Por Alejandro Chafuen: Publicado el 2/4/18 en: https://www.forbes.com/sites/alejandrochafuen/2018/04/02/the-2018-ranking-of-free-market-think-tanks-measured-by-social-media-impact/#235aa5e64996
As in other years, I again analyzed the presence of think tank and other organizations that promote a free economy on such popular social-media platforms as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram. The Heritage Foundation continues to be ranked first among free-market groups with Facebook and Twitter followers, and also in Web traffic. Heritage ranks ahead of Brookings in all social-media platforms with the exception of LinkedIn, which is used more for networking than for education or dissemination. The American Enterprise Institute leads in YouTube subscribers, while the Foundation for Economic Education had the video with most minutes viewed during the last year.
When we go beyond think tanks and include the efforts of intellectual entrepreneurs and other organizations, PragerU is the undisputed leader.
Among foreign groups several South American think tanks ranked extraordinarily well. The Instituto Mises, in Brazil, appeared in first or second position in five of the categories listed below, and Fundación Libertad y Progreso (Argentina) appears four times. A newer think tank which I expect will grow in all categories is Fundación para el Progreso, in Chile, which is scoring very well on YouTube and growing in other platforms.
Below are the free-market think tanks scoring first or second in the United States and from around the world (data compiled during the first week of March 2018):
- Most Facebook likes (U.S.): #1Heritage Foundation (2,089K) #2 Acton Institute (797K); (Non U.S.): #1 Instituto Mises, Brazil (276K), #2ILISP (Brazil)
- Most Twitter followers (U.S.): #1 Heritage Foundation (630K) #2 Cato (337K); (Non U.S): #1CEDICE, Venezuela (96K) #2 CEP Chile (59K)
- Most monthly visitors to Web site (SimilarWeb), U.S.: #1 Heritage Foundation (2,920K) 2# Mises Institute (1,570K); (Non U.S.): #1 Instituto Mises, Brazil (837K) #2 ILISP (Brazil). Alexa, the Web analytics company owned by Amazon, also shows these groups as winners.
- Most subscribers to YouTube Channel (U.S.): #1 American Enterprise Institute (147K) #2 Mises Institute (64K) ; (Non U.S.): #1 Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (26K) #2 Instituto Mises, Brazil (23K).
- Most views of YouTube video uploaded in 2017 (U.S.): #1 Foundation for Economic Education (289K) #2 American Enterprise Institute (163K); (Non U.S.): #1 Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (120K) #2 Fundación Para el Progreso, Chile (48K)
- Most minutes viewed on a YouTube video (last 12 months) (U.S): #1 Foundation for Economic Education (5,880K), #2 Heritage Foundation (2,702K); (Non U.S.) #1 Fundación para el Progreso (2,490K) # 2 Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (562K)
- Most LinkedIn Followers (U.S.): #1 Heritage Foundation (13K) # 2 American Enterprise Institute (10K) ; (Non U.S.); #1 Fraser Institute, (Canada) (4,6K) #2 Instituto Mises (3.3K) Brazil
- Instagram followers (U.S.): #1 Heritage Foundation (22,9K) #2 Mises Institute (16.3K); (Non U.S.): #1 Instituto Mises, Brazil (14.4K) #2CEDICE, Venezuela (3.8K)
- Klout (U.S.): #1 Cato (90) #2 Mises Institute (86); (Non U.S.), #1 Adam Smith Institute (U.K.) (80) #2Fundación Libertad y Progreso, Argentina (79)
Keys to the success of PragerU
Much of the amazing success of PragerU has to do with the leadership of the multitalented Dennis Prager. Think tanks have struggled with identifying products that distinguish their efforts from those of other groups. But many rose to prominence with one, or just a few key products. Heritage Foundation, for example, has its famous Backgrounders, which are short position papers that analyze the major policy questions being discussed in the legislature and offer well-grounded recommendations in an easy to understand language. Heritage has published 3,297 Backgrounders on different issues., With more than 500,000 donors, Heritage currently offers a full line of educational and advocacy products. It even has its own social media publication, the Daily Signal. Heritage’s growth in the early years owes much to its Backgrounders.
PragerU, so far, is even more focused. It has only one type of product: well-produced videos five-minutes in length boasting an intelligent use of infographics. As the ranking below shows, they are beating much older and established organizations. I forecast that one day, like Heritage, PragerU will diversify their product line.
One of PragerU’s most popular videos:
The leaders in United States free-market media, magazines, and news outlets include:
- Most Facebook likes: #1 PragerU (2,801K) #2CNSNews (2,243K)
- Most Twitter followers: #1National Review (283K) #2 Reason (215K)
- Most monthly visitors to website (SimilarWeb): #1National Review (11,540K) #2 Reason (4,660K)
- Most subscribers to YouTube Channel: #1 Prager U (1,288K) #2 Reason (298K)
- Most views of YouTube video (uploaded in 2017): #1PragerU (5,085K) #2 Reason (1,100K)
- Most minutes viewed on a single You Tube video (last 12 months): #1 Prager U (9,576K) #2 Reason (6,582K)
- Klout: Magazines, #1 National Review (93), #2Reason (90). Forbes, for reference, scores a 99, almost the top. Advocacy: #1 FreedomWorks (82) #2 Americans for Prosperity (75)
- Instagram: #1 PragerU (148K) #2 National Review (28K)
I did not include CRTV, the online TV channel launched by the Conservative Review, as its content gets closer to that of purely media companies like Fox or Forbes. Even then CRTV still lags behind PragerU. In similar fashion, for foreign groups, I did not include media companies such as Libertad Digital, the Spanish online publication strongly aligned with free society views, which gets over 15 million page views per month (with over five-minute duration).
