How Donald Trump Broke the Media

  • 2016-03-10
  • The Conversation

After Super Tuesday, print and broadcast media have woken up to the very real possibility of President Donald J. Trump.

But they can’t seem to understand that their own decline is a major reason for his success. Win or lose, Trump has changed the face of media and politics alike. It’s a simple formula: new media + reality TV = new media reality.

In the United States, 88 percent of the population can get online. For the first time, there is a universal national medium that is interactive. In 2008, new media analyst Clay Shirky borrowed a phrase from James Joyce to describe what’s happening: “Here comes everybody.” In 2016, we might say: “Here comes Trump’s new media reality.”

We watch TV. We go online. It’s the difference between passive and active that makes new media so disruptive, to use the favorite Silicon Valley word. And the results are, in this case, really transformative.

Trump gets it. He destroyed Jeb Bush in two words: “low energy.” Why waste huge sums on 30-second TV ads when you can knock out a candidate in 140 characters sent immediately to over six million of your best friends? Six million is both Trump’s Twitter following and his number of Facebook “likes.”