How DeSantis’ Twitter Spaces event compares to past live streams

Hours after Gov. Ron DeSantis announced his presidential bid on Twitter on Wednesday, attendees at the audio event celebrated the achievement.

David Sachs, a venture capitalist who moderated the Twitter conversation, announced it’s “by far the biggest room ever to take place on social media.” Then Mr. DeSantis, Republican of Florida, said in a podcast interview that he believed “probably more than 10 million people” would have “watched” the event, called Twitter Space, or a recording of it later that day.

They were wrong on both counts.

According to Twitter metrics, the audio event, which was initially disrupted by more than 20 minutes of technical glitches before restarting, drew about 300,000 concurrent listeners, or those who tuned in at the same time Mr. DeSantis made his announcement. As of Thursday, 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 far from the “biggest room ever on social media” compared to past live streams.

Consider that a 2016 Facebook Live event in which two BuzzFeed employees put rubber bands around a watermelon until it exploded drew more than 800,000 concurrent viewers and a total of five million views within hours of its completion. In 2017, a live stream of a pregnant giraffe garnered five million daily views on YouTube.

The event with Mr. DeSantis even featured live audio streams on Twitter. More than last month three million people listened at once Twitter owner Elon Musk interviewed by a BBC reporter at Twitter Space, according to the company’s figures. a recording of that Universe said 2.6 million listeners eventually “tuned in.” (Twitter didn’t explain the discrepancy between the number of concurrent listeners and the “tuned” number).

“Getting a few hundred thousand people to do something for a few minutes is not a big deal,” says Brian Wieser, a longtime media analyst who runs the strategy consulting firm Madison and Wall. “I’m not so sure that using Twitter was the most influential medium to announce a presidential campaign, although perhaps Twitter could become one.”

Determining the reach and audience of Mr. DeSantis’ announcement on Twitter is important because the online event has been heralded as a modern way to make political statements, bypassing traditional media such as cable news and network television. Still, Twitter’s preliminary numbers raise questions about whether presidential candidates can ignore traditional media for their big campaign announcements.

While television usually doesn’t record the same numbers as it did a decade ago, some political events that are broadcast live still draw 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 on 16 television networks, according to Nielsen.

In the email, Mr. Sacks said his claim that the space with Mr. DeSantis was “the greatest room ever” came from a Twitter engineer. He said he has counted other live streams that share the same sound as the original Space.

“I’ve asked for more detailed analysis, but they’re a little busy right now,” Mr. Sachs said.

Representatives for Mr. Musk and Mr. DeSantis, who followed his Twitter space after appearing on Fox News, did not respond to requests for comment.

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

Comparing social media reach to television broadcasts can also be difficult. The “unique” view of social media represents each individual account that visits a post or other content, not the number of visits. Such views don’t necessarily come from humans, as bot activity may be involved, and it doesn’t matter if the viewer tuned in for half a second or half an hour. By contrast, TV ratings represent average viewership over a longer period of time, Mr. Wieser said.

Twitter also doesn’t explain the difference in how it counts listeners to its live streams and those who listen to recordings of Twitter Spaces.

“Twitter access is artificial. people are logging in and out faster, they’re probably watching on a mobile device, which isn’t as effective at capturing people’s attention as a big TV,” said senior analyst Ross Benes. With Insider Intelligence covering digital video, TV and streaming.

After Twitter Space with Mr. DeSantis ended on Wednesday, the traditional media mocked the event’s technical glitches. When Mr. DeSantis appeared on Fox News, host Trey Gowdy quipped: “Fox News will not crash during this interview.” The episode attracted nearly two million viewers.

On Thursday, Mr. DeSantis also tried to cover technical issues with Twitter Space. His campaign sent out fundraising emails and displayed T-shirts saying the presidential candidate had “broken the internet.”

Nicholas Nehamas and: John Coblin embedded report.

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