According to reporting from Axios, media companies have discovered that President Trump isn’t driving traffic the way he used to and it’s hurting their profitability.
Digital demand for Trump-related content (number of article views compared to number of articles written) has dropped 29% between the first 6 months of the Trump presidency and the most recent 6 months, according to data from traffic analytics company Parse.ly.
Evidence that Trump’s social media star power was also beginning to wear off surfaced last month, when Axios reported that his tweets were receiving less than half the engagement that they got when he first took office.
Contrary to the president’s constant insistence that the New York Times is “failing,” the newspaper actually saw a large spike in subscriptions after Trump became president. Apparently, that boon ended in mid-2018 and hasn’t returned. Cable news ratings have been declining since the night Trump was elected, but they’re down more sharply over the last year. They stopped carrying live coverage of Trump’s rallies when those rallies ceased proving any ratings bump.
So far, the Democratic presidential contest hasn’t picked up the slack, and media executives are pessimistic that the upcoming debates will attract large audiences.
From my perspective, writing daily about politics, there’s a definite sense of Trump fatigue. It’s boring to write about the same kind of outrages and behaviors over and over again, and it seems like the verdict is in and we should just vote now rather than waiting another 16 months. I think it must be almost equally enervating to read about these stories over and over again.
Part of this is driven by the backdrop. Since Nancy Pelosi seems determined to have this settled at the ballot box rather than in an impeachment inquiry, that resets expectations for everyone else. There’s not much else to do but watch things wind their way through the courts, and wait. It’s a bit like expecting people to maintain an interest in baseball when spring training lasts a year and a half. We had the excitement of the midterm elections but they didn’t result in the kind of resistance people expected, and there’s just not much to keep the ratings up.
What’s interesting about this is that people are telling pollsters that they’re massively engaged in politics and have an unusually high intention to vote in 2020. They just don’t seem to want to watch this shitstorm anymore, which means they’re tuning out a lot of the day-to-day noise.
I was interested to see on Monday that Fox News veteran Carl Cameron has teamed up with Joseph Romm of Think Progress to found a new media company that is supposed to be the progressive answer to The Drudge Report. The problem they’re trying to address is one that is very noticeable to progressive writers and bloggers.
The concept stems from Romm’s love of Internet metrics. Over 13 years of blogging at ThinkProgress, Romm has tracked the Web prints for his thousands of postings, with a particular focus on traffic sources. Over the years, he has watched as referral engines for his stuff have gone poof. Years ago, the Huffington Post drove good numbers; the modern, rebranded HuffPost doesn’t. Years ago, Yahoo provided helpful aggregation; no more, he says. And when Facebook changed its algorithm in 2018, says Romm, ThinkProgress traffic took a “big hit.”
“Facebook was the equivalent of a programmable aggregator, but they got beat up over and over by the right wing, so they can’t be seen as favoring progressive news,” says Romm.
Something was missing, he concluded. “I came to realize that there were just huge gaps in the progressive infrastructure … There is no progressive content aggregator,” says Romm, who lays out his ideology about Internet influencing in his book, “How to Go Viral and Reach Millions.” “There is no progressive equivalent to the Drudge Report.”
FrontPageLive.com is their answer for this, and I have no idea if they’ll have any success. I hope they do, because conservatives are having a much easier time spreading their comparably terrible content and it gives them a political and financial advantage.
According to the article, Romm was unable to get seed capital for the venture from rich Democrats, which seems like a symptom of the problem he’s trying to address rather than its cause. The left seems to have a lot of faith in meritocratic systems which doesn’t work very well when the other side spends most of its time trying to game the system precisely because they lack this faith. The left will compliment you and say they don’t understand why you don’t have higher readership, but the right will link to you and aggregate your content so that even garbage gets a big audience.
The left treats the media landscape as a marketplace of ideas, while the right treats it as daily battle that must be won. That makes them far better prepared for a political environment like the one we’re in presently, because we’re far more reliant on organic interest. If people don’t come on their own, they’re not coming, because no one is sending them.
If the big Democratic donors don’t get this, maybe the grassroots can do better. People should really share more content with their networks, subscribe to publications and bloggers they value, and do their small part to wage the battle that is going on daily whether the bigwigs realize it or not.