By Joe Simonson
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders attracts more viewers to his Facebook livestream than CNN does during a night of regular programming.
The impressive feat was mentioned in a New York Magazine profile of the socialist former Democratic presidential candidate’s new effort to create a media empire of sorts.
Over the last year, Sanders has hosted a number of events, like chats with various activists or celebrities including Bill Nye the science guy, on his Facebook page. The chat with the children TV star-turned-climate activist has a staggering 4.7 million views.
After noticing the success of his Facebook events, Sanders decided to try streaming events like town halls on his page, which his team quickly found out garnered more viewers than CNN.
“The idea that we can do a town meeting which would get a significantly larger viewing audience than CNN at that time is something I would not have dreamed of in a million years, a few years ago,” Sanders told NYMag.
Sanders’ (and his team’s) strategy is to circumvent traditional media outlets in order to more directly reach voters with his message of universal healthcare and social democracy.
“What we are doing is what the news media should be doing. Our goal is to create the biggest network possible for distributing information about public policy,” said Kennth Pennington, the former digital director to Sanders’ 2016 presidential primary campaign.
According to the senator’s office, Sanders’ 2017 videos were viewed over 800 million times, with the most popular video featuring a Republican senator debating a Canadian doctor about single-payer health care systems.
Although Sanders’ pivot to social media as a messaging tool is savvy, one must remember that CNN has consistently placed last in ratings among competitors. In Q1 2018, the cable network placed seventh in total viewership among cable channels.
“Ultimately, anybody that chooses to run in 2020 will be seeking to build their own audience and production capabilities,” said Brian Fallon, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s 2016 press secretary. “The communications arms of national campaigns will be more like production studios and less devoted to the ability to spin reporters.”
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