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The Trump bump

Written By: - Date published: 9:30 am, February 19th, 2017 - 27 comments
Categories: blogs, International, Media, The Standard, us politics - Tags: , ,

This week’s Economist has an interesting observation based on the following.

DONALD TRUMP calls it the “failing” New York Times in his tweets, but his presidency has breathed new life into the newspaper and other mainstream media outlets. The New York Times,the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal have all received boosts in subscriptions and page views; cable news networks, such as CNN and the Fox News Channel, are getting huge increases in viewers at a time when most other channels are losing them; and even the long-suffering stocks of newspaper companies are rallying. Since the election shares in the New York Times Co have risen by 42%, outperforming even the mighty Goldman Sachs.

Why the boost? The unprecedented nature of political events has kept American eyeballs glued to pages and screens. The pace of change, especially since the election, compels Mr Trump’s fans and foes alike to stay abreast of developments. Many do so using Twitter (see article). But many others seem to want the kind of analysis that established groups provide. Mr Trump’s bashing of certain outlets also may have encouraged some to subscribe or watch in defiance.

The converse is probably also true. I’m pretty sure that we’re seeing a Trump dump on the blogs.  Here, page views have been down relative to last year, and as ‘autonomouse’ points out in comments, the February comments have been sluggish. Unlike ‘autonomouse’ (his current handle), I think it is unlikely to be moderation – that looks to me to more a conclusion derived from a personal myopia than the reality of how the site operates.

After nearly 10 years here I can almost feel what is driving readers and commenters. The problem is that the stats over any summer period are erratic. I know that February 2016 was unusually high, and that summer months before an election are always low. But outside of that I suspect that the weather and how boring the rest of the news and holiday are/were determines far more than anything else.

This year, I think that the established overseas channels are doing a crazily good job of covering the debacle that is the Trump White House. There is so damn much of it, they are so good at covering it all, and for us – little of it is directly related to NZ. And we’re largely a NZ orientated political site.

I know that I’m reading more overseas news than I have ever done in the past. Before I get out of bed in the morning, I suck down the political news off BBC World, NYT, Guardian, and a bit of HuffPost mostly looking at the US, brexit and a scan through Europe where there are several elections comiong up. Then I do a brief look over NZ Herald and Stuff for anything of local interest. This is a reversal of my usual reading pattern. That same thing  happens in my Facebook pages with the most interesting articles being articles about the chaos of Trump. Obviously I am not the only one who has started paying NYT.

The Trump bump has been most pronounced at the New York Times. It managed to sign up more than half a million digital subscribers last year—including 276,000 in the fourth quarter alone, mostly after the election. It now has 3m subscribers in total, including about 1.7m digital-only subscriptions. By one measure traffic to its site is nearly a third higher than a year ago. A never-ending flow of big stories helps. “In the evening you put the non-Trump pages to bed so you can focus on the late-breaking Trump news,” says Mark Thompson, its chief executive.

The interesting observation… Well this is what attracted my attention.

The recent Trump-led media resurgence is ironic, for the decline of newspapers probably benefited Mr Trump. People have increasingly looked to free, less reliable sources of information on the internet, including social media such as Twitter and Facebook, where Mr Trump is in his element. He proved adept at campaigning amid a confusing mire of fact, fiction and demagoguery.

How long can the Trump bump last? In a call last month Mr Thompson told analysts that it will endure as long as the administration continues “to be creating news and controversy”. Judging as a former journalist himself, he said, he suspected that would take many months, and “possibly years”. Media moguls certainly hope so.

Fortunately I suspect that our local election will start pulling back local interest. Hell, even I might start getting interested in it…

27 comments on “The Trump bump ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Interesting observations lprent. I must admit that twitter is my go to for news and it is so goddamned busy right now …

    Some of the heat caused by internal disagreement over who should be POTUS has probably not helped although I just had a quick look at TDB page reads and Bomber is struggling.

