Identifying Top Journalists: Which Reporters Influence CEOs?

I always get chills down my spine when someone asks, “Who are the top journalists?” It’s such a loaded question, and there is no one correct answer. Mainly because “top” can mean volume or how many times a particular journalist writes an article about a topic. Or, it can mean impact, a measure that tracks several data points like engagement, clicks, sentiment, and more. It can mean hundreds of other things as well.

Top 50 Journalists Followed by CEOs

In 2018, Rational 360 released a report, “Top 50 Journalists Followed by CEOs,” with excellent media coverage from Adweek, The Hill, and many others. They mapped the social footprint of CEOs that made several high-profile lists:

  • 2017 Fortune 1000 CEOs
  • 2018 Fortune 500 CEOs
  • Business Roundtable Board of Directors,
  • Fast Company 2017 & 2018 Most Innovative Companies
  • Fortune’s 40 Best Financial Services lists

They provided a list of the top 50 journalists that the CEOs follow on social media. I wanted to revisit this list and provide additional analysis.

The first thing that we did was build an audience of two-point 2.3K self-identified C-Suite executives. We intentionally expanded the scope to include not just CEOs but also COOs, CIOs, and CTOs. We started with an affinity analysis which measures the percentage of the audience that follows the top journalists, brands, media outlets, and more.

Here’s a breakdown of some of the findings:

This data represents the top tech journalist audience that the C-Suite executives follow on social media. The data is based on affinity and can be interpreted by the percentage of the audience that follows each journalist’s handle.

You might recognize some of the same tech journalists from the initial report back in 2018. You will also see some new names, some of which are former journalists working for some tech companies here in Silicon Valley. This data indicates which business media publications CEOs tend to read for information.

Top Tech Reporters Followed by C-suite Executives

  • Mike Isaac, The New York Times
  • Harry McCracken, Fast Company
  • Taylor Lorenz, The Washington Post
  • Sarah Frier, Bloomberg
  • Alex Wilhelm, TechCrunch
  • Jason Del Rey, Vox
  • Andrew Sorkin, The New York Times
  • Dan Goodin, ArsTechnica
  • Barb Darrow,
  • Rachel King, Fortune

I’m sure you will recognize some of these top reporters below. A few focus more on niche topics like cybersecurity and digital health. There is a distinction between the uniqueness and affinity data when exploring the top journalists.

The affinity data is based purely on the percentage of C-Suite executives who follow these top tech journalists on social media. The uniqueness data is calculated based on the percent of the audience who follow them compared to a random sample of internet users (in some cases, it’s referred to as the general population).

This type of data shows a particular audience’s unique interests and affinities when compared to different groups of people. It could be gen pop, or you can compare it by female executives and male executives.

Top Tech Reporters by Uniqueness

  • Brian Krebs, Independent Journalist
  • Jonathan Swan, Axios
  • Joe Uchill, SC Magazine
  • Caroline Chen, ProPublica
  • Oliver Darcey, CNN
  • Rani Molla, Recode/Vox
  • Yuliya Chernova, The Wall Street Journal
  • Aaron Rupar, Vox
  • Natasha Mascarenhas, TechCrunch
  • Steven Levy, WIRED

Below are the top media publications that C-Suite executives read and share online. There’s nothing that unexpected here because one could assume that all executives read WIRED, the New York Times, and The Wall Street Journal.

What isn’t expected is what you will see in the next row. These are the top security-specific media publications that executives are reading. I think the marketplace has a misconception that executives only read business-focused media. The truth is, and especially with the pandemic ending, executives are much more engaged with the business’s day-to-day operations. This includes issues related to remote work and, yes, security.

Top Media Outlets That CEOs Read

The data below represents the top business, tech, and security media publications that CEOs are reading, sharing, and talking about on their personal social media channels.

  • The New York Times
  • Harvard Business Review
  • The Economist
  • The Wall Street Journal
  • Fast Company
  • SwiftonSecurity
  • The Hacker News
  • ThreatPost
  • DarkReading
  • Security Week
  • CSO Online

This last data set represents the topics that are top of mind for executives. In this case, all we did was collect all of their social media mentions since January 2021 and categorize their comments into related topics/categories. This is what we call a conversation analysis. It should be noted that the data is not mutually exclusive. This means that if they were talking about COVID-19 and remote work, the mentions would appear in both categories.

We also wanted to add one little bonus data point, which might not be as helpful as the others. This shows the volume of remote work conversations since the beginning of the year. This data doesn’t tell us anything other than the topic of remote work declining in usage. One could argue that executives are moving on to other things.

CEO Topics

At this point, we are just scratching the surface with this analysis. There is another way to look at this if you think about it. It’s not difficult to identify the top reporters in a specific vertical or category and use engagement data and article sharing to determine impact.

I hope you enjoyed this post; please consider subscribing to my PR, Analytics, and ROI YouTube channel, where I provide snackable data and analysis.

Michael Brito

Michael Brito is a Digital OG. He’s been building brands online since Al Gore invented the Internet. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or Twitter.