Chasing Clicks, Media Struck By Post-Trump Slump
One year after Trump lost his re-election bid by seven million votes, the media hangover lingers.
“Last year’s cocktail of Donald Trump, a deadly pandemic, the US presidential election and historic racial protests drove a record interest in following the news — propelling cable TV channels, newspapers and other journalistic enterprises to soaring heights of viewership and revenue,” the Financial Times recently noted. “Now, these groups face an equally breathtaking fall back down to earth.”
Call It The Trump Slump, Which Followed The Trump Bump
Between October 2020 and October 2021, according to Nielsen data, CNN ratings were down 73 percent, MSNBC was down 56 percent, and Fox News had fallen 53 percent, according to the Columbia Journalism Review. The same grim statistics can be found for sagging news sites.
At one point in 2019, nearly all of the 50 most popular articles on the Washington Post’s home page were related to politics, vs today where just three of the top 10 are connected to politics, the Wall Street Journal recently reported.
Here’s the fundamental problem: Following Trump’s chaotic and radical presidency, news consumers have changed their behavior, but the press — addicted to the high of the Trump bump — has been slow to adjust. After Biden’s inauguration, many Americans decided they no longer have to monitor the news throughout the day, every day; they don’t have to doom scroll late at night because there is now an adult in the White House.
That has translated into fewer news clicks and viewers. And that’s a good thing. Large chunks of the population should not live in fear of what their out-of-control president will do, and forced to tune into the news out of a sense of daily panic.
The glitch has been that the press doesn’t want to go back to ‘normal’ because the press became addicted to that incessant sense of Trump theater. (Not to mention the lucrative book deals.) Rather than viewing the Trump bump as an anomaly that does not need to be repeated, the press longs for that era’s constant drama.
That’s been the hurdle — Biden is the anti-Trump. He’s a polite, professional, and effective politician. He doesn’t surround himself with sycophants, he doesn’t fire staff at a record pace, he doesn’t get impeached, and there aren’t nonstop leaks about the daily chaos unfolding inside the West Wing. The Beltway press though, suddenly has little patience for a “boring” president.
Reprinted with permission from Press Run