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…