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News Cycles and the Media

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Interesting discussion here about the vast decline in media consumption since the election, from the left to the right.

Web traffic, social media engagement and app user sessions suggest that while the entire news industry is experiencing a slump, right-wing outlets are seeing some of the biggest plunges.

  • A group of far-right outlets, including Newsmax and The Federalist, saw aggregate traffic drop 44% from February through May compared to the previous six months, according to Comscore data.
  • Lefty outlets including Mother Jones and Raw Story saw a 27% drop.
  • Mainstream publishers including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today and Reuters dropped 18%.

App visits tell a similar story. Both right-leaning (including Fox News, Daily Caller) and left-leaning (including Buzzfeed News, The Atlantic) saw considerable average drops in app user sessions over this time period at 31% and 26%, respectively, according to Apptopia data.

  • Data from Sensor Tower shows that downloads of fringe-right social networking apps like MeWe, Rumble, Parler and CloutHub have also plummeted.

Engagement on social media has taken the biggest dive, according to data from NewsWhip.

  • Left-leaning and right-leaning publishers have seen social interactions on stories drop by more than 50%, while mainstream publishers have experienced a slightly more modest drop of 42%.

Here at LGM, we actually peaked during the coup attempt and our readership has slowly dropped since and is now mostly flat, though perhaps still dropping a bit. That makes us no difference than the rest of the media, though with a lower decline.

In some ways, this is a not a bad thing. First, the banning of Trump from social media has been good for the entire nation, helping us ease slightly back toward sanity. That’s clearly driving some of this decline, from all political perspectives. We don’t have to talk about the Orange Satan in Mar-a-Lago every single day. It’s also important to never ever ever ever ever watch cable news of any kind, including MSNBC and CNN. It’s all terrible. I realize some of you are political junkies. Might I recommend changing that to becoming policy junkies where you work on issues not covered by the 24-hour news cycle? I trust you, Maddow is going to have nothing particularly useful to say and Chris Cuomo is really very much going to add nothing, not to mention the many even worse people out there. If you really need some of this, limit your consumption to Chris Hayes (my choice) or whoever else you think is the best at this job. And if anything happens out there on these shows, you can read about it much, much faster. It’s a frequent refrain in comments around these parts that I seem to have inexhaustible energy and perhaps never sleep. This isn’t even true–I slept almost 10 hours last night. The biggest secret to my energy in writing about politics is never ever watching politics. Good for the mind, good for the soul.

That said, one thing we do have to watch for is an overall decline in political engagement. As I state ad nauseum, there are many forms of political engagement and voting is just one of them. This is how we get to the point that registering people to vote is seen as the primary way to make change, despite all evidence to the contrary. It’s a way to make change, but actually getting people to vote your way is what matters, not whether they vote. We are at that moment between election cycles when we need to be heavily focused on issue-based work, pushing the ideas we want to see liberals carry forward, both praising and criticizing Biden when necessary, and doing the long-game work to move all of this forward. We need to mobilize voting for the midterms. One way to do this is to fight to increase political awareness outside of the presidential elections. That doesn’t mean watching CNN 8 hours a day. It does mean engagement in other parts of their lives.

So it probably is good for people’s souls and the nation as a whole that people are consuming less media. On the other hand, Les Moonves is probably counseling his successors heading media orgs that Donald Trump sure would be better for business than this boring non-fascist guy. So we have to be ready for that too. Political engagement can take many forms and we need to embrace the better ones and eschew the worse ones.

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