The race for one million followers on Twitter is on: In one corner is CNN; in the other, Ashton Kutcher.
Just a few weeks ago, no one was close to reaching that benchmark. Now, as users have flocked to the increasingly popular microblogging site, the numbers have grown.
CNN’s breaking news feed (www.twitter.com/cnnbrk) is in the lead with more than 945,000 followers as of late Wednesday. Britney Spears and Kutcher were neck-and-neck in second, both with around 910,000 followers.
Kutcher (www.twitter.com/aplusk) has seen his followers increase by tens of thousands in the last day.
The 31-year-old actor recently threw down the gauntlet, challenging CNN and its founder, Ted Turner. In a web video posted earlier this week, Kutcher said he would ding-dong-ditch Turner’s house if he beat CNN to one million. (For those unfamiliar with the classic adolescent prank, ding-dong-ditch is when you ring someone’s doorbell and run away.)
“I find it astonishing that one person can actually have as big of a voice online as what an entire media company can on Twitter,” Kutcher said in a video he posted on qik.com. “I just thought that was kind of an amazing comment on the state of our media.”
Kutcher later promised a “Guitar Hero” video game to his millionth follower, before quickly realizing it would be difficult to identify such a person.
In postings on Twitter, Kutcher said he was fielding interview requests, including one from CNN’s Larry King. He was mulling the offers and claiming it was a “saga for the Internet,” not TV.
Not to be outdone, King posted a video on YouTube boasting the wrath of his company and sounding a lot like Ned Beatty’s TV network chairman in the 1976 film “Network.”
Said King: “Are you kidding? Do you think you can take on an entire network? Do you know how big we are? Do you know what CNN is? Kutcher, you’re playing out of your field. You’re in another time zone. This ain’t gonna work. CNN will bury you!”
CNN, which is owned by Time Warner Inc., didn’t have a comment Wednesday. Spokespeople for Twitter didn’t return a request for comment.
The CNN breaking news Twitter feed was only recently taken over by the network. A spokeswoman for the network said CNN purchased the address in recent days from the previous owner James Cox.
Cox had been maintaining it himself despite having no official affiliation with CNN. The network said they have been working in partnership with the self-professed news junkie for months.
Both Kutcher and his wife, actress Demi Moore, are popular Twitter users. Kutcher, in particular, is an avid poster of tweets — messages that must be 140 characters or less.
Earlier this month, Internet traffic analyst comScore reported that monthly unique visitors to the site reached four million in February, up more than 1,000 per cent from a year ago.
Though its numbers aren’t up-to-the-minute, the site http://twitterholic.com ranks the most popular profiles on Twitter.
And if you’re wondering who’s in fourth, the Twitter feed for Ellen DeGeneres and her talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” is trailing with about 800,000 followers — a number large enough to dance about, at least.