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Pulitzers 2014: What Twitter Thinks You Should Read

The 2014 Pulitzers were announced Monday at Columbia University.

There were a lot of winners –20 awards in two categories — but I wanted to know what people were actually dialoguing about on social media, what I should be reading about, and if there were any lessons brands could learn from how it all went down.

I pulled data on the keywords “Pulitzer,” “Pulitzers,” “#Pulitzer,” and “#Pulitzers.” First I wanted to find out where the conversation has been happening since the winners were announced: Facebook or Twitter?

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The answer is clearly Twitter, so I dove deeper into the Twitter data to give away some trophies — which sources were breaking news and getting the most attention? Which topics were hot, hot, hot? Which links were Tweeted out the most? Which Tweets scored the most Retweets? Read on to find out.

News Sources


The New York Times filled the top two slots for Tweets with the most potential impressions, which makes a lot of sense considering they have 11,555,167 followers. This Tweet was #1 for Impressions:

This Tweet was #2:


Reuters, another well-respected worldwide news source, came in at #3 for potential impressions (the amount of times a Twitter user was exposed to the Tweet). Their Tweet contributed 5% of all 82,637,885 potential impressions about the Pulitzers between 2-3PM EST on April 14, when the Pulitzers were announced.


  • The elementary takeaway here is that more followers creates more impressions, no matter what content you’re pumping out (though it better be good, or people will unfollow you quickly). But the true point of interest is that the Pulitzer Prizes don’t have their own Twitter handle, so trusted news sources drove the most impressions on Twitter.

What brands can learn from this: If you don’t maintain an active social media presence to rep your content, someone else will. In an age when social media presence holds increasing cache and generates most of the buzz around events and awards (see: the Oscars, the Grammies, Coachella), it’s imperative for even more “traditional” brands to generate their own buzz leading up to, during, and after announcements.

Hot Topics 

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Of all the keywords mentioned in conjunction with the Pulitzers across Facebook, Twitter, and blogs, the hottest topics were Snowden and the NSA, Donna Tartt, and the Boston Bombing. Here’s why.

Snowden & the NSA

The Washington Post and Guardian U.S. won the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service — the most prestigious award in journalism –for their articles based on National Security Agency documents leaked by the former government contractor Edward J. Snowden.

Donna Tartt 

Donna Tartt won the Pulitzer in Fiction for her dark, epic, funny, beautifully-wrought novel The Goldfinch. 

Boston Bombing

The Boston Globe won the Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News for its “exhaustive and empathetic” coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing and the manhunt afterwardsJosh Haner of The New York Times also won for Feature Photography for his photo essay of a legless Boston bombing victim.


What brands can learn from this: Snowden’s decision to leak classified information has been largely debated — is he a traitor? Is he a patriot? — and the Pulitzer committee’s decision to award a prize to the news sources that helped him share his story seems to applaud Snowden’s decision to go public with what he knew. This, of course, caused a great stir across all social media channels. If your brand is in need of a social media splash, consider coming down firmly on one side of a heavily-debated topic to amp up social engagement.


Remember that one event can be the catalyst for a lasting social media win. Create momentum by building out content for before, during, and after your moment in the sun. By keeping your finger on the pulse of what’s driving the conversation around a particular event/keyword/topic, you can find new ways to engage with your audience. Don’t settle for just knowing that a topic (i.e. the Pulitzers) is getting a lot of traction — go deeper and find the subtopic that’s making people talk. This will allow you to learn a lot about your audience, craft content that caters to their interests, and even predict future buzz.

What tactics do you use to figure out what will keep your audience most engaged — and drive more folks towards your content? Let us know in the comments below!


Lucy Hitz

I’m the Head of Marketing Communications here at Simply Measured, where I'm responsible for our content program, social media marketing, PR, and comarketing ventures. I love yoga, The X-Files, peaty scotch, hiking, and poetry. If I were a social media channel, I’d want to be Instagram, but I think I’m Twitter.

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