The media has an ideological agenda. But it also has an economic one.
That’s a point I’ve made repeatedly. The media is wrecking this country, not only for power, but for profits. It’s gone to war to censor social media, it’s pushed various fake Trump scandals, including the Mueller myth, to cash in on lefties in an age of tottering media empires.
The New York Times hit piece on the Comey memo earned the paper its most concurrent readers per second. Pretty good for a piece about a piece of paper that the leftist paper had never even seen and which was, supposedly, described to it by one of Comey’s associates.
But that didn’t stop it from racking up over 6 million views.
The Washington Post has racked up viral hit fake news stories backed by anonymous sources. And it’s paying off. The Post claimed a traffic increase of 50% at the end of last year with a 75% increase in new subscribers. The official line is that Jeff Bezos has transformed the _Post_’s digital strategy. The reality was conveyed by its new anti-Trump slogan. “Democracy dies in darkness.” The silly slogan was an exercise in branding. It announced that this was the paper of choice for “researched” attacks on Trump.
Now the Post has hit $100 million in digital revenues and added hundreds of thousands of digital subscribers. All of this is quite a change from a few years ago when the Post was losing $50 million a year and Baron was talking about shrinking the newsroom.
Here’s the same essential idea coming out of the media’s own house at the Nieman Lab.
Since Trump’s election, these news outlets have devoted vast resources to make news about the administration. The resulting coverage has been mostly negative. The economic outcomes for the leading media, however, has been quite positive — at least in some cases. The New York Times Co., for instance, has seen its stock price triple since November 8, 2016, from $11.10 to $33.07 today. That’s almost six times the performance of the S&P 500 during the same period.
But what about the media’s political, not economic, power? What might a re-election of Donald Trump say about the limits of journalistic organizations to influence public opinion in the contemporary polity?
Finally, what about media theory? What would this scenario say about the vitality of notions such as the power of the media to set the agenda,
Yes, what might it say about that?
The media’s power to set the agenda is important. But setting the agenda is not the same thing as winning the argument. And the media’s own greed for clicks and eyeballs made it possible for Trump to troll it, and use it to set his own agenda instead.
Media power is still crucial. The media’s framing of narratives is why conservatives have lost so many battles. But when it turns into a two-way fight, when there’s real resistance, then the media’s power can prove woefully inadequate when it’s tilted against people’s interests.