Paper grizzly

by Dave Weigel

That's Ari Melber's why-didn't-I-think-of-it phrase to describe the ratio of media attention Sarah Palin receives to the supporters inspired by what she does. His test case: the "Mama Grizzlies" video, which spliced audio of her speech to the Susan B. Anthony List with video of her meeting with activists, and inspired coverage unheard of for a YouTube video not starring Osama bin Laden or Chris Crocker.

In the week since it was first posted on Palin’s Facebook page, which boasts over 1.8 million backers, the video has drawn 368,000 views. Yet despite her large following, only 33,000 people watched the video via Facebook, according to YouTube statistics. That means only one out of ten viewers found “Mama Grizzlies” through Palin’s social network -- and under 2 percent of her Facebook community watched the video. So who did watch “Mama Grizzlies”? Mostly traditional news readers and Palin detractors. Almost a third of all views came through an article on Yahoo! News, for example, while ratings for the video ran almost two-to-one for “dislike” over “like.”

“The bulk of the views seem to come after it had been covered in the mainstream media,” observes Pete Warden, a social media analyst who has studied Palin’s Facebook strategy. “She is still reaching a lot more people indirectly through the media than through Facebook and Twitter and the other direct channels,” added Warden, a former engineer at Apple.

Yes, even the lowest estimate for how much attention this video got from Palin fans has her drawing in more than, say, the latest Tim Pawlenty joint. But there was one real story in the "Mama Grizzly" launch -- Palin, after 18 months of winging it, had brought on some new staff to boost her new media clout. This put her several steps ahead of where she was three months ago and several steps behind where possible 2012 candidates like Pawlenty and Mitt Romney are. Cue: Hours and hours of coverage and analysis.

Gist: Palin is good for copy. She's not the only celebrity that the press invents bogus narratives about to justify its coverage. But maybe a little more sanity about the importance of her every move is in order.