Twitter, the social messaging phenomenon that allows users to text their friends, 140 characters at a time, has been around since 2006.

Yet, perhaps ironically, many magazine publishers became aware of Twitter last November, when a then-anonymous public relations flack launched “The Media is Dying,” a Twitter feed chronicling the seemingly endless waves of media industry layoffs, cutbacks and closings—both real and rumored—in real-time.

Some magazine editors have adopted Twitter as part of their daily editorial routines, changing the way they operate. editor-in-chief John Byrne, for instance, uses his Twitter feed to update his 11,000 or so followers about what the biggest stories are, what’s discussed in news meetings, what he plans to lead the next day with and even who he’s eating lunch with and what they’re talking about. (Some sample “tweets” from Byrne: “News meeting: After a long discussion about AIG’s exec bonuses, we’re leading in the a.m. with What Does AIG’s Future Hold?”; “Most-read & discussed story at Madoff: Lessons from a Disaster.”)

Current industry estimates put the number of registered users around 8 million in the U.S.—a number that is growing roughly 30 percent per month.

It’s small compared to Facebook’s 175 million users, but the buzz surrounding Twitter is palpable. Last month, Jason Calacanis, CEO of Mahalo (who counts 61,266 Twitter followers) offered Twitter $250,000 for a permanent spot in Twitter’s “Top 20 Suggested” list for two years. Calacanis told TechCrunch: “I believe that in five years the top 20 recommend slots will be worth $1 million a year each—Super Bowl commercial level in fact … this is dead serious.”

Unabashed enthusiasm aside, it remains to be seen, however, if Twitter can evolve into a viable, game-changing business—or, more importantly, if magazine publishers can drive business with it.

VITAL STATS: An estimated 8 million registered users in the U.S., 10 million overall, and growing at about 33 percent month over month.