DeSantis’ Twitter event falls short of the reach of previous live streams

DeSantis’ Twitter event falls short of the reach of previous live streams

Just hours after Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida announced his presidential candidacy on Twitter on Wednesday, attendees of the audio event celebrated the achievement.

David Sacks, a venture capitalist who moderated the conversation on Twitter, declared it is “by far the biggest room ever held on social media”. After the event, DeSantis, a Republican, said in a podcast interview that he thought later that day “probably more than 10 million people” would have “watched” the event, called Twitter Space, or a recording of it.

They were wrong on both counts.

According to Twitter metrics, the audio event — which was initially hampered by more than 20 minutes of technical glitches before it restarted — gathered around 300,000 concurrent listeners, or those who tuned in simultaneously as DeSantis made his announcement. As of Thursday, a total of 3.4 million people had listened to Space or a recording of it, according to Twitter figures.

Those numbers fell short of hitting 10 million people, and they were also far from “the biggest room on social media” compared to previous live streams.

Consider that a Facebook Live event in 2016, featuring two BuzzFeed employees putting rubber bands on a watermelon until it exploded, drew over 800,000 concurrent viewers and a total of five million views within hours of its conclusion. The live stream of a pregnant giraffe in 2017 on YouTube attracted five million viewers a day.

The event with Mr. DeSantis was further overshadowed by previous audio broadcasts on Twitter. Last month, more than three million people at one point listened simultaneously to an interview by Elon Musk, owner of Twitter, by a BBC reporter in a Twitter Space, according to company figures. A recording of this space said 2.6 million listeners had finally “tuned in”. (Twitter did not explain the discrepancy between the concurrent listener count and the “tuned in” figure.)

“Getting a few hundred thousand people to do something for a few minutes is not a big deal,” said Brian Wieser, a longtime media analyst who runs the strategic consulting firm Madison and Wall. “I’m not sure using Twitter to announce a presidential campaign was the most impactful environment, although maybe Twitter could become that.”

Determining the reach and audience of DeSantis’ Twitter announcement is important because the online event was advertised as a modern way of making political proclamations, bypassing traditional media such as cable news and network television. However, Twitter’s early numbers raise questions about whether any presidential candidates can ignore traditional media in their big campaign announcements.

Although television generally does not reach the same numbers as a decade ago, some political events broadcast live still attract large audiences. When President Biden delivered his State of the Union address on Feb. 7, for example, the speech was broadcast live to 27.3 million people watching across 16 TV networks, according to Nielsen.

Representatives for DeSantis, who followed his Twitter Space by appearing on Fox News, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Sacks and Musk also did not immediately respond to emailed questions.

That’s not to say that using social media to make political announcements can’t be powerful. Mr. Wieser said that with so much media fragmentation going on, there was no unifying platform and that the quality of the audience was often a motivating factor for politicians. Perhaps, he said, Mr. DeSantis wasn’t going to reach the most people, but reaching those who would be best convinced to donate to him or help spread his message.

Comparing social media reach with television broadcasts can also be difficult. A “unique” view on social media represents each individual account that visits a post or other content, rather than the number of times it is visited. These views don’t necessarily come from humans because bot activity can be involved, and they don’t denote whether a viewer tuned in for half a second or half an hour. By contrast, TV ratings represent the average number of viewers over a longer period, Wieser said.

Twitter also fails to explain the difference in how it counts listeners on its live streams versus those who listened to Twitter Spaces recordings.

“Twitter’s reach is artificial: people tune in and out more quickly, they’re probably watching on a mobile device which isn’t as effective at grabbing people’s attention as a big TV set,” said Ross Benes, senior analyst with Insider Intelligence, which covers digital video, TV and streaming.

Following the conclusion of Wednesday’s Twitter Space with Mr. DeSantis, the mainstream media mocked the event’s technical flaws. When DeSantis appeared on Fox News, Trey Gowdy, the host, joked, “Fox News is not going to crash during this interview.” The segment attracted nearly two million viewers.

On Thursday, DeSantis also tried to downplay Twitter Space’s technical issues. His campaign sent out fundraising emails and displayed T-shirts saying the presidential candidate “broke the internet”.

Nicholas Nehamas It is John Koblin contributed reports.


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