    Locally National is clearly in shut down any points of disagreement mode. I suspect they will want to make this election as boring as possible.

  2. Ad 2

    National knows that a low turnout favours a fourth National government in succession. Sometimes silence paves a golden road to power.

    The test is all on our collective Opposition to ignite the public to get out and vote. Both Labour and the Greens look more coherent and better led than the Democrat opposition right now.

    But English is never going to be tarred with Trump policies or politics. I see the Trump phenomenon assisting English.

  3. Poission 3

    Locally concomitant NZ had the Kaikoura event.

    Between 1-2 am on a monday morning Geonet was getting 36000 page requests per second (and it stood up well)

    the opening of live blogs on RNZ and stuff for these and subsequent events became live time reporting ,rather then repeat echochambers such as blogs or poor quality tv reporting.

    • lprent 3.1

      For breaking news, then blogs are pretty useless. They usually aren’t on the ground and are poorly staffed to collecting news.

      What they are strong at is opinion.

  4. Autonomouse 4

    So you believe that my opinion was derived from shortsightedness on my part. It’s telling that you’re so quick to discount the possibility without so much as the slightest acknowledgement or consideration that the banning of what were formerly regular commenters (and generators of much debate thereafter) such as TRP, Goremless Fool Known as Ole Biscuit Barrel, Lanthide, CV, Pat, Paul, Chris73, One Two, Puckish Rogue, The Lost Sheep etc etc (they’re the ones of the top of my head, I’m sure there’s plenty more but I’ve got a bit of a red wine hangover), could possibly have an impact on the number of comments being posted & the associated readership of TS. Surely it’s a reasonable hypothesis that the two could be related without labeling one as shortsighted.

    Some of them had to go, and that’s not the issue, I’m not arguing that, I was just providing a response to a comment by Andrew as to why I thought that the comments section was becoming increasingly depleted, and I made this comment as someone that has probably spent more time than most reading TS for many years.

    Has TS replenished their stocks with new commentators to replace the now departed? Looks to me to be same old same old (minus a heap).

    So nope, apparently it’s all Trumps fault (best thing TS ever did was creating the Trump specific page each day to save the rest of us from Trump overload).

    And not sure as to why you have referred to Autonomouse being my “current handle” as I have no other & I’m not some banned poster in disguise, I’m just an avid reader (not commentator) that enjoys the entertainment value of robust political debate that only TS offered.

    Shoot the theory, not the messenger (that’s traditionally OAB’s job, dont stoop to his level).

    Right, it’s not raining for a change so I’m off to the St Clair Salt Water Pool with the kids ……………

    • Ad 4.1

      More telling that one of the first times you comment is to complain about the quality of commentary and then fuck off to the beach.

      Like standing in a march of a million people and crying out loud: “What can one person do anyway?”

    • red-blooded 4.2

      Autonomouse, I agree that the commenters you’ve listed above used to provoke a lot of argument on TS. A lot of it was drivel and personal abuse, though, and there were many many many second and third chances. It was almost impossible to comment on many issues without one of these folk going in for the attack.

      I guess I’m making a distinction between robust political debate and personal abuse.

      • garibaldi 4.2.1

        I dunno. I get the feeling that the triumph of Trump has bamboozled the left big time. His nomination and his campaign were considered a joke, and they all predicted a comfortable win for Clinton. They couldn’t grasp the fact that Clinton was not wanted… full stop. They couldn’t even read the electorate! Combine that with the realization of how compromised the Dems have become through what is obviously deeply ingrained corruption and we now witness the demoralisation of the left in the States.
        Most of us on the Left know the planet faces far greater problems than Donald Trump, but perhaps the realisation that the problem has probably worsened because of what looks like the march of fascism has numbed many and we are now doomed earlier than we had perhaps hoped ( I say ‘perhaps hoped’ in the knowledge that it is too late anyway). A bit sobering really and makes one reluctant to just come on sites like this and add comments to what is basically people just busy rearranging the deck chairs as the ship goes down.
        The world needs urgent attention to CC by all Nations NOW. To hell with everything else going on in the world, it is just accelerating our demise. Bread and circuses.

