You can only hit the rage button so many times. And then the rats will no longer stir from their cages.
The New York Times’ stock price tripled after Trump won outperforming the S&P 500 by six times. In the week after his victory, it added 41,000 subscribers. The paper went from an $8 million loss to a $13 million profit. Much of the growth was driven by the paper’s stream of exclusives targeting Trump.
But there are signs this year that the media’s free Trump ride is over. In November, the Times shocked investors with the news that ad revenues had fallen over 6%. In early trading, its stock was down 9%. While there’s still plenty of money coming in, turbulence is growing and growth is becoming more uncertain. And, more significantly, the New York Times has been losing the engagement battle.
In May, the New York Times fell out of the top three, displaced by the Daily Mail. By November, it had fallen to seventh place. Its Facebook growth fell from 25% in 2017 to 3.5%. Its Twitter follower growth also dropped from 50% annually to only 5%. Another way to see the 1619 Project is as a desperate bid for relevance and traffic even as the appeal of Trump Derangement Syndrome continues to crater.
The TDS crash was even more obvious on cable news where CNN closed the year with a 9% decline in viewers and MSNBC suffered a 3% drop. Numbers like these foreshadow a much bigger collapse.
National newspapers and cable news had been using Trump Derangement Syndrome to stave off the inevitable decline in their industry. And it worked. A handful of outlets grew and went on hiring binges even while their local and digital cousins held mass purges, shut down, or cut everything to the bone.
But everything has to end sooner or later.
Trump Derangement Syndrome is burning out the core audiences that made the media profitable. The Impeachment Eve rallies failed miserably with turnouts in the hundreds in Boston, Chicago, and Philadelphia. A month later, turnout at the Women’s March had declined from the hundreds of thousands to the thousands. Even as impeachment was underway, the audience wasn’t there.