Do you ever track the “trending” sidebar on your Facebook news feed? You’ll see a lot of stories: Bartolo Colon joining the Braves, a news reporter reciting the longest official place name in Europe (the Welsh village Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch), or the birth of Siberian Tiger cubs at the Hamburg Zoo. But since June 16, 2015, when he officially announced his run for President, Donald Trump has been trending on my Facebook literally every day. That’s waking up to see his name on Facebook 780 times mornings in a row. And his name has shown up 71 times on this very blog. That’s pretty amazing.
Of course, Trump’s been a high-profile name for a long time. His name has been synonymous with being a “flashy billionaire”. In January 2015, rap group Rae Sremmurd released the song “Up Like Trump”, where they compare their fortune to Trump’s (of course Sremmurd has very little in common with Trump, wealth included). Just five months later, Trump announced that he was running for President in 2016, and he was suddenly taking headlines like he never has before.
I don’t typically care for the New York Times; to say I don’t agree with much of what it writes would be a gross understatement. But I recently read a pretty interesting article about one man who tried to avoid any news related to Donald Trump for a week. Not avoiding news altogether, simply avoiding any news that had to do with Trump. And finding anything Trump-free proved extremely difficult. Even Big Bang Theory creator creator Chuck Lorre has taken to inserting anti-Trump messages in the closing credits of every episode. It reminds me of the book “Donnie Brasco”, written by FBI agent Joe Pistone about his time spent infiltrating the mafia in the 1970s and 80s. In the book, Pistone talks about how many of the mobsters he met were incapable of discussing any topic not related to the mafia or illegal activity. The media right now is just like one of these “24 hour gangsters”, except their constant fixation is Donald Trump.
The firm mediaQuant measures “earned media”, basically all coverage that isn’t paid advertising. To calculate the dollar value, they count every mention of a particular brand or personality online, then estimate how much the mentions would cost if somebody were to pay for them as advertising. In January, Trump broke their records, receiving $817 million in coverage in just one month, nearly $100 million more than the next 1,000 highest-value brands combined.
In the article, the author argues that Trump-related media coverage has eclipsed that of anybody else in history. Think of the coverage for a celebrity or reality show star, such as Kim Kardashian. Think of the coverage a high-profile billionaire businessman like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett gets. And think of the coverage a major world leader gets, such as Barack Obama. Trump is a high-profile celebrity, billionaire businessman, and major world leader, all rolled into one. All presidents are omnipresent, particularly in the digital age. Barack Obama, whose presidency occurred during the rise of the modern social media age, had a strong presence, but that’s paled in comparison to Trump, whose rise to gigastardom has occurred right at the height of social media.