Paul Graham from Y Combinator fame tweeted a chart recently that showed the percentage of headlines in the New York Times that mentioned the U.S. president historically.
It drills deep into the archive, going back to Woodrow Wilson.
Two things jump out:
–The remarkable consistency for most presidents (cited in 1 to 2 percent of headlines)
–The spike for Trump, who received four to five times as much coverage.
I’ve seen similar ratios – albeit for shorter periods – using technology Bloomberg developed to track the volume of media coverage for companies, people and topics.
The Bloomberg data, which goes back to 1980, shows U.S. presidents were mentioned in about 9 percent of the articles in the New York Times. Trump was cited in about 30 percent.
(The difference in the data sets is that Bloomberg counts all the articles that cite someone like Trump, not just articles where the person is mentioned in the headline.)
What’s interesting about those ratios is that I found the 9 percent ratio is a threshold for leaders in general, from CEOs to presidents and prime ministers.
So for example, Macron in France or Merkel in Germany would be mentioned in about one tenth of the articles of their respective local publications, ie Le Monde in France or Die Welt in Germany.
There were similar ratios for CEOs. Tim Cook would be cited in 9% of the articles about Apple over an extended period.
Obviously, there were outliers. Founders and charismatic, outspoken leaders such as Warren Buffett or Elon Musk tend to be mentioned more often.
Trump, however, was in his own league. Some publications like the Washington Post, which focuses more on politics, routinely mentioned Trump in as many as 40 percent of their articles.
There are a number of reasons Trump was so heavily covered, but undoubtedly one was how and how often he leveraged Twitter.
Media coverage requires two necessary and sufficient conditions: a) the person/event is interesting or significant and b) fresh material. Trump’s tweets provided the kindling for the fire.
This week Elon Musk said that presuming his acquisition of Twitter goes through, he would favor re-instating Trump to the platform.
A Trump return to Twitter might be different this time. He isn’t the president. Also, journalists may elect to cover him less. Or maybe not.