According to Omniture numbers provided by Fox News, the raw video from the Islamic State terrorism organization, also know as ISIS, depicting the burning death of Jordanian pilot Lt. Muath al-Kaseasbeh has generated 10 percent of all video streams on FoxNews.com since it was posted on Tuesday. That video, which FoxNews.com prefaced with the words “WARNING, EXTREMELY GRAPHIC VIDEO,” has been de-linked from YouTube and is on ban from Facebook as well. Fox News made the controversial decision to embed the video even as virtually the rest of U.S. media decided not to do so — not only because of its graphic nature, but also in some cases because the outlets did not want to assist the propaganda aims of the Islamic State organization.
To underscore the fissures over this particular decision, Fox News media critic Howard Kurtz last night dissented from the network’s call in a chat with Fox News anchor Megyn Kelly: “I just have a concern that we are helping spread the fear that ISIS so badly wants to spread,” Kurtz said. As the Guardian has reported, social media accounts “associated with” supporters of the Islamic State have shared the link to the Fox News video.
In light of all the cheezy ways to goose Web traffic and the criticism that has fallen on Fox News over the video, the decision to publish the video appears to be a strictly editorial one rather than a play for Web traffic. John Moody, the Fox News executive with suzerainty over FoxNews.com, issued a statement earlier this week explaining the network’s rationale: “After careful consideration, we decided that giving readers of FoxNews.com the option to see for themselves the barbarity of ISIS outweighed legitimate concerns about the graphic nature of the video. Online users can choose to view or not view this disturbing content.” FoxNews.com has not run pre-roll advertising with the Islamic State raw video.
The raw video from the Islamic State plus this news package featuring Fox News correspondent Catherine Herridge accounted for about 50 percent of the video streams on FoxNews.com yesterday, when the site delivered 7.7 million streams. That’s about double the normal volume. All of these figures, again, stem from Omniture metrics provided by Fox News.
Some perspective: The Islamic State video, according to the data, accounted for more streams in a 24-hour period than the month-long tally for a video depicting the Jan. 7 execution of a police officer in the Charlie Hebdo terror attack. The figures raise a question: Are the U.S. media’s decency standards protecting people from things they actually want to see?