In the weeks and months leading up to election day, media organizations pondered the possibilities of life after President Donald Trump and what that means for traffic and subscription rates.
Unsurprisingly, the publisher website traffic and cable viewer numbers were noticeable this week. The Guardian recorded the highest ever digital traffic on November 4th, reaching more than 190 million page views and 52.9 million unique browsers in a 24-hour period worldwide. CNN Digital also broke records that day, when 116 million unique visitors logged on to the site. The Washington Post had “the highest number of page views in history, over 40%”.
For the Washington Post, this traffic resulted in a “surge” in subscribers. This was all the result of years of effort to create a framework for the subscriber base to grow and maintain, said Miki King, chief marketing officer. Bloomberg Media also saw subscriber gains last week. On the local news, digital subscriptions to The Philadelphia Inquirer rose 83%.
“The Trump Bump” refers to a surge in news interest early in the president’s tenure. These spikes in web traffic and viewership have tended to be triggered by the recent presidential controversy, whether trivial or trivial. Some publishers claim the Trump bump was short-lived. But for most, the breathless coverage of the president has become addicting the digital publishing business. At this point in time, the expected end of the Trump era appears to be ahead of us. And publishers feel they are at risk of losing extreme reader interest.
Push readers beyond politics
The New York Times now has 7 million subscribers. For the first time, the company generates more sales with digital subscribers than with print (this is a statement of the macroeconomic downward trend in print subscriptions) The Times doesn’t rely on a single story or topic to fuel its growth, said CEO Meredith Kopit Levien. “In fact, the breadth of our core news report is both a differentiator and a driver of our business,” she said in her earnings call for the third quarter of this week.
Every additional topic someone deals with in The Times increases the likelihood of a subscription by 50%, according to the publisher. And it’s not just politics that people read: around 80% of readers go beyond politics to read different topics every week. The popular gaming and cooking properties have a combined 1.4 million subscribers. The Times will continue to invest in additional revenue streams such as partner sites like Wirecutter. It also relies on audio as the company was strengthened with the acquisition of the subscription audio app Audm in March this year.
Still, under a Biden government, investors expect subscription growth to collapse.
“If [Trump] is no longer president, that bump will fade, ”said independent media analyst Alex DeGroote. “The post-Trump world may feel very boring, and this can affect message consumption.”
Without an antagonist, those titles that oppose the president may lose subscribers who paid as a political act of support. When Trump is out of office, it can have an impact on a media organization like CNN’s identity and purpose. It’s all about this “symbiotic relationship”.
However, it is unlikely that Trump and interest in what he said will go away. It’s possible Twitter is cracking down on its salty tweets. The media then face another existential dilemma as to how much oxygen Trump’s words should give.
Offers can be dangerous
In the US, election campaigning in recent months has saved post-pandemic traffic exhaustion, said James Henderson, CEO of Zephr, which is helping publishers attract subscribers. The traffic and with it the fluctuations in the number of participants will reach a plateau in the next few months.