A Post-Trump Media Landscape

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Over the past five or so years, the media has shifted its business model to focus on making virtually every story about Donald Trump. From local news stories to every conceivable national scenario, Trump has been the feature.

“How did he influence this?”

“What do Republicans think about this tweet?”

“This is surely the end of the Trump administration!”

Years of this constant barrage. Nonstop. The biggest mainstream outlets – CNN, MSNBC, the Washington Post and the New York Times – as well as conservative outlets like Fox News and OANN have all based their readership, viewership, and clicks off making everything about Trump.

But now, he is on his way out and Joe Biden will be in the White House. The mainstream, left-leaning outlets are already slipping back into old habits, like running features on Biden’s incoming “all-star” administration. They are writing these glowing pieces about how Biden will make things better. All because he is Not Trump. There is no evidence that Biden will make things better, but that’s what the mainstream media believes.

Noted media addiction, Donald Trump.
AP Photo/Evan Vucci

Except… where’s the commercial success in that? They’ve spent four years chasing the Trump headlines and the Trump clicks that a post-Trump media landscape looks an awful lot like a bull market turning into a bear market.

There was a story that floated around for a bit suggesting Trump would run again in four years. If that is Trump’s intention, then he will keep himself in the media and play up the “elder statesman” role. He’ll make sure every news outlet comes to him seeking a quote on every little political issue. He’ll tweet about everything. It will be nonstop.

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And that will probably keep the media going for a bit. They’ll keep their high and their traffic.

But… what if Trump decides to get out of politics? What if he decides to stick to private ventures now that he has his name in the history books, Secret Service detail for life, and can use the fame/notoriety for business deals (self-promotion, speaking gigs, you name it). He doesn’t have to be politically active anymore, and can focus on other things.

What does the media do then?

I don’t think there is any going back from this. The major outlets have gotten this taste of the high traffic life and they won’t give that up. There’s nothing coming up that’s nearly as exciting as Trump was, and that will make things difficult. You’ll see them try to turn the next Republican into the new Trump, but the American people are going to see through that in a heartbeat. It won’t work.

And they won’t learn anything from it, either. The media hasn’t learned from its mistakes over the past four years, and there have been no repercussions for their mistakes. But now that Trump is potentially gone forever, they won’t be able to survive playing by the same rules they used during the last four years.

Can they survive it? I’m not sure.

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