Feb 4, 2020 - Economy & Business

Kobe Bryant's death transcends other news

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Axios Visuals

The tragic death of Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gianna became one of the most talked-about news events of the social media era, according to data from NewsWhip provided exclusively to Axios.

Why it matters: More people have engaged with the story over the past week than nearly every other major news story combined — illustrating that what breaks through in a saturated, splintered media landscape is unexpected, emotional news.

By the numbers: In the week after the Jan. 26 helicopter accident, stories about Kobe and Gianna generated 208 million interactions on social media — more than coronavirus, impeachment, the Super Bowl, the Iowa caucuses and the Grammys combined.

  • It did not generate the most news stories: The roughly 97,000 stories written about Kobe and Gianna this week are only about half the total for coronavirus stories (~174,000).

Be smart: The story had a huge cascading effect, as reactions to the tragedy drove new stories and hashtags.

  • LeBron James' reaction to the news reinvigorated the news cycle, in part because Bryant's last tweet congratulated James for passing him on the all-time scoring list.
  • The hashtag #GirlDad went viral as reactions poured in about the relationship between Kobe and Gianna.

The arms race for reader attention on major platforms has made it harder for all but the most shocking, emotional stories to break through.

  • For example, the Iowa caucuses received relatively minuscule social media interest over this period.

The bottom line: In a news ecosystem that's fragmented by both niche interests and ideology, it's rare for the internet to be so captivated by a single story.

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