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Thousands of dollars for hundreds of shares

Read to the end for some interesting John Fetterman lore

What Is A Facebook Ad Worth?

VICE has a great story out this week that was published in collaboration with The Citizens, a public service journalism nonprofit. The article reports that Ben Shapiro’s right-wing media network The Daily Wire has spent close to $50,000 promoting pro-Johnny Depp stories about the Depp v. Heard trial. And, lucky for us, we can now look at exactly what they kind of engagement The Daily Wire is getting for their dollar. SPOILER: It’s hilariously bad.

But before we get into that, a quick bit of background. Earlier this year, I used social metrics dashboards CrowdTangle and Buzzsumo to dig into the Facebook activity of the Canadian Freedom Convoy. I then dug even deeper into it for a feature I wrote for The Verge. One of the most interesting things I noticed was that The Daily Wire was one of the largest amplifiers of the convoy’s content — and likely responsible for it going mainstream outside of Canada — but the way they do it is, well, to use Facebook’s jargon, wildly inauthentic. The Daily Wire employs a network of influencers who all have Facebook pages, including Shapiro, and they typically share the same story across their entire network to try and make it go viral. Some of these pages aren’t very clear about their connection to The Daily Wire either. But, what I found very funny about this whole thing is that the engagement they’re getting is actually not that great.

If you follow the Facebook’s Top 10 Twitter account, however, which tracks the pages posting the top 10 best-performing link posts on US Facebook each day, you’ll see that Ben Shapiro is routinely in there. So it’s easy to assume that The Daily Wire is pulling in huge numbers. But, thanks to the Widely Viewed Content Reports that Facebook is publishing now, we actually have a really good idea of how The Daily Wire compares to the larger Facebook ecosystem.

The VICE article includes a Candace Owens post that was boosted as an ad. The boosted Owens post was promoting a Daily Wire story titled, “The Attempted Character Assassination Of Johnny Depp”. According to VICE, The Daily Wire spent $20,000 to $25,000 to promote this story. Alright, well, let’s see how it did!

Ouch, tens of thousands of dollars and you walk away with 400 shares. Not great! And, as you can see from the screenshot, the typical Daily Wire influencer page trick is also in full effect. The majority of the shares on this article came from their own pages. The most organic engagement it received was from a page called, “Donald Trump is My President,” where it earned two shares and around 65 interactions. There just has to be a way to burn through Republican dark money.

Oh, and, in case you wanted a sense of scale, according to Facebook’s newest Widely Viewed Content Report, the most-shared news story of this year so far was a TMZ article about Bob Saget dying that was shared 250,000 times. And, according to Buzzsumo, the most-shared article about “Johnny Depp” posted to Facebook in the last six months was published by a British website called Small Screen which claims that Robert Downey Jr. is considering casting Johnny Depp in Sherlock Holmes 3 (this does not appear to be true). It was shared 7,000 times in the last three days.

Alright, let’s keep going because, guys, I love this shit. Another Daily Wire story that Shapiro’s team paid to promote, according to VICE, was titled, “The 14 Most Shocking Revelations In The Johnny Depp, Amber Heard Defamation Trial”. This one was your typical Facebook-optimized listicles and, according to the VICE piece, The Daily Wire spent around $15,000 promoting this one. So how’d it do? A laughable 61 shares. Bro, Garbage Day gets more Facebook engagement than that and it’s an email.

And, once again, all of the sharing is happening in-house. It’s just all their pages promoting it. Can you imagine paying thousands of dollars just to share your own story between your own pages? Is this a tax thing? The only logical explanation is that Ben Shapiro has become wrapped up in some kind of Brewster’s Millions-type situation where he has to spend his company’s entire advertising budget on worthless Facebook posts before the Depp v. Heard trial is over.

Ok, one last example that’s worth looking at. VICE also reports that The Daily Wire is advertising a video called “LOL: This is The BEST Moment From The Johnny Depp Vs. Amber Heard Trial,” which was shared to a page associated with Michael Knowles. He’s one of the right-wing commentators working for The Daily Wire who pick a random thing they see on Twitter and then rant into a camera about it long enough to hit the required time needed for Facebook pre-roll ads to play.

Facebook also recently announced a big new re-pivot to video because it’s a culturally dying website run by people who seem to actively loathe both the platform itself and the people who are still using it. We don’t have an ad budget for this one, but if they’re throwing money at it, I’m sure it’s doing well, right? During the last pivot to video, I made a video where I bought a brick from the Supreme clothing brand and it was watched 15 million times and we didn’t spend any money on that.

Well, one version of the video I found had about 1.1 million views. Which is fine. But, just to give you a sense of scale, according to the Widely Viewed Content Report, the most watched video of last quarter was this video of two women fighting at a Vikings game that was watched around 70 million times. And I’m going to guess that the page that initially posted it did not spend money to promote it. But there’s more to this.

The “BEST moment” video was posted organically and also as an ad. The ad performed actually much worse than the organic version that did 1.1 million views. It was only shared about 200 times. Even more interestingly, the ad version included a link to a The Daily Wire’s podcast episode. And we can feed that page into CrowdTangle, which says the engagement is so low it can’t even generate real numbers for it.

I’ve seen some folks on Twitter claim that this report is proof of right-wing astroturfing around Depp v. Heard. And, in a sense, I suppose, yes, it is. But I think the real story here is how much of a clown car The Daily Wire is. The company is spending thousands of dollars to promote stories that no one is engaging with at all and still has to cobble together a dozen of their own sock puppet accounts to get even 100 shares. It’s a mess! But, more than anything, it’s really just an incredible statement to how parasitic the relationship is between sites like The Daily Wire and Facebook. It’s estimated The Daily Wire’s traffic is down 18% from where they were last year. This stuff just isn’t working anymore. Teenage conspiracy theorists on TikTok won the content war. Facebook is dead and it seems like it’s taking its homegrown right-wing publishers with it.

