On Obama’s Syria address, Voice of America far behind Russia Today, BBC and Al Jazeera in social media outreach

BBG Watch Commentary

VOA Featured Video after President Obama's speech to the nation on Syria.

VOA Featured Video after President Obama’s speech to the nation on Syria.

After President Obama’s address to the nation on plans for military actions against Syria, the Voice of America English home page showed a video of illegally trafficked monkeys instead of the presidential speech. A very short VOA report on the speech without a video got only 15 (fifteen) Facebook “Likes” and 5 (five) Tweets in about three hours while a much longer Russia Today report with video got 792 Facebook “Likes.

Not even an address to the American people on Syria by President Obama can get a Voice of America (VOA) English website news report noticed and “Liked” by more than a handful of social media sites users. The Voice of America coverage of President Obama’s speech on the VOA English website and many language websites was simply shameful. Hours after the speech, the main website had no video of President Obama’s address on the home page or any American or foreign reactions to the speech.

[aside]UPDATE: Several hours later, a video of President Obama’s speech was appended at the bottom of the VOA story. About six hours after the speech, the story’s social media numbers were slightly higher, but still nowhere near those of Russia Today or BBC. The VOA story had 155 Facebook “Likes,” but still only 5 (five) Tweets, and 0 (zero) Google+. The story was not opened for comments.  About six hours after the speech, the VOA English home page still did not feature Obama video. By then, the Russia Today story already had 941 Facebook “Likes,” 274 Tweets, 15 Google+  and 81 comments.  The BBC story had 782 Facebook “Likes” and 453 Tweets.[/aside]

Online readers have gotten so used to VOA news being posted late, not at all for some major stories, or being short and boring and presented on a very unattractive and hard to use VOA website, that a news report about a major address by the U.S. President on a question of war and peace gets far many more Facebook “Likes,” Tweets, and Google+ hits on the Russia Today website than it does on the VOA English website. The Voice of America does not even come close to being competitive in audience engagement through social media.

About three hours after President Obama’s 15-minute address to the nation, the main news report on the Voice of America English website, Obama Backs Diplomacy On Syria, But Force Still Possible, had only 15 (fifteen) Facebook “Likes,” 5 (five) Tweets, 0 (zero) Google+, and 0 (zero) comments.

Three hours after President Obama's speech on Syria, the short VOA report without video shows only 5 (five) Facebook Likes.

Three hours after President Obama’s speech on Syria, the short VOA report without video shows only 15 (fifteen) Facebook Likes and 5 (five) Tweets.

The VOA report with an AP photo was quite short (only 456 words – the VOA web team is famous for shortening correspondent reports) and had no video. Note that the video on the page with the VOA report on President Obama’s Syria address is showing a monkey. The VOA English home page also did not show a link to any recorded video of President Obama’s speech after it was delivered. The “Featured Video” with a monkey on the VOA home page was titled “Demand Drives Illicit Global Animal Trade.” VOA Director David Ensor and VOA Executive Editor Steve Redisch are former CNN staffers who reportedly attach great importance to the production of feature video stories.

With 860 words, the Russia Today report on President Obama’s speech, Obama orders US military to maintain posture on Syria, was nearly twice as long as the VOA report. The Russia Today report included a video and two AFP photos.

Compared to VOA’s 15 (fifteen) Facebook “Likes,” 5 (five) Tweets, 0 (zero) Google+, and 0 (zero) comments, The Russia Today report on Obama had 792 Facebook “Likes,” 251 Tweets, 13 Google+, and 59 comments.

Russia Today did not even feature Obama’s Syria Speech story on its home page, and yet it got many times more social media use. Russia Today’s featured story was Putin: Syria chem arms handover will work only if US calls off strike (with video). It got over 6,000 Facebook “Likes.”

Russia Today report on President Obama's speech had 792 Facebook Likes and 251 Tweets.

Russia Today report on President Obama’s speech had 792 Facebook Likes and 251 Tweets.

The main BBC report on President Obama’s speech, Syria crisis: Obama vows to keep pressure on Assad, had 972 words and a video.

The BBC report received 585 Facebook “Likes” and 406 “Tweets.”

BBC report on President Obama's speech shows 585 Facebook Likes and 406 Tweets.

BBC report on President Obama’s speech shows 585 Facebook Likes and 406 Tweets.

The Al Jazeera report on President Obama’s Syria speech, Obama postpones vote on Syria military strike, had 27 Facebook “Likes” and 103 Tweets.

Al Jazeera report on President Obama's Syria speech shows 27 Facebook Likes and 103 Tweets.

Al Jazeera report on President Obama’s Syria speech shows 27 Facebook Likes and 103 Tweets.

When a VOA English news report does extremely poorly in social media outreach, the same report translated and posted by VOA foreign language services also shows minimal social media engagement scores. The VOA Azeri Service got 16 (sixteen) Facebook “Likes” and 2 (two) Tweets.

Social media use in Azerbaijan is high and the Internet is not blocked by the government. The same is true for now in Russia. Instead of using the VOA English report, the VOA Russian Service did its own, much longer, report on President Obama’s speech. Nearly five hours after the speech is had 48 Facebook “Likes” and 8 Tweets, but it did not show any social media activity through Russian social media sites.

The VOA English website is so far behind the curve that it was two days late and two days behind Russia Today in posting a story o Pope Francis’s strong opposition to a U.S. military strike on Syria.

As of today, the Russia Today news report on Pope Francis and Syria, Pope calls on world leaders to abandon military options in Syria, posted on September 5, has over 14,000 Facebook “Likes,” 876 Tweets, and 160 Google+.

A VOA report on Pope Francis and Syria was posted two days late, on September 7. White House Syria Appeal Draws Protest, Prayer has as of today only 65 Facebook “Likes,” 40 Tweets, and 6 (six) Google+.

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