Since graduating recently from Rice University, guest writer Juliette Richert is continuing her education by listening to as many podcasts about politics, culture, and society as she can get her hands on.
Given Aaron Rupar’s half a million Twitter followers, his work is obviously popular, but why? As a millennial, I haven’t turned on cable TV in more than 5 years. Like much of my generation and the country, I get my news from the Internet and social media. Using short videos to share news stories on his Twitter feed and in his writing with Vox, Rupar connects Internet and social media users to the world of TV watchers, shedding light on the filter through which much of America receives news and information.
In 2017, Rupar was working as a journalist with Center for American Progress and had only a couple of thousand followers. That number has since soared after his “John Kelly” post (as seen below) was retweeted more than six thousand times, the most retweets he had received up until that point. This successful tweet propelled Rupar from a meager 4K Twitter followers to nearly half of a million, a 10x increase in followers over the past 3 years.
John Kelly on Fox
Rupar is now an associate editor for politics and policy at Vox, an avid Twitter user, and self-labeled liberal. He’s refined his beat from politics to primarily Congress, the Republican party, and Trump. Rupar publishes short pieces for Vox nearly every day, designed to give context around current events. His quick response time, sense of humor, and easy-to-read writing style make Rupar a strong reporter. Rupar’s Twitter feed, which he updates more than 30 times a day, has a critical and often satirical take on politics and the White House.
His most popular tweet from each thread gives a brief look at what people found interesting or important, but his long threads give you the chance to dig into the details of the event minute-by-minute, without ever having to watch the whole thing. Rupar’s Twitter feed is fun to explore, and you can easily get lost in rabbit hole-threads. Along with entertainment value, his work provides access to video that many people might not see otherwise.
Scrolling through Rupar's feed
Rupar’s time on Twitter and his success as a journalist at Vox have a symbiotic relationship. His Twitter following has helped Vox by indirectly growing their audience and increasing traffic. In order to make his Twitter threads, Rupar has to trim down longer videos. This process allows Rupar to engage with news as he live-tweets and construct rough outlines of his written pieces for Vox. In his writing, Rupar frequently uses short videos pulled from his Twitter-feed to contextualize the topic, providing audio and visual context that is difficult to replicate with words alone.
“With Trump everything is a spectacle, so it lends itself to video.” - Aaron Rupar
Videos provide context for the viewer to experience and understand the news, according to Rupar. Rupar’s discovery of SnapStream in 2017 was well-timed with the presidency. Trump is the most frequent face seen on Rupar’s feed (rivaled now only by his new daughter, Mia). Trump’s wild oratorical style and polarizing statements certainly help Rupar catch the attention of his audience. However, Rupar is confident that when Trump leaves office (whether that be in 4 more years or a couple months), there will still be high demand for news clips on Twitter.
“It’s one thing to have an opinion on politics, but if you have the video with it…people like to see people saying things” - Aaron Rupar
Why are some people ditching TV and paying attention to shorter clips of news? News consumers feel pressed for time and are exhausted by the current news cycle, so shorter clips are a quick way to consume news. If a video isn’t interesting enough, I’ll skip around to find the highlights. Rupar basically does that work for you.
Social media is also crafted to keep us moving down the feed, consuming as many posts as possible. Instead of competing with other TV stations, reporters now compete with puppy videos and memes for their audience’s attention. Best to make your post eye-catching and to-the-point in order to grab back their attention. Plus, there’s something priceless about seeing things for yourself.
President Trump at a rally in September
Video isn’t going anywhere because it gives you and your audience the ability to make up your own mind. How are you giving your audience the context they deserve?