ONA speakers have a combined audience of nearly 4 million unique Twitter followers.
That’s according to my analysis of the Twitter accounts of each one of the 199 ONA speakers who are on Twitter. Other findings:
- Nieman Lab, Poynter and ONA are the three most followed Twitter accounts by ONA speakers, followed by The New York Times, Jay Rosen and Barack Obama.
- The New York Times is the most followed news outlet by ONA speakers, followed by ProPublica, The Washington Post, National Public Radio (NPR) and Vox.
- Donald Trump is the 149th-most-followed Twitter user among ONA speakers, behind Obama (sixth), Hillary Clinton (28th), Edward Snowden (120th) and Neil deGrasse Tyson (141st).
- Of all the ONA speakers, Ev Williams has by far the biggest Twitter audience (nearly 2 million followers), but his account is far from the most followed by other ONA speakers. That distinction belongs to Rosen, followed by Brian Stelter, Emily Bell, Robert Hernandez and David Fahrenthold.
To figure all this out, I wrote a Python program to first scrape each speaker’s Twitter handle off the ONA website. Then I used the Python library Tweepy to access the Twitter API and download the user IDs of each speaker’s Twitter followers and each account the speaker is following.
This took longer than you might think. Writing the program took only an hour or two, but running it took days. That’s because Tweepy has a rate limit of 5,000 followers per request while fetching the IDs of a user’s followers, meaning my program had to wait a minute between each request. ONA speakers this year have nearly 5 million combined followers, including duplicates, so my program sat idle for a total of 1,000 minutes, or close to 17 hours. Ev Williams’ followers took seven hours alone to scrape. This does not include all the time lost when my Wi-Fi crashed.
Once I scraped all the data into a text file — 52 MB of mostly seven- to-nine-digit, pipe-delimited integers — I was able to quickly write Python functions to analyze the results. Here’s the full code. Play around on the interactive graph below to find the 200 most-followed Twitters accounts by ONA speakers, plus which speakers follow them. For ONA speakers, scroll to the bottom graph to find out which fellow speakers follow you on Twitter.