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Sports Twitter Is The Real Twitter

Even if it doesn't always feel that way.

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This week, Twitter released a visualization of the relationships between 50,000 verified Twitter users. The result, zoomed out, was a this colorful blob. The result, zoomed in, was a fascinating map of the relationships of people deemed notable by Twitter. Here's the key:

The users in this map are colored by category: blue for news, purple for government and politics, red for music, yellow for sports and green for TV — the five largest categories on Twitter today.
Twitter's takeaways: "[J]ournalists tend to follow politicians, and vice versa. The same is true of TV and music, down in the bottom right, with musicians and TV stars following each other often."

Interesting! More interesting, though, is that giant smear of yellow running through the middle. That represents Sports Twitter, and it's big — bigger than all the others. It's not clear if these were 50,000 randomly selected verified accounts or the 50,000 largest, but either way, Sports Twitter dominates.

This may come as a surprise to a lot of Twitter users — even sports fans. Twitter is not often described as a sports-centric service, and conversations about its overall influence tend to focus on news, politics and entertainment.

The dissonance most likely stems from this: sports are extremely regional and conversational in a way that television celebrities are not — think sports talk radio. Likewise, the bulk of the news conversation on Twitter, at least among verified journalists and outlets, has a national focus.

But most nights and many days, substantial areas of Twitter light up with activity about a local, state, regional sports events. These are the kinds of live events that Twitter excels at and its an audience type the company seems acutely aware of, and happy about.

Furthermore, I'm willing to bet, to borrow language from Twitter, that these fans are more "engaged" than the people who follow mostly nationally visible news, politics, and celebrity accounts.

Contact John Herrman at

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