was ultimately too busy to participate.)
Who runs it: “It’s definitely a team effort,” says editor Jerrold Litwinenko (@Jerrold), who, with co-editor Derek Flack (@derekflack), are “the main voices”—though, says Litwinenko, “sometimes publisher Tim Shore contributes as well.”
Joined Twitter: March 15, 2007
What they do on Twitter: “blogTO informs, entertains, engages & occasionally enrages like-minded Torontonians, and we often get the same in return from our community!”
What’s so special about Twitter: “Twitter is fast, info dense & interactive. It’s content sharing, playful banter, real feedback, and most importantly…it’s a lot of FUN!”
Who runs it: Social Media Editor Andrew Louis (@hyfen) and, regularly but less frequently, Editor-in-Chief David Topping (which is me, @dtopping).
Joined Twitter: July 6, 2007
What they do on Twitter: “We watch for news and story ideas, promote our own content, and talk with our audience,” says Andrew Louis. “And if @dtopping is at helm, make really bad puns.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It’s where the action is. Toronto news often floats around Twitter first and some of our most engaged readers—and subjects—are active users.”
NOW Magazine (@nowtoronto)
Who runs it: “Me mostly,” says Online Editor (and Torontoist co-founder) Josh Errett (@joshuaerrett), “though the rest of the newsroom contributes. Our promo department, Film section, Style section, and individual editors also have accounts.”
Joined Twitter: September 18, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “Talk abt articles, find stuff going on, put up contests, block ppl, get in fights, get out of fights. NOW is the straw stirring the drink!”
What’s so special about Twitter: “Lets us be @ the same party as readers..discuss things, answer questions/gripes, send TwitPics & tell jokes..so, same stuff we do @ parties. ”
The Walrus (@walrusmagazine)
Who runs it: “Just me!” That’d be Stacey May Fowles (@MissStaceyMay), director of circulation and marketing (and former Torontoist contributor).
Joined Twitter: August 22, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “Talks of all things Walrus, lifts the veil, gives away freebies, tweets timely/time-wasting entertainment, plays much-needed dance breaks.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It allows us to connect to and interact with our readers, bringing the magazine to life through public discourse. Also, dance breaks!”
Eye Weekly (@EYEWEEKLY)
Who runs it: “It is I,” admits Online Editor Stuart Berman (@stuberman), “and I alone. Others here would help out, but they’re too busy dicking around on their own personal Twitters.”
Joined Twitter: September 25, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “It’s a lot like my first job in media, as a paperboy. Except instead of tossing papers onto lawns, I’m firing links to your smartphone.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “The minimalism: how to sum up a 1,500 word story in 140 characters? You get to play the role of a Toronto Sun headline writer, all the time.”
Who runs it: “Our editors,” says Publisher and Creative Director Matt Blackett, by which he means himself, Shawn Micallef (@shawnmicallef), Dylan Reid (@dylan_reid), and Todd Harrison.
Joined Twitter: December 2, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “We use it as a link dump, links to each post on our blogs, and to promote our products, events, special sales.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It allows us to break stories quickly as well as provide links to articles we don’t usually write about on blogs. ”
She Does the City (@shedoesthecity)
Who runs it: It’s Jen McNeely, founder and editor-in-chief, “and the illustrious associate editor, Haley Cullingham” (@haleycullingham), says McNeely. “While Cullingham tweets the bidness,” McNeely “focuses on late night poutine, scary nightmares, and misbehaving Pomeranians.”
Joined Twitter: November 27, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “Antagonize Kelly Cutrone, rave about orgasmic blush, blast about naked Spelling Bs, chronicle debauchery, and push our fantastico contests.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It’s a fun dialogue with our readers, a boost to our hits, and a real-time update on city happenings—we love the everyday made dramatic. ”
Bunch Family (@BunchFamily)
Who runs it: Amanda Factor, online editor and former Torontoist contributor (@Factorbot) and Creative Director Rebecca Brown, who both “tweet regularly,” says Factor.
Joined Twitter: December 30, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “We promote our own content and contests, share relevant links, dialogue with our global followers and connect with other cool brands.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “Who’s on there: tastemakers, CEOs, bloggers. Lots of influencers follow Bunch on Twitter. Gr8 way 2 connect.”
