It was the perfect media story: Good versus Evil, frightened civilians hunkering down in a border town besieged by extremist fighters, aerial bombardments easily filmed from the safe vantage point of a nearby hill.
For two weeks beginning in late September, the world was gripped by the dramatic fight for the small Kurdish town of Kobani in northern Syria. Watching the coverage, it seemed this might be a defining battle against Islamic State militants.
And then the coverage all but disappeared — and with it, the conversation on Twitter.
Mash decided to take a look at the social engagement around the the battle for Kobani as it evolved over a two month period.
In the late fall, ISIS militants had moved in on Kobani, capturing nearby villages as local Kurdish forces tried to hold ground. More than 190,000 people fled across the border into Turkey.
As the battle for Kobani got underway, the neighboring town of Suruc became a staging area for international reporters. Sherine Tadros of Sky News dubbed the vantage point "The Hill of Shame" as journalists reported on the war from the relative safety of the hill on the Turkish side of the border.
During the first week of September, there were only about 1,000 tweets containing the term 'Kobani,' according to a Twitter spokesperson who looked at data at Mash's request.
A month later, the number of tweets mentioning 'Kobani' had ballooned to about 1 million tweets.
On Oct. 5, when ISIS militants symbolically claimed territory by planting black flags around the city, reporters and cameramen on the hill had a perfect, unobstructed view.
Twitter went crazy that week with the highest volume of tweets mentioning Kobani occurring on Oct. 5 and Oct. 6.
Islamic State raises flag in eastern Kobani, but Kurds say town has not fallen: http://t.co/fMsn2Vm4eC pic.twitter.com/gsiWTiLGdQ— Reuters Top News (@Reuters) October 6, 2014
As the month went on, the numbers continued to dwindle.
This data visualizations shows the waning conversation around Kobani on Twitter from October 24 through November 24. As time went on, the volume of tweets gradually decreased, as seen by the cooling on the map.
Though Kurdish forces and the U.S. military are still battling with ISIS for control of the besieged city, the news cycle has clearly turned to other things. Most Western reporters have left the hillside and the volume of tweets about Kobani now averages about 180,000 per week.
What's next for Kobani?
To date, the U.S.-led coalition has conducted almost 300 airstrikes on ISIS positions in and around Kobani — and the fight is still going on.
Both ISIS militants and Kurdish forces have claimed gains recently, though there are reports that the radicals are losing ground. In early November, an influx of Kurdish Peshmerga forces brought much-needed support to the anti-ISIS side. There are also reports that Western volunteers have also taken up arms alongside Kurdish fighters in the area.
ISIS has "impaled itself on Kobani," said Retired Marine Gen. John Allen, the Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter ISIL, in an interview with the Turkish news outlet Milliyet. "At what point do they decide that it has cost them too much?"
Tags: BATTLE, ISIS, ISLAMIC STATE, KOBANI, KURDS, PESHMERGA, SYRIA, US & World, WORLD