I still used YouTube to measure outcomes of educational and advocacy videos. It is not only the most popular video platform, but it also allows third parties to analyze the data with more accuracy than Facebook. Just three seconds spent on a Facebook video, a glance, counts as a view. YouTube requires 30 seconds. In late January this year, in an official statement, Facebook acknowledged that it was attracting “passive consumption of content” and that it “made changes to show fewer viral videos to make sure people’s time is well spent” and that it “made changes that reduced time spent on Facebook by roughly 50 million hours every day.” Its stated goal is to create more meaningful connections, and that “community and business will be stronger over the long term.”
Nevertheless, more and more think tanks and organizations that promote a free economy are starting to use “Facebook Live,” and then uploading the videos also on YouTube. Relevant for think tanks that try to reach a young audience, a recent survey by Wibbitz showed that Facebook was the favorite platform to watch short videos for millennials and “Generation X.” For all generations who use the Internet, YouTube was still ahead.
PragerU, the undisputed leader in short educational videos with over 340 million views on YouTube, gets more than double those views on Facebook. So impressive is PragerU’s leadership, organizations such as Heritage, which lead in combined metrics, frequently post PragerU videos in their own Facebook video stream. The traffic that Heritage attracts with those PragerU videos, each with millions of views, dwarf the traffic of a typical Heritage conference video post, usually 10,000 views to 30,000 views range. The Foundation for Economic Education has also posted PragerU videos. PragerU, on the other hand, almost always posts its own videos on both YouTube and Facebook platforms. The only exception to this was the very good short video done by FreethePeople, debunking the hero status of Ernesto “Che” Guevara, the ruthless Argentine-born communist revolutionary.
Among student organizations, Turning Point USA continues with its impressive growth. It ranks first in Twitter followers as well as in Facebook likes and will likely reach a million likes at the end of this year. It is also far ahead in Instagram. Young America’s Foundation leads in YouTube and Web traffic and Students for Liberty is first in LinkedIn. TurningPoint is the fastest growing student group on YouTube.
University- and college-based centers continue to lag against their think tank competitors. Hoover Institute (at Stanford University) and Mercatus Center (at George Mason University) are the leaders. In this subsector, Hoover leads Mercatus in all social media outcomes except on its use of LinkedIn, but I expect Hoover to soon take leadership also on this platform.
Arthur Brooks, Gresham’s Law and Social Media for Sale
The current discussions about the manipulation of social media for political purposes and the commercial interests of social-media giants has raised important questions about its impact and deserves much further analysis. In his surprising announcement that he was going to retire in 16 months, Arthur C. Brooks, the talented leader of the American Enterprise Institute, lamented that social media was creating a type of Gresham’s law, where well-promoted, bad ideas were crowding out good research. Nevertheless, early in the year, in a piece in the Harvard Business Review, Brooks mentioned subscribers to events and original video programming on AEI’s YouTube channel as a valid metric. Although running far behind PragerU, AEI, with close to 150,000 subscribers, ranks first among think tanks. “Gresham’s law” that bad money drives out good money only applies when there is some kind of force involved (a fixed rate between gold and silver money or, in currencies, between worn out bills and new bills). Brookings, the top-ranked think tank, and Heritage Foundation, rank very well as research and policy-focused think tanks, and also in social media.
Last year I began to focus on the difficult analysis of organic versus sponsored or paid reach. As in other years I consulted with Emma Alvarez at the Corporate Marketing & Communications department of IESE, one the leading business schools in the world. In her analysis of social media trends she finds out that “advertising investment is key. Big jumps in traffic are rarely achieved with organic growth alone.” This makes it difficult for those of us who try to compile rankings as the payment data “is only accessible to the administrators or through the reports of their own agencies, which are not publicly shared. What we do have are the global numbers, we see that investment in social networks continues to increase, especially on Facebook where last year there was a 48 percent increase in advertising revenue. Furthermore, the frequent changes in the algorithm makes the strategy for organic growth more and more complicated, which has led to allocating more investment in advertising to generate results.”
Many of the questions raised in this piece require further study. With Tarun Vats, an Associate Director of the Atlas Network, we again compared the social media impact of think tanks using a new measurement that combines Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. The winners in each category were Heritage (U.S.), CEDICE (Non-U.S.), FreedomWorks (Advocacy), the Hoover Institute (University-based), TurningPoint USA (Student advocacy) and PragerU (mostly media groups). Congratulations to all and my hope that others will continue to help refine and better understand this segment of the media which is so relevant in today’s world and which free-market organizations can’t neglect.
Alejandro A. Chafuen es Dr. En Economía por el International College de California. Licenciado en Economía, (UCA), fue miembro del comité de consejeros para The Center for Vision & Values, fideicomisario del Grove City College, y presidente de la Atlas Economic Research Foundation. Se ha desempeñado como fideicomisario del Fraser Institute desde 1991. Es Managing Director del Acton Institute, International. Fue profesor de ESEADE.