HighTalking: Muck Rack Founder Gregory Galant on Microblogging Jounalists

Muck Rack is quickly becoming a a must-have tool for public relations and communications people.  What is Muck Rack?  It is a site that tracks and follows journalists on Twitter.  If your job is to pitch the media – then Muck Rack is like a front row seat at the journalism water cooler.  PR people can find journalists in specific categories: from entertainment to technology.  They can find specific reporters or search by outlets.  Muck Rack also tracks popular links and trending topics among journalists.

Muck Rack Founder & CEO Gregory Galant

Muck Rack Founder & CEO Gregory Galant

The site is run by Sawhorse Media and CEO Gregory Galant (also a co-founder).  He was kind enough to answer my questions about his company, how journalism works on Twitter and what’s next for Muck Rack.

HighTalk: Can you tell us what Muck Rack is all about?  What’s the goals and objectives for the company?

Gregory: Sawhorse Media is all about making it easy to find the good stuff on Twitter. We launched Muck Rack so people could track what the best journalists are saying on Twitter.

HighTalk: Tell us about you and the other founders.  Where did the idea for Muck Rack come from?

Gregory: My co-founders in Sawhorse Media are Lee Semel and Adam Varga.  We put on the Shorty Awards together last December to February to identify the top Twitter users in a number of categories. Shorty was a success beyond our wildest imagination. We wanted to continue on the theme of helping people find good content creators on Twitter, so we launched Muck Rack.

HighTalk: What value do you think Twitter brings to journalism and how is it helping reporters do their jobs?

Gregory: If you were starting out as a journalist years ago, you’d hang around the water cooler to hear what the vets are saying. You’d go to the bar the cops hang out at and buy drinks to get some tips. You’d mercilessly ring up potential sources trying to get their insights. And if you’re a journalist today, you should still do that. But you should also be on Twitter, finding sources, comparing notes other journalists and experts, and sharing interesting links.

HighTalk: How many journalists are now registered on Twitter?

Gregory: I have no idea. Over 1,600 have registered to be listed on Muck Rack, and we’ve verified and added 921 of them so far. But I suspect there are many more out there. And who’s to say who counts as a journalist anymore in the first place?

HighTalk: Can you give us specifics examples on how journalists have used Twitter in their reporting?

Gregory: Ana Marie Cox gave a play by play of Obama’s inauguration that was hilarious and worked mainly because it was in real time. It’s hard to watch live TV without a good Twitter feed oven.

CNN anchor Rick Sanchez (who was our MC at the Shorty Awards) uses tweets to get feedback from his audience that he shows on TV. As I write this, his last tweet is: “Also we cont. convo on health care. Last night, Obama said docs think “profit” when deciding to take a kid’s tonsils out? Your thoughts?”

Wall Street Journal’s Deputy Managing Editor Alan Murray injects some humor into their stories on Twitter, “Who says WSJ has gone soft? Today we take on tough issue of cankles. Is liposuction the answer? Story & video.  And even tweets links to parodies of Walt Mossberg such as this.

HighTalk: Who is using Muck Rack?  Is it just PR people?

Gregory: Many journalists themselves are using Muck Rack like a virtual water cooler. You can see what journalists say about Muck Rack here. We also have a lot of news junkies using the site. After his death, Michael Jackson became a trending topic on MuckRack.com before Search.Twitter.com. I suspect that’s because we’re focusing on a group of tweeters who are obsessed with the news.

HighTalk: Tell us about your new Twitter press release feature.  How does it work?  What are the benefits?

Gregory: We’re enabling companies to send and feature one line press releases on Muck Rack’s website and Twitter feed to reach our audience of journalists. It’s a rapid and effective way of announcing news to the press. We’re charging $1 per character to encourage people to keep their press release short (which they should be doing anyhow), thereby valuing journalists’ time. This first version is very simple, but we’ll be adding targeting abilities in the future to handle scale. You can find out more here.

HighTalk: What is next for Muck Rack?  And where do you think Twitter is going?

Gregory: We’re building new features one at a time for our core audience of news junkies and journalists on Muck Rack.  We think the future of Twitter is about surfacing the best stuff, so we’re recruiting new editors to help expand our network of Twitter curation site. We have 10 sites so far like Muck Rack for difference audiences, such as Venture Maven for venture capitalists, Ink Pill for designers and Face Caker for the beauty industry.

In addition to our own sites, we’re doing several partnerships to power Twitter curation sites with our platform for other media companies and brands, such as our project with Technorati to launch Twittorati.

HighTalk: And, finally, why is your picture on the Muck Rack site a duck?

Gregory: I just used my Twitter avatar, which I have not changed since I signed up for Twitter in early 2007.  At the time I thought Twitter was a bit of a joke, so I uploaded a photo I took of Long Island’s Big Duck.  Turns out the joke was on me.  The duck’s a good reminder of that.

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