        • Ad

          The global left as a set of political movements have been in decline for a long time before Clinton was defeated or Trump triumphed.

          In Europe:


          And of course in the United States the successive rollbacks of governorships, Senate and Congress majorities, even major city majorities, are well documented under Obama’s two terms.

          Climate change doesn’t change governments.
          What the left need to get to grips with on their own terms is: immigration.

        • In Vino

          Trump’s version of bread and circuses trumps all other considerations. You are right, Garibaldi, but the Trojans failed to listen to either Laocoon or Cassandra…

    • Incognito 4.3

      I tend to agree with your hypothesis that the absence of certain commenters here has resulted in a change in quality (up IMO) and numbers (down) of comments in OM. But there are other factors at play as well as has been pointed out.

      Scrolling through the large number of increasingly inane comments in OM was often like wading through very heavy smelly mud, especially late at night after a long busy day. In the end my eye was only caught by warnings and bans by TS ‘management’. Fortunately, it is somewhat different now.

      I like to think there still are good discussions taking place here – not sure whether I’d classify it as “robust political debate” – but new insights or views are (always) more than welcome IMO.

      • Carolyn_nth 4.3.1

        Yep. I agree, I prefer a smaller number of quality comments that a lot of endless repeats of polarised debate points.

    • lprent 4.4

      Nope. Clearly you didn’t read anything I wrote.

      What I said was that page views, numbers of comments, the density of comments, numbers of posts, and just about every other metric that I look at over the 9.5 years of history goes up and down. Depends on what is happening in politics locally and worldwide, what happens with authors (which affects the site far more strongly than anything else), technical issues (like the search – which chops a lot of google traffic) , and even how much rain /sunshine we are having.

      Levels of moderation seldom change the volume of comment when looked at as words or characters when taken over a 3-6 month period, It will usually decrease the numbers of two line comments. What increased moderation and banning usually do is to increase the density of opinion on the site, increase the quality of the comments, and encourages more people to comment. To put it bluntly, we get less slogans, fewer repetitive dick-waving and more thinking.

      Looking at a two week period in the most historically volatile period of the year at the most volatile period of the electoral cycle on a single simple measure simply isn’t how I look at it. I offered what I considered to be a far more likely explanation for your observation.

      Basically, I think that you simply figured out a possible explanation based less on observation and more on what you would like to happen. However you don’t run the site.

  5. Incognito 5

    I have to confess that I reached my saturation point with the US Presidential Election quite early on and my Trump fatigue has set in bigly.

    Is the “Trump bump” driven by a renewed or increased interest in politics or is it mainly entertainment for the people with a healthy [sarc] dose of FOMO, a bit of ‘rubbernecking’, and sensationalistic voyeurism thrown in? Bring back Kim K!

    The gravitational pull of the Trump phenomenon is like that of a black hole; beyond the event horizon an outside observer cannot detect any light (i.e. information) and once inside it the hapless observer can no longer escape (i.e. compromised).

  6. red-blooded 6

    I think that in a way, we’re probably experiencing the opposite of the Trump Bump here. The exit of Key has had a dampening effect. The man is an arsehole, but he was also a show pony PM. Bill English is tedious, tiresome, and predictable. He doesn’t often commit to an actual opinion and his comments are bland to the point of emptiness. He hasn’t announced any meaningful new policy (presumably saving it up for the election). What’s to say? It’s not like any of his actions or comments surprise us.

    Labour and the Greens will need everyone’s support this year. I guess I would ask people to support and promote their own choice of party but not to denigrate or seek to damage the other. We don’t do anyone on the left any favours when we tear each other apart.

