When the media’s credibility collapsed, the New York Times led the way

Hating Trump drove massive amounts of engagement to previously floundering publications, channels and shows. And individual journalists didn’t need to be told by their bosses to promote Trump’s name: they could see firsthand how their opposition generated likes, retweets and exploding pageviews. With the incentives thus aligned, there was no need to break down the remains of the wall between advertising and editorial. It happened on its own.

The New York Times played a prominent role in the liberal media’s justification for its Trump strategy, pointing out over and over that he was not a ‘normal’ president. When Trump won, liberal media, sequestered in the most left-leaning districts in America, simply could not fathom that many Americans felt that Donald Trump was a better option than Hillary Clinton. So they came up with alternative explanations for his victory.

On November 16 2016, a BuzzFeed report found that in the last three months of the campaign, false news reports had generated more Facebook engagement — over a million more shares, reactions and comments — than the New York Times, Washington Post, the Huffington Post and NBC News combined. It was the perfect story for the liberal news media: it confirmed that those who disagreed with them were not only wrong but stupid, believing all kinds of nonsense. They were less keen to report that two out of three Democrats believed that Russia tampered with vote tallies on election day, something for which there exists no evidence whatsoever…

This was journalistic malpractice, but it was manna from heaven for the bottom line, especially at the New York Times. During the last three months of 2016, the Times added 276,000 digital subscribers: nearly 100,000 up on 2015. In 2017, the paper gained $340 million in online subscriptions: 46 percent up on 2016. Forty-six percent growth is what Facebook boasts, and double Google’s growth rate. In 2019, the Times added more than one million net digital-only subscribers, reaching a total of 5.2 million. Thanks to Trump, the company met its $800-million digital revenue target for 2020 a year early.