Earlier today The Business Insider reported that CNN may have acquired the massively popular CNNbrk Twitter account, which is currently in a heated race with Ashton Kutcher to attain 1 million followers. Thing is, up until recently CNN didn’t actually own that account, which made the story’s coverage on the cable network over the last few days all the more bizarre.
I just got off the phone with James Cox (whose personal Twitter account is here), who created and has maintained the account. He confirms that CNN has in fact acquired CNNbrk. CNN has confirmed the deal (see below).
As of this writing, CNNbrk has over 945,152 followers (and rising fast), making it the most popular Twitter account.
Update: CNN has confirmed that it has taken control of the CNNbrk account, though the company isn’t viewing it as an “acquisition”. Rather, CNN has signed James Cox to a consultant contract agreement, which included the transfer of the account as part of its conditions. Any financial compensation due to Cox is being offered for his services, which happen to include his Twitter account along with teaching social media workshops, among other things (though I suspect he’s getting paid substantially more than the market rate for his consulting).
And while the ownership of the account has only changed hands in the last few days, CNN says that Cox has actually been working alongside the network since early 2007, only a few months after Cox created the account as a way to send breaking news stories to his cell phone. The two parties decided to transfer ownership as the account’s number of followers began to take off over the last few months (and especially in the last week or so).
Update 2: As a comment below points out, selling “free” Twitter names is apparently ‘against Twitter rules’, though this may only apply to accounts that are inactive. Given the nature of the consulting arrangement between CNN and Cox, it isn’t clear if Twitter will allow users to sell their accounts.