Alan Sugar believes he has become “more powerful” than newspapers since joining Twitter, which gives him a platform to call out "garbage" printed by the press – part of an ongoing trend among high profile business leaders to sidestep traditional media in favour of direct interactions with the public.
In an interview with Twitter, Sugar said the platform "delivers the news sometimes quicker than the conventional news", since you get "breaking news immediately on there from various people".
As such, he revealed Twitter has become part of his daily routine as a businessman, saying he checks it "five or six times a day", while comparing it to scouring through the Financial Times "years ago".
“Since I've been on Twitter I found out that I'm more powerful than them [the printed media]," Sugar added.
His tirade against the traditional press didn't end there. Sugar said the conventional printed paper media have “not been very helpful” to him over the years (not that it is the role of the press to be 'helpful' to business leaders; rather to hold them to account) and that Twitter has given him a platform to call them out when they “print a load of garbage” (in his opinion).
"So when they print a load of garbage, for example, I can immediately take to the public [and say] 'that's wrong, totally wrong, they have got the facts wrong and these are the facts that are right,'" he said.
"If people accuse me of something or suggest something or you know get something wrong about one of my companies I can put it right," he added.
The phrase "they have got the facts wrong" is a contradictory term evocative of Kellyanne Conway's "alternative facts", and during this fake news crisis that has largely been fuelled by the dissemination of content on social platforms like Twitter, it is important to first define what is fake news, and what is simply journalism that business leaders disagree with. Fake news is simply news which has been invented for the purpose of influencing politics or making money from advertising. But the term has been weaponised by president Donald Trump as a pejorative label to undermine the legitimacy of the established news media.
Twitter has given these business leaders a voice to call out the press and to voice their opinions directly to the public, instead of appearing in interviews.
Social media also played a pivotal role in the US presidential election and in Trump's eventual victory, while at the same time the role of the established media came under the spotlight for its dwindling ability to inform and influence the political narrative.
In 2012, Sugar claimed more people follow him than the Times, the Guardian, the Independent, the Daily Telegraph and the Financial Times combined, but that is no longer true today. His twitter handle, @Lord_Sugar, currently has 5.41 million followers. By comparison, the Guardian has 6.82 million followers, the Financial Times 3.03 million, the Independent 2.37 million, the Telegraph 2.29 million and the Times 1.04 million.
That said, Sugar said he doesn't mind people criticising him or "coming up with difficult questions", adding that he will "engage in sensible debate with anybody on Twitter".
What's more, he sees his service to the British public is "to keep Piers Morgan down a little bit". Sugar and Morgan, the former editor of the Daily Mirror who now co-hosts Good Morning Britain, have been publicly arguing on Twitter for many years. Sugar called them "frenemies" when it comes to Twitter, "because he does talk a load of twaddle".
Sugar advised other business leaders "to get on" the social network – not necessarily to engage in "banter" – but for information.
"[There] is a wealth of information that comes through. Every single newspaper, every single TV company, every single news agency in the world is on Twitter," he said.
Social networks are increasing their influence as a destination for news. Now two-thirds (67%) of Americans report that they get at least some of their news on social media according to the latest from Pew Research Center.
However, the model that social media has developed – where news organisations are compelled to publish their content for free in exchange for scaled audiences – undermines the traditional business model of news and has sent many publishers into decline. If this trend continues, Twitter could see the amount of reputable news spread on its platform decrease, as the influence of individuals like Sugar increases.
Sugar's top five tweets of all time are as follows:
Who are you the midwife https://t.co/I5MssFhO6T
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) June 1, 2015
I bought car aerials for £1, sold them for £1.20 . Went on and bought more sold them and bought more.Then my uncle died and left me £500m https://t.co/xTIkv2WdLf
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) January 4, 2017
Disgusting that xmas presents were stolen from @greatormondstreet kids . Replace them and send me the bill to @stylfile
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) December 18, 2012
Can any one tell me what this cylinders are laying in the street . I have seen clusters of these before pic.twitter.com/cXckPpMHuJ
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) August 10, 2016
— Lord Sugar (@Lord_Sugar) February 16, 2014