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How The New York Times prepared for the ultimate stress test — the 2020 election
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Sept. 21, 2016, 11:33 a.m.

Need more proof that second screens are fast becoming first screens? Both Facebook and Twitter announced this week that they were partnering with news organizations to broadcast the presidential vice presidential debates live on their platforms.

On Tuesday, Facebook said it was working with ABC News to show the debates and additional coverage on Facebook Live. On Wednesday, Twitter said it would show debate coverage and analysis from Bloomberg Politics.

The first presidential debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is Monday night.

Over the past few months the platforms have been ramping up their video offerings as they try to attract users to their services. Twitter, for instance, has been streaming other Bloomberg programs and is also broadcasting the NFL’s Thursday night games this season. Facebook for its part has been courting publishers to use its Facebook Live service by paying them to produce a certain number of videos. Outlets including The New York Times and BuzzFeed are participating in Facebook’s program.

Facebook and Twitter’s businesses are built on advertising, which to succeed requires users to actually use their services. As a result, both of them have been looking for ways to increase user engagement and keep users on their platforms, and that’s why they’ve been courting publishers.

Last week, at the Online News Association conference in Denver, Fidji Simo, Facebook’s director of product, outlined a number of ways Facebook is trying to further entice publishers to use its platform and services.

For Twitter, the debates are the company’s latest attempt to try to grow its stagnant user base. In its second-quarter earnings report in July, Twitter reported that it had 313 million active monthly users — an increase of just 3 million from the first quarter of the year.

twitterusers

2.1 million users watched Twitter’s first NFL broadcast this month, with an average of 243,000 viewers tuning in at the same time. It remains to be seen whether the audience on Twitter (or Facebook for that matter) will top that for the debates.

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