Donald Trump’s mastery over the media is so acute that when he boycotted the Fox News Republican debate on January 28, Fox was the one that suffered.
The debate had the second smallest audience of the seven primary debates and only around half of what Fox scored with its first debate in August.
Trump had boasted that the event would be a “total disaster” when he withdrew after a spat with a Fox news anchor called Megan Kelly.
That wasn’t entirely true. It was still the most watched program on prime time, according to Nielsen data.
But it did suffer from Trump’s absence. Janet Guyon, former editor-in-chief of TheStreet, has said in an op-ed on Quartz that lower ratings will likely translate to lower revenue for Fox.
She said that when she was at TheStreet.com, she noticed Trump would spike in Google searches, even when stories about him contained nothing new.
“Traffic to stories about Trump, even if they contained no substantive new information or a comment from the candidate himself, was running some 10 times higher than that of any other candidate,” Guyon said.
Gunyon pointed out that if a website earns $20 for a thousand page views, it can make $20,000 on the page views of a story about Trump, compared to $2000 on a story about other candidates.
The story generates more page views, which menas that it also appears higher in Google's search rankings, and gets clicked on even more.
It’s part of a cycle whereby news outlets write more about Trump because they make more money out of Trump, but they make more money out of Trump because more people are writing about him.
Trump laid out his media strategy nearly 30 years ago in his 1987 business memoir, Trump: The Art of the Deal.
But it is perfectly suited to the present.
“One thing I've learned about the press is that they're always hungry for a good story, and the more sensational the better … If you are a little different, or a little outrageous, or if you do things that are bold or controversial, the press is going to write about you,” he wrote.
The press might be hungry for a good story, but most digital outlets are hungrier still for traffic.
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