Media: If Trump Loses, We're Dead

A longwinded version of what I wrote in 2017 in The Big Money Behind Fake News.

The New York Times desperately needed high growth in digital subscription to compensate for its cratering print subs. To survive, the Times had to find a quarter of a million new subscribers every quarter. It actually improved on those numbers. That amounted to a $13 million profit taking it from an $8 million loss. It added 41,000 subscriptions alone in the week after President Trump’s victory.

Those are the hard numbers that drive the media’s fake news machine and help the _Times_’ college dropout editor Dean Baquet keep his cushy salary. It’s not just left-wing politics. It’s media greed.

Trump is the media’s golden goose. The media is making a fortune trying to kill him. Even as it knows that the fortune will vanish in a moment if its fake news echo chamber of innuendo actually got its way. 

Later that year, President Trump observed, "Without me, The New York Times will indeed be not the failing New York Times, but the failed New York Times. So they basically have to let me win. And eventually, probably six months before the election, they’ll be loving me because they’re saying, ‘Please, please, don’t lose Donald Trump.’ O.K.”

Last year, the paper's former editor admitted that was the case.

Abramson describes a generational split at the Times, with younger staffers, many of them in digital jobs, favoring an unrestrained assault on the presidency. “The more ‘woke’ staff thought that urgent times called for urgent measures; the dangers of Trump’s presidency obviated the old standards,” she writes.

"Given its mostly liberal audience, there was an implicit financial reward for the Times in running lots of Trump stories, almost all of them negative: they drove big traffic numbers and, despite the blip of cancellations after the election, inflated subscription orders to levels no one anticipated.”

Now the siren song of panic is coming from deeper in the media.

The ad offered an example of a key media lesson of the past four years: Redefining yourself for the Trump era makes for good business. Ask the Times, CNN, MSNBC, or the Washington Post.

Now, media companies are staring down a different kind of truth. Coronavirus is raging, the country’s economic picture looks bleak, and the president seems poised for defeat in November (or whenever they finish counting the votes). The Trump moment — a boon for TV ratings, web traffic, video views, retweets, and for a sense of journalistic purpose — could be coming to a close at a perilous time in the media business. The advertising market has been crushed, with layoffs, furloughs and cutbacks felt across the industry.

Save us, Donald. You're our only hope.

For news publishers, the Trump circus provided not only a steady stream of content and a target for important investigative reporting, but a fresh enticement to lure in consumers to their paid products...

“I don’t think it was any more complicated than that Trump was good for ratings,” said another former CNN executive who requested anonymity. That of course raises the question whether the end of the Trump era would present, for CNN and perhaps all of cable news, a crisis both in ratings and identity. “Make no mistake, it’s a symbiotic relationship. The dramatic rise and relevance of CNN for better or worse is tied to Donald Trump,” the former executive said...

The dieback is already here.

t’s only been a few years, for example, since the wild early days of the administration helped propel an increasing number of “contributors” to CNN and MSNBC, who offered tens of thousands of dollars or more to lock up media types for “exclusive” deals to speak on their airwaves.

But according to people familiar with the matter, MSNBC/NBC News has recently sought to change its contract structure toward paying contributors per appearance, instead of through blanket deals (an NBC spokesperson declined to comment). Those in the TV world have read that change to mean the era of juicy panel gigs and rosters full of various Russia experts has come to a close.

Another Trump term is their only hope. Just ask guys like Michael Moore, who spent 8 years in the political wilderness during the Obama years, or any major media outlet.

Without the Trump clickbait, the New York Times and, even more so, the Washington Post, will be in big trouble. Imagine a world in which Jennifer Rubin and Michelle Goldberg squealing hatefully no longer leads to hundreds of thousands of clicks?


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