Why AllThingsD's Twitter audience will follow Swisher, not the brand
Earlier today, Adam Penenberg summed up the Dow Jones / AllThingsD divorce by writing that News Corp keeps the house (the AllThingsD brand) while Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg get the kids (the ATD staff).
There's another asset Swisher and Mossberg get to keep: AllThingsD's Twitter following.
Let me explain:
Something strange happened that made the AllThingsD Twitter brand different from other first generation tech sites. In the early days of Twitter, many major publications were placed on a "suggested user" list. This helped first-generation tech sites like Techcrunch and Mashable blow past the million-user mark, while sites that came later, like Business Insider, are stuck below a Twitter glass ceiling despite generating massive traffic.
In AllThingsD's case, it wasn't the publication that was placed on a suggested user list. It was Swisher. She has more than 900,000 followers while AllThingsD has around 162,000. Meanwhile, Mossberg is no slouch with 500,000+. Wherever Swisher and Mossberg land, they'll bring with them almost a million and a half Twitter followers. Letting go of ATD's Twitter following will be nothing to cry over.
Appearing on Twitter's suggested user list was like a gift to first-generation tech blogs. But is it a gift that keeps on giving? According to Status People, 63 percent of Kara Swisher's followers are either fake or inactive. By contrast only half of AllThingsD's followers are phony. Swisher still wins by a mile, though it calls into question the value of those early, artificially-boosted follower counts.
Despite AllThingsD's first-generation status, its following better reflects the way that news hounds like me use Twitter today. In the early days, I viewed it as a kind of RSS feed. I followed my favorite publications and had a nice, self-curated stream of news ready for me each day. Now I rarely follow new publications. Instead, I follow the journalists, who are more likely to converse and tweet with personality while offering links to their publications, and others.
Today's social media value derives from the journalists, not so much from the brand. So even if AllThingsD had amassed a million-plus Twitter followers, the loss of its star reporters would still be a hit to its social cachet.
Leaving the AllThingsD Twitter handle to News Corp. is one asset Mossberg and Swisher can live without.