BBG Watch Commentary

Our analysis of Voice of America retweets and tweet likes during the Clinton-Trump debate shows that U.S. taxpayer-funded Voice of America (VOA) English newsroom and its correspondents were nowhere near BBC or even Russia’s RT in the number of retweets and likes for their Twitter posts during the Clinton-Trump debate Monday night.

Members of Congress and U.S. taxpayers may assume that VOA would shine on Twitter during such an important U.S. political event, but the truth is that after many years of mismanagement under the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG) and poor management within VOA, both of which continue, the Voice of America has become largely irrelevant as a digital news source for such U.S. news. When VOA occasionally gets a larger than usual number of likes for some its Facebook posts, they are believed to be a result of heavy boosting of Facebook posts with ads, since other VOA Facebook posts get almost no comments and very few likes.

VOA does not appear to be boosting its Twitter posts with ads or other promotional campaigns, which shows VOA’s real extremely dismal social media performance as a news source. If a New York Times correspondent was regularly showing only three or four retweets and one or two Twitter likes, he or she would probably not work for the paper much longer.


VOA English News and individual VOA correspondents who posted tweets before and during the first Clinton-Trump debate got at most four, five, seven, rarely 10 or 11 retweets for their Twitter posts, and almost never more than ten Twitter likes — usually only two or three.

A New York Times correspondent got 100 retweets and over 200 likes for one of its tweets.



VOA Correspondent Runs Out of Twitter Gas

Perhaps seeing how little traction his tweets were getting, one of the senior VOA correspondents ran out of Twitter gas a full hour before debate ended and stopped tweeting.


VOA Russian and VOA Chinese Even Worse on Twitter

Some of VOA foreign language services did even worse on Twitter during the Clinton-Trump debate than VOA English. The VOA Russian Service sometimes could not get a single retweet or like, even for tweets announcing its ongoing live debate transmission on YouTube.



BBC Gets Hundreds of Retweets

In contrast to VOA English and Russian tweets, BBC English tweets were showing hundreds of retweets from the Clinton-Trump debate and sometimes close to 2,000. Numbers of likes for BBC Clinton-Trump tweets were also in the hundreds and for a few over 1,000 and even over 2,000.



VOA Gets Better Showing on Facebook With Ads

Both VOA English and VOA Russian Service did, however, much better on Facebook. VOA English live transmission of the Clinton-Trump debate on Facebook was showing 120 thousand views and over 7 thousand likes. VOA Russian live transmission of the Clinton-Trump debate with Russian translation on Facebook was showing 14 thousand views and over 500 likes as of 2:00 AM ET Tuesday.

These Facebook numbers is still a minuscule fraction of the English speaking and Russian speaking audiences. But since VOA boosts some of its Facebook posts with ads, it is hard to tell how accurate and meaningful these VOA Facebook likes are, how many people watched more than a few seconds of the videos and whether comments are genuine or bought. The live report of the VOA Russian correspondent on YouTube got only 92 views as of 2:00 AM Tuesday, and only one like. It appears that VOA Facebook posts not boosted with ads get very few likes or comments.

VOA Chinese did extremely poorly on Twitter but much better on Facebook with its Clinton-Trump debate coverage, which again is a puzzling phenomenon requiring more investigative reporting. As of 2:00 AM Tuesday, none of VOA Chinese Clinton-Trump debate tweets is showing more than 10 retweets or likes. The difference is striking.


Russia’s RT Beats VOA on Twitter During Debate

Russia RT did not do as well on Twitter during the Clinton-Trump debate as BBC, but it was also far ahead of VOA English and VOA Russian in the number of retweets and Likes. One RT Clinton-Trump tweet was showing 134 retweets and 158 likes.


One DW Tweet Does Far Better Than VOA Tweets

Germany’s Deutsche Welle was not getting a lot of retweets and likes during the Clinton-Trump debate, but one of the tweets for its poll who won the first presidential debate was showing 2,163 votes, 226 retweets and 93 likes. VOA News did not come even close to such numbers.


Tweets for VOA, BBC, RT, and DW were checked at approximately 12:45 AM ET, Tuesday, September 27 and again at 2:00 AM ET.