Mar 28, 2022 - Economy

Will Smith slap seizes conversation in America

Social media interactions on published articles, by select topic
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

Interest in the Oscars — and Will Smith's slap of Chris Rock in particular — made the awards show the most-discussed news topic on social media over the last day, according to data from NewsWhip.

Why it matters: Despite a revamped program to combat sagging relevance and ever-declining ratings, it took an unscripted incident to vault the award show back to the top of the national conversation.

By the numbers: Stories about Will Smith generated 4.9 million interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media over the 25-hour period — almost all coming after the slap which happened just before 10:30pm ET.

  • That eclipsed all other news topics during that period — something that would have been unlikely sans the confrontation.

The slap sucked up the online attention for the rest of the night, overshadowing Apple TV+'s historic Best Picture win for "CODA" and Jane Campion's Best Director victory for "Power of the Dog."

  • Social media interest in the event peaked in the 11pm ET hour — as conversation about the incident mounted and Smith delivered his Best Actor acceptance speech — according to the NewsWhip data.

The big picture: The incident also upstaged several buzzy moments that came before it, including Ariana DeBose becoming the first openly queer person of color to win an acting Oscar, "CODA" star Troy Kotsur making history as the first male deaf actor to win an Oscar, and a few political zingers from the hosts.

The bottom line: Ratings for the show jumped 56% from last year's record low, but were still the second-lowest in Oscars history.

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