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Bezos beats Branson in space billionaires' battle for attention

Jeff Bezos' flight into space generated more interest from the public than Richard Branson's, and both billionaires overshadowed their respective space companies.

Why it matters: Data shows an outsized public interest in the personalities at the center of the space trips, compared to the companies behind them — which could reinforce public suspicion that the ventures were partly vanity plays.

The big picture: Branson's launch happened first, and Virgin Galactic put together a slick livestream stuffed with celebrity cameos. But the world's richest man still commanded more attention a few days later.

  • Bezos' launch-day Google searches were 38% higher than Branson's and generated 19% more mentions on social media, according to data from Keyhole.
  • There were nearly twice as many stories written about Bezos around his launch compared to Branson nine days earlier, according to NewsWhip data.

By the numbers: Branson and Bezos both put themselves at the center of commercial space tourism this month, and the moguls themselves — not their space companies — held most of the public's attention.

  • For Tuesday's event, Google searches about Jeff Bezos were nearly twice as high as searches for Blue Origin, according to Google Trends.
  • Interest in Virgin Galactic was a little more even — there were 35% more searches for Richard Branson than his company.
  • Stories published online about Blue Origin that did not highlight Bezos generated 2.5x less engagement on average than those that did, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip.
  • Virgin Galactic stories not centered on Richard Branson got nearly half the engagement as those that were.

Between the lines: Famous billionaires may bring in more attention, but much of that reaction — particularly to Bezos — was scornful.

  • Bezos' comments that Amazon employees and customers "paid for all of this," and the ensuing backlash, were among the launch-related stories with the most social interactions, according to NewsWhip data.
  • Another top headline: "Jeff Bezos Takes Spaceflight. 165k People Sign Petition To Keep Him There."

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