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Ocasio-Cortez Guarantees Higher Ratings, Web Clicks

Ocasio-Cortez Guarantees Higher Ratings, Web Clicks

Monday, 25 March 2019 02:50 PM

Shortly after U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez schooled witnesses in a Congressional hearing on campaign-finance laws, the editors at NowThis sprang into action.

The digital-media company, which makes short videos for social networks, took her remarks, added captions and its logo, and posted them on Twitter. Ocasio-Cortez retweeted the video twice to her 3 million-plus followers, and with more than 40 million views, it’s the most popular Twitter clip ever for NowThis.

“This one caught fire,” said NowThis President Athan Stephanopoulos.

Just as President Donald Trump’s 2016 election provided a much-needed boost to the news business, Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to political stardom has helped media outlets that cover her, delivering higher TV ratings and online visitors. Young, charismatic and armed with provocative ideas, she’s garnered widespread coverage — on podcasts, magazine covers, including the latest Time magazine, late-night talk shows and Twitch streams.

Fox News mentions the 29-year-old New York Democrat almost every night, far more than its rivals at CNN and MSNBC, a sign that she’s a ratings magnet for the opposition media, too. The risk for these outlets is that they oversaturate their coverage or her popularity fades — and viewers drift away.

“Media brands court her. They want her to retweet them,” said Emily Bell, director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. “She has become a platform for some media brands rather than the other way around.”

One company that has benefited is CBS Corp., owner of the CBS and Showtime networks. Her February interview on Showtime’s “Desus & Mero,” the program’s debut after its move from Viceland, drew about 40 percent more viewers than average. Her January appearance on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert” produced one of its biggest Mondays ever.

The number of articles about Ocasio-Cortez has surged in recent months, according to Chartbeat, a publishing analytics company. The average article about her gets 1,300 page views, or roughly double what typical political articles generate, the firm found.

Time’s cover story on Ocasio-Cortez generated nearly 270,000 unique visitors in 24 hours on its website, about 55 percent more than the magazine’s average cover story.

NowThis, which is partly owned by cable programmer Discovery Inc., covers Ocasio-Cortez because she speaks about issues its audience cares about, like climate change and income inequality, not simply because she’s popular, Stephanopoulos said. Still, Ocasio-Cortez is the youngest-ever congresswoman, and videos and articles about her tend to get more views because her fans are also young and engaged with social media.

“With some of these young elected officials who are more socially savvy, when you cover them it gets more traction,” Stephanopoulos said. “A lot of their followers are sharing it, and it gets into the digital-media ecosystem faster.”

The Huffington Post, owned by Verizon Communications Inc., has published at least 68 articles with her name in the headline this year. “Behind Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Masterful Interrogation of Michael Cohen” was especially popular on the site.

“We do see a strong interest from our readers regarding Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez,” Mike Barry, HuffPost’s head of audience, said in an email. “Her background and path to becoming a candidate is fascinating, relevant and newsworthy for HuffPost’s audience.”

“A Kardashian who speaks likes Bernie Sanders is an incredible combination.”

HuffPost looks at audience data to see what’s resonating with readers “and often commissions work that reflects those insights,” he said. “There is a big segment of the overall population interested in her.”

And not just among fans who share her politics. Ocasio-Cortez describes herself as a “democratic socialist,” which can be a hot-button term for Republicans.

Ocasio-Cortez has received extensive coverage in parts of Rupert Murdoch’s empire, which includes News Corp. and Fox Corp. As Vanity Fair noted, Murdoch’s New York Post recently published 24 articles about her on its website over a six-day period. Fox News discusses her so often that Ocasio-Cortez has complained the channel “has turned into ‘AOC TMZ,’” referring to the celebrity-news website that traffics in gossip.

On Feb. 14, for instance, Amazon scrapped plans to open a new headquarters in New York City, a project that Ocasio-Cortez had opposed. The next day, her name was mentioned 38 times on Fox News and 29 times on the Fox Business Network, compared with seven times on CNN and six on MSNBC, according to TVEyes, a media-monitoring firm.

Fox News host Sean Hannity mentioned her frequently on his show in February. He described Ocasio-Cortez as “the new leader of the Democratic party” and said that the so-called Green New Deal that she introduced “will destroy the lifeblood of our economy.”

That month, he ran neck-and-neck with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow as the most-watched regularly scheduled cable news program.

Asked about the company’s coverage, a Fox News representative pointed to positive comments the network’s hosts have made about Ocasio-Cortez. Laura Ingraham, for instance, called her “impressive” and invited her to come on her show.

“At Fox, she plays into their need for a villain now that Hillary Clinton is no longer relevant,” Bell said. “A Kardashian who speaks likes Bernie Sanders is an incredible combination.”

© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

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Ocasio-Cortez’s rise to political stardom has helped media outlets that cover her, delivering higher TV ratings and online visitors.
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Monday, 25 March 2019 02:50 PM
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