How DeSantis’ Twitter Spaces event compares to past live streams
Hours after Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida announced his candidacy for president 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 largest room ever organized on social networks”. After the event, Mr. 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 thereof.
They were wrong on both counts.
According to Twitter stats, the audio event – which was initially marred by more than 20 minutes of technical issues before it restarted – drew around 300,000 concurrent listeners, or those who tuned in simultaneously when Mr. 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 10 million people and were also nowhere near “the biggest room on social media” compared to previous live streams.
Consider that a 2016 Facebook Live event, featuring two BuzzFeed employees placing rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded, had over 800,000 concurrent viewers and a total of five million views. a few hours after its conclusion. The 2017 livestream of a pregnant giraffe on YouTube attracted five million viewers a day.
The event with Mr. DeSantis was even overshadowed by past audio streams on Twitter. Last month more than three million people at one time simultaneously listened to an interview with Twitter owner Elon Musk by a BBC reporter in a Twitter space, according to company figures. A registration of this space said 2.6 million listeners eventually “tuned in”. (Twitter didn’t explain the discrepancy between the number of concurrent listeners and the “listening” number.)
“Having a few hundred thousand people do something for a certain number of minutes isn’t that bad,” said Brian Wieser, a longtime media analyst who runs strategy consultancy Madison and Wall. . “I’m not entirely sure that using Twitter to announce a presidential campaign was the most impactful environment, but maybe Twitter could be.”
It is important to determine the reach and audience of Mr. DeSantis’ announcement on Twitter, as the online event had been advertised as a modern way of making political proclamations, bypassing traditional media such as the news cable and network television. Still, early numbers from Twitter raise questions about whether a presidential candidate can ignore mainstream media for his big campaign announcements.
Although television generally does not attract the same numbers as a decade ago, some live-streamed political events still attract large audiences. When President Biden delivered his State of the Union address on Feb. 7, for example, the address was broadcast live to 27.3 million people watching on 16 television channels, according to Nielsen.
Representatives for Mr. DeSantis, who followed his Twitter space while appearing on Fox News, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mr. Sacks and Mr. 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 such fragmentation of the media, there was no unifying platform and the quality of the audience was often a motivating factor for politicians. Perhaps, he said, Mr. DeSantis’ goal was not to reach as many people as possible, but to reach those who would be most convinced to donate to him or help spread his message.
Comparing social media reach with TV shows can also be difficult. A “unique” social media view represents each individual account that visits a post or other content, rather than the number of times it is visited. These views are not necessarily from humans, as bot activity may be involved, and do not indicate whether a viewer has been online for half a second or half an hour. By contrast, ratings represent the average number of viewers over a longer period of time, Wieser said.
Twitter also doesn’t explain the difference in how it counts listeners on its live streams and those who have listened to Twitter Spaces recordings.
“Reach on Twitter is artificial: people are logging in and out faster, they’re probably watching on a mobile device that’s just not as good at getting people’s attention as a big TV,” said Ross Benes, Principal Analyst. with Insider Intelligence covering digital video, television and streaming.
After Wednesday’s Twitter space with Mr. DeSantis concluded, mainstream media scoffed at the event’s technical issues. When Mr. DeSantis appeared on Fox News, host Trey Gowdy joked, “Fox News won’t crash during this interview.” The segment drew nearly two million viewers.
On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis also tried to shed some light on Twitter Space’s technical issues. His campaign sent out fundraising emails and featured T-shirts saying the presidential candidate “broke the internet.”
Nicolas Nehamas And John Koblin contributed report.