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Meanwhile, on the Internet
Tribune Reporters
'Meanwhile' is a collaborative blog about all the crazy stuff on the Internet. Here, reporters from various Tribune desks tell you what you (almost) need to know about topics ranging from technology to YouTube sensations. Contributors: Jim Dalrymple, Vince Horiuchi, Michael McFall, Dave Newlin, Matt Piper, Brennan Smith, Erin Alberty. Edited by Sheena McFarland.

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(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Katy Perry performs at EnergySolutions Arena, Monday, July 25, 2011
Katy Perry dethrones Justin Bieber as ruler of the Internet

I’ll spare you the punny lede every other outlet ran and cut to the chase: Katy Perry now has more followers on Twitter than Justin Bieber.

Perry overtook Bieber sometime over the weekend, according to E!, and by Tuesday evening had a whopping 46,659,523 people tuning in for essential updates such as,

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"...AND it’s national CAT day?! This is too much happiness. I am gonna explode! #tokyo #cats"

"Typically, I hate mornings, but this morning is unlike any other morning! I get to see the @sunriseon7! 20 more min until I’m LIVE on air!"

The Biebs had about a million fewer followers.

By comparison, so-called leader of the free world Barak Obama only had about 39.4 million followers Tuesday evening.

The news of Perry ascension to Twitter supremacy was surprising to me. As a non-12-year-old girl, I’ve never quite understood Justin Bieber, but I have heard Katy Perry’s music, and I wasn’t aware she had done anything particularly follow-worthy of late. Yes she released "Prism" last month, and, yes, her single "Roar" has been doing well, but didn’t it all kind of suck? Even (or especially) by Katy Perry standards? I tried to re-watch the "Roar" video while writing this post, and it was so boring that I got distracted by a cat gif, and not even a good one.

In any case, Perry’s success on Twitter is fascinating for what it shows about perception and online influence.

First, Perry has an incredible followers-to-following ratio. She follows only 126 people, the second-lowest of all top five users of the social network.

Bieber, on the other hand, follows nearly a quarter of a million people. That means that even though he holds the second-place spot for most followers, he kind of looks like a loser who earned followers by stooping to follow them. If you’re someone who is supposedly rich, famous or influential, that’s not how you want to be perceived, and Bieber’s poor followers-to-following ratio diminishes his cultural clout.

The followers-to-following ratio is a major indicator of influence for any Twitter user, but at these upper levels of the pop culture industrial complex, the numbers are so extreme that they amplify that effect.

Second, Perry achieved Twitter supremacy with just more than 5,000 tweets, while Bieber has tweeted a dizzying 24,000-plus times. So, Perry took the top spot with considerably less work — or money spent paying someone for work — which again indicates her relative strength as an icon.

Taken together, these characteristics make Perry look like she achieved her influence with less effort and worry than her rivals. Her clout seems less forced and more genuine. And she comes off as less preoccupied with fame. None of those things are probably true, so this really means she’s better at controlling the narrative about her fame.

Of course all of this doesn’t matter much — dork-o-saurus Barack Obama follows more than 600,000 people (lame!) — but it’s still nice to know who our pop culture overlords really are.

— Jim Dalrymple II



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