Trump success due to changing news media needs

28 April 2016

The success of Donald Trump is not as surprising as many people believe purely because of the changing needs of the news media.

The amount of time media spokespeople have to make their points continues to reduce as the public are flooded with information from a huge variety of sources.

This is where Trump comes into his own. He may lack any policy detail, but he’s the master of the 7 second sound bite, and that’s all he gets in the modern world. Take the recent debates as an example. With 11 candidates on stage, no-one got a chance to go into any policy detail. That meant that those with the most interesting sound bites dominated the media attention. I don’t need to tell you who that was. The same thing applies in New Zealand with debates involving all political party leaders.

It’s not only this point that plays into Trump’s hands. In the modern world, traditional news media outlets need to be highly selective about what they provide their audiences. Outlets need to provide people with what they want so readers will click on their website stories to satisfy advertisers. This is often referred to as click bait.

What it means is that stories and their headlines must often have an element of entertainment as well as information to compete.  

This is where Trump comes in again. His sound bites provide this entertainment and Americans love it, read it, and many agree with what he says. But what they don’t seem to worry about is the detail, or lack of detail, behind it. That means he gets all the media attention and his more mundane competitors are almost shut out, unless Trump is attacking them.

What will this mean if he is the Republican nominee?

Trump will find it harder in one-on-one debates, probably against Hillary Clinton. In this environment, he will need to back up his popular sound bites. For example, he will have to say how he will keep Muslims out, and how he will build his wall.

Just today we’ve seen some evidence of how he may struggle. In his speech on Foreign Policy, he said very little and has been criticised by many for the confusing nature of his doctrine.

However, his ability to talk in interesting sound bites will keep him in the news. It’s also likely that many won’t be interested in his policies. They will like him because he’s not a professional politician, they hate political correctness and see him as their answer to all of their fears, whether they be terrorism or their own futures.

Time will tell.

For more on my media training, contact or 029 200 8555.

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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