President Donald Trump has a rather unique way of dealing with the news media: He looks on the news media as needing him as much as he needs them.
This tactic goes against everything media trainers (including us!) have preached for years. We have always stressed to our clients how to effectively work together with media outlets in order to get their message out to the public. We note it is important to provide information that the news media will want to use for a win-win situation.
However, Trump, as a successful businessman, seems to look at things from a business perspective. He understands that media conglomerates today operate the same way as Walmart or Exxon. He knows the media needs him for readers/listeners/ eyeballs. That means revenues for their bottom lines.
He knows the media needs him for readers/listeners/eyeballs. They need him as much as he needs them.
In years past journalists were heralded as individuals who worked hard to uncover issues and provide an honest examination of news. Yes, there was a business side to the media, but journalists were above the fray. A threat by a company to “pull its advertising” meant virtually nothing.
That is not the case today.
Literally thousands of high-quality journalists have been purged in the past decade over budget cuts. Reporters with specific beats such as banking, state government, telecommunications and others with intimate knowledge of those areas have been cut loose to improve media outlets’ bottom lines. It’s not a grand calling. It’s just business.
National Public Radio recently listed big digital media companies (LINK) and their myriad of ownerships. Potential conflicts of interest are routine. Verizon owns the Huffington Post which has attacked Trump relentlessly; Walt Disney owns ABC and ESPN; Time Warner owns CNN and TMZ.com; CBS owns book publisher Simon & Shuster. In the newspaper
In the newspaper business Forbes reports that 15 billionaires own America’s media outlets. They own them to make money, not necessarily quality journalism.
With only 6% of the population trusting the news media, according to a recent Associated Press story, Trump’s attacks on the media also resonate with his base. When he attacks CNN for doing “fake news” the network’s bottom line suffers.
As an example, during his recent address to Congress Fox News led all coverage with 10.8 million viewers. CNN came in at a paltry 3.9 million, with MSNBC the lowest among all cable channels at 2.7 million. These numbers means millions of dollars of lost ad revenues.
Yes, reporters hate Trump. Press coverage of him during his first 30 days in office was 88% hostile (Link). But their bosses love the revenues he generates for them.
It will be interesting to see if coverage of President Trump changes over time as media outlets’ bottom lines are impacted.