Metro Toronto (@metrotoronto)
Who runs it: “We have a team of editorial and marketing staff who can all simultaneously interact on Twitter using a tool called CoTweet,” says Interactive Content Manager—and candidate for Ward 27 (Toronto Centre) and another former Torontoist contributor—Chris Tindal (@christindal). “When we’re replying to someone or making a comment, we add a ‘CoTag’ of our initials (for example, ^CT) and a legend on our Twitter page tells you the name and position of the person you’re talking to. We did this to strike a balance between being a ‘brand’ online, while also recognizing that people want to talk to other real people, not anonymous logos.”
Joined Twitter: October 16, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “We share breaking news and interesting columns/blogs from our site while also soliciting comments and ideas to publish in our print edition.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “Twitter is a direct, live connection to our readers and the city. We are also diligent about using Twitter to listen, not just to broadcast.”
Who runs it: Kate Harper (@KateAEHarper), associate editor, who filled out our survey.
Joined Twitter: January 13, 2009
What they do on Twitter: “We try to use our content to connect with followers.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It’s an incredibly powerful way to not only share content, but to also help get readers more engaged and build a community.”
Who runs it: Says Managing Editor Jennifer McDonnell: “We split the duties between myself, Leah Collins (music editor), and Kat Angus (TV editor).”
Joined Twitter: October 9, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “Push our content, solicit feedback from followers, and offer behind-the-scenes tidbits from our interviews/events.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It allows us to interact with users, be part of a community, and share what it’s like to work in the crazy world of entertainment media!”
Who runs it: “It’s myself and Roberto Granados-Ocon on the Twitter feed,” says Distribution Manager Scott Gray (@utopiacomplex). Roberto (@grandosocon) “primarily works the news feed but fires out tweets when other duties call me away from social networking. Our interns pretty much stick to Facebook,” but, he added later, “I think the new batch of interns fill in some tweets now when I’m not around, which I tend not to see.”
Joined Twitter: February 25, 2008
What they do on Twitter: “Stir the info stream, make it obvious a human is handling the spoon, quip, bitch, share office happenings, run contests, and link content.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “Immediacy and personal interaction. Where else can you see Demi Moore’s ass, get an album release scoop AND health tips from Edward Norton?”
Who runs it: “It’s Crystal Gibson (@crystalgibson) and Michael Joffe (@mwjoffe). How to tell the difference,” they write: “Crystal is the one holding the BlackBerry while Michael is the one holding the iPhone.”
Joined Twitter: March 10, 2009
What they do on Twitter: Michael: “We tell our followers about new music and bands we <3." Crystal: "Twitter asks what's happening; we tell music fans just that." What’s so special about Twitter: Michael: “Being able to connect directly with your audience for feedback is invaluable, especially with something as divisive as music.” Crystal: “The immediacy: We’re at said show with a twitpic—who reads show reviews the next day anymore?”
Who runs it: “Staff and readers,” says editor Marc Weisblott (@Scroll), as well as Weisblott himself and producer Geo Perdis (@geoperdis). “But things shall grow, eventually, ideally.”
Followers: 1,571—though, Weisblott rightly points out, “I’ve done my best to garden the follower list from the outset so that all of them are genuine—even if I’ve surely missed a few (not spammers per se but the ones that seem to have software that leap in every time a new tweet is posted),” followers that Weisblott says “have certainly fluffed up the ‘popularity’ of many a big media robo-account (and lazy narcissist).”
Joined Twitter: January 1, 2009
What they do on Twitter: “editorial directive; news wire; tip hotline; gossip debunker; reader feedback; argument starter; event observation; crowdsourcing discontent”
What’s so special about Twitter: “it’s everything! and it’s nothing! we are trying to use it well—at the same time, Twitter itself has some distance to go with improvements”
The Toronto Sun (@TheTorontoSun)
Who runs it: “While I’ve set up the Sun’s Twitter accounts and am the primary guy behind them,” explains Online Editor Brian Gray, “City Editor Jonathan Kingstone and Interim Editor-in-Chief James Wallace have also taken an interest in it. Many of our reporters and columnists and a few of our editors also have their own Twitter accounts, as you likely know.”
Joined Twitter: March 16, 2009
What they do on Twitter: “We try to draw people to torontosun.com by providing news updates and a glimpse of what we’re working on for the website and the paper.”
What’s so special about Twitter: “It’s an opportunity to grab someone’s attention. It’s not elaborate and it fits in with our style…tightly written and to the point.”
All Follower counts accurate as of April 13, 2010.