Jul 10, 2021 - Science

Billionaire battle draws big attention to space coverage

U.S. articles mentioning “space race”
Data: Signal AI; Chart: Axios Visuals

The public's interest in space coverage has exploded leading up to the historic space race between billionaire space entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos.

Why it matters: Bezos and Branson are both hoping to make space tourism a big business, and their billionaire space race is sparking widespread interest in spaceflight that could ultimately translate into future customers.

Catch up quick: Bezos and Branson both plan to make sub-orbital flights this month aboard rockets built by their respective companies.

  • Branson will make the journey this Sunday. His company, Virgin Galactic, will livestream the trip.
  • Bezos plans to fly to space on July 20.

By the numbers: Not even halfway through July, mentions of the the term "space race" in U.S. articles have ballooned, according to new data from Signal AI provided to Axios — more than tripling the amount of mentions last July.

  • Not surprisingly, this past June, the top two sites receiving traffic from searches related to space were space.com and spacenews.com, per SimilarWeb.

When it comes to name recognition, Bezos' Blue Origin has received a lot more attention this year than its rival — Branson's Virgin Galactic.

  • Since July 2020, Virgin Galactic has received about a third of the number of total social media interactions (325,663) as Blue Origin (1,085,377), per Newswhip.
  • Elon Musk's SpaceX clobbers both, with nearly 3.5 million total social media interactions for the year.

The big picture: Space coverage has historically been pretty niche — something that typically only broke through to the mainstream with big launches, accidents or anniversaries.

  • But today, many news companies have hired designated space reporters, as private spaceflight takes off.
  • For space-specific news outlets, like Seeker, the space race has been a boon for traffic. A spokesperson tells Axios that Seeker has seen twice the amount of views and minutes watched on its video content, compared to the six months prior, as the space race heats up.

What to watch: The space giants are acutely aware of how much the attention wars around this month's space race could impact their businesses. On Friday, Blue Origin tweeted an in-depth infographic explaining why its rockets are better than Virgin Galactic's.

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