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You may have read my missives this month and believed that your subscriptions were enough, but I was wrong. I was also wrong about the threats I was facing, believing that the many eyeless ones were seeking to devour my soul. In fact, they were seeking to connect with me on the social network LinkedIn.


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Netflix Is Not Our Friend After All

Trouble has been rumbling at Netflix ever since it reported its first-ever subscribers drop last month. First there were the layoffs at internal editorial site Tudum, many of whom had only been employed for a few months and had moved to California for the job. Then this week over a hundred more employees were let go, mainly in creative and marketing, including the majority of the social teams for all of Netflix’s “diverse” verticals including Most, Strong Black Lead, and Con Todo. 

It’s striking how these layoffs seem, to an outside observer, to have mostly affected the women, queer people, and people of color that Netflix has apparently worked hard to recruit as of late. Just this morning, I saw a tweet from former Netflix staffer Ashley Reese with a GoFundMe link to raise money for her boyfriend’s cancer treatment, now that she has no more insurance. 

I have been a Netflix hater ever since they unceremoniously cancelled a series I will completely unironically and earnestly call one of the best of the last decade, aka The OA. [Ed. note: I agree.] But unfortunately for my Ongoing Revenge Plot, the fact is that they’re actually still making a shit ton of money — just slightly less than they were before, which in this growth-obsessed era of late capitalism is a big no-no. The question is, what are they doing with all that money? As it turns out the answer is: completely atomizing the television production process in order to cut corners and maximize profits. 

As detailed in Defector by an anonymous industry insider, the way streaming services are putting together shows these days is pretty farkakte. Endless crunch at un-unionized international VFX studios; “mini-rooms” and “head writers” in place of fully staffed rooms and showrunners; unceremonious launches and minimal marketing for great shows while the mediocre ones get promo’d to high heaven. This widespread disconnection and cost-cutting has produced, among other things, a showrunning crisis amongst young writers, and the looming threat of a WGA strike in 2023. 

I’m no strategy head (you want Julia Alexander for that) but it certainly seems to me that this is an unsustainable way of doing business for everyone involved. Last year, there were over 550 scripted shows for adults on the air. [Oh, Hello Too Much Tuna Voice] THAT’S TOO MUCH TV! Clearly they’re just going to keep making even more, though, and then firing talented but “redundant” people on the company side while keeping other talented people on the production side scrambling to piece together a sustainable living from short-term underpaid micro-gigs. 

TV writer Laurie Penny tweeted gnomically last week that they’ve “spent three years having interesting meetings with TV executives who desperately want to figure out the formula for producing a successful show [...] The trouble is that nobody wants to hear the actual answer.” This is a FUN GUESSING GAME — what is this mysterious actual answer? I would imagine it has something to do with paying your crew enough and not overworking them; possibly it also has something to do with writing a show that appeals to today’s discerning fandom masses in terms of character dynamics and representation. Regardless of what the answer is, it’s a good thought exercise for everyone. Personally, I fantasize about telling streaming executives exactly what they’re doing wrong every night as I fall asleep. It’s incredibly soothing. 

New Deranged Incel Thread Dropped

Look, I go back and forth about how much air to give to these guys, but over the last two years or so, pickup artists have reemerged on public internet spaces. If you don’t know the history here, I’ll run through it real quick.

Towards the end of the 2000s, the online pickup artist community was actually pretty big. Subreddits like r/seduction and r/TheRedPill were surprisingly impactful and horrible guys like Roosh V (before he went trad) were early blogging adopters. This dovetailed into a lot of meetups for men hoping to learn how to talk to women. Most of these meetups were expensive scams and that led to the creation of the reactionary forums like PUA Hate, where men, disillusioned with pickup artistry, began to create incel ideology.

I’m not sure if it’s because of the pandemic or just a shift in the internet’s cultural memory, but pickup artists are back and they’re posting stuff like this:

To save you the time, this guy claims that women are constantly orgasming while they ride bikes or horses. Anyways, instead of reading the whole thing, go check out the quote tweets where people are mercilessly roasting him.

The Great Costco Hot Dog Double Hoax

Earlier this week, a Twitter user named @JohnWRichKid rebranded themselves as a breaking news account and erroneously tweeted that Costco was planning to raise the cost of their hot dog due to inflation. Costco’s $1 hot dogs have never raised in price and it’s become a meme over the years that it’s actually the best hedge against inflation. The account did a bunch of lead up and teasing out that they were going to do some kind of prank. And you can watch a video someone put together of all the tweets here. So that’s the first hoax.

The second hoax was that this caused Costco’s stock tumbling. This is an objectively funny thing to imagine, but it doesn’t look like it’s that simple. Per Bloomberg’s Joe Weisenthal, who I’d trust on this, the entire retail industry did terrible on the market yesterday. Oh well!

Is Wayfair OK?

A bunch of really bizarre Wayfair furniture keeps going viral on different platforms, but I wanted to focus on something they’re calling the “Timko Genuine Leather Executive Chair”. It’s melting my brain.

It is, without question, the ugliest weirdest thing I’ve seen in a long time. It’s also over $3000, which is outrageous. I’m not even entirely clear it would be comfortable to sit in. The bottom of the chair appears to be just as long as the back part? It also seems incredibly heavy!

The only thing that makes sense to me is that it’s supposed to look like an incredibly fancy gamer chair. Like this is a chair for teenage Bitcoin millionaires. It’s an r/malelivingspace chair. It’s the only explanation.

Congrats To Twitter User @maplecocaine For Winning The Elon Musk Content Cycle

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