    On the international stage, Trump is appalling, but I think we all know that by now. His avid defenders of last year seem to have evaporated, meaning less to-and-fro argument. His awfulness will continue to offend and to wreak havoc in the US and there will certainly be international ramifications. All of this is worth discussion and I hope it does continue to be discussed, but as you say in the post Lprent, it is being discussed everywhere, not just here at TS.

    • simbit 6.1

      I thought John Key was appalling. Trumpian policies are (so far) tempered by the judiciary and (perhaps) Congress. I prefer the US system to NZs ‘she’ll be right’ approach to power. For what it’s worth I have just emigrated to Canada and am having to get to grips with new cultural-politico system. I also need to follow US politics more carefully than most posters as it will have a more immediate impact on our lives here.

      • greywarshark 6.1.1

        Has TS replenished their stocks with new commentators to replace the now departed? Looks to me to be same old same old (minus a heap).

        TS does not purchase its commenters. The people who are valuable to the blog usually have some strong political views about what constitutes quality in politics not just commenting for novelty and circus-watching. The ones who persist have a real commitment to achieving a better democracy and retaining the modern civilised achievements we have gained.

    • Carolyn_nth 6.2

      I’ve already partially switched off from the daily Trump circus. I’ll attend more fully when there’s a noticeable shift, a new policy with international impacts, or something more than Trump yet again blowing smoke out of an orifice.

  7. Glenn 7

    Trump kicked off his campaign today at Melbourne Florida in a huuuge airport hanger with a huuuge crowd both inside and outside the hanger according to him.

    “Asked by reporters aboard Air Force One if a campaign rally was too early, Trump said that “life is a campaign” and that making America great again is a campaign. He added that “it’s not easy, especially when we’re also fighting the press and the media.”

    Judging by the banners and signs he’s already in gearing up for the 2020 election.

    The whole 3 hours is here

    I watched the last bit live during lunch and found it rather concerning. Making America safe again by having a bigger and stronger police force helped by Homeland Security and other Justice and security organisations and strengthening and enlarging the military into a bigger and better fighting force. Also spending more on the veterans so that when they come home they will have the best of care.
    According to him both the police and the military are his greatest supporters.

    Evidently he will be bringing out something either next week or the week after that will bring back the ban and he read out a law he says that gives him complete power on stopping whoever he wants from entering the US if he thinks they could affect the safety of the US.

  8. Keith 8

    I definitely don’t think we have a resurgent corporate media here and I think The NZ Herald is sliding into oblivion being all the worse for its association with the uber right wing ignoramus Newstalk ZB. Similarly Mediaworks is just awful and TVNZ have morphed into a social magazine. And although some are obsessed with the US President most realise him to be little more than a media sideshow AT this time.

    To me The Standard more than anything now clearly represents the narrow spectrum of academic social liberal NZ and as i read somewhere else the kind of people largely untouched by Nationals destructive government and who are indifferent to voting them out. The anti police sentiment is just one example of the liberal academic taint to TS.

    But nowhere was any of this better demonstrated than the Poto Williams debacle. It was as obvious as dogs balls that plenty here were comfortable with another 3 years of National than anything resembling pragmatism to get rid of these corrupt self serving pricks. That and the blanket bans for different opinions and you slowly tune out.

    • lprent 8.1

      If you read the Economist article, you will note that they point to a pretty small number of media outlets benefiting while stating that others were not benefiting.

      I doubt that it has made that much of an impact on the local media – maybe decreased it a bit faster as people seek news from the net.

  9. Paul Campbell 9

    Remember when a journalist says that Trump isn’t telling the truth it’s really code for “the emperor has no clothes”

  10. I think this fits under this post

    The article title is

    “What you need to know about the enemies of the American people the president warned you about”

    …One young enemy of the people buried his mother and his father in a six-month span. Four have cancer, that I know of. One had been an enemy of the people for more than three decades when doctors found an egg-sized tumor in his brain, and now he has a surgical scar over his left ear that looks like a question mark…


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