Jan 26, 2021 - Politics & Policy

The week the Trump show ended

Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

Donald Trump was eclipsed in media attention last week by President Biden for the first time since Trump took office, according to viewership data on the internet, on social media and on cable news.

Why it matters: After Trump crowded out nearly every other news figure and topic for five years, momentum of the new administration took hold last week and the former president retreated, partly by choice and partly by being forced off the big platforms.

  • Stories about Biden generated 36 million more interactions (likes, comments, shares) on social media than Trump last week, according to exclusive data from NewsWhip. During the campaign, Biden was never within 18 million interactions of Trump.
  • Last week was the first time Biden had more cable news mentions than Trump, according to the Internet Archive Television News Archive. He also drew bigger ratings for his inauguration than Trump did four years ago.
  • Biden has been mentioned more on social media than Trump since Jan. 20, according to data from Keyhole. Over the last three months, Trump was mentioned twice as much.
  • From the week prior, page views for Trump content on five major news sites (WSJ, NYT, USA Today, Reuters, Politico) dropped 35% during the week of inauguration, while views for Biden content increased 2.5x, according to data provided to Axios by SimilarWeb.

The big picture: The Trump show has wound down because he stopped being president, but also because he was banned from major social media platforms.

  • Trump's dormant Twitter, Facebook and Instagram accounts have turned off his stream of consciousness — and the ensuing reaction — for the first time in years.
  • He hasn't been angling for alternative ways to get his message out. With the exception of a departure-day rally before flying to Florida on Jan. 20, Trump has neither jumped on the airwaves nor put out messages through surrogates.
  • He did, however, announce the opening of the "Office of the Former President" on Monday, declaring in a statement that the office would "carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration through advocacy, organizing, and public activism."

Flashback: It became clear during the final days of the campaign that Biden was starting to pull more attention from Trump, not just online but also on television.

  • In October, Biden not only crushed Trump in ratings on the night of their competing town halls, but was also a bigger draw for an earlier pairing of network town halls.
  • Biden's speech at the Democratic National Convention pulled a larger audience than Trump's at the Republican National Convention, as did his speech on Inauguration Day.

Between the lines: Inauguration Day was the inflection point in the country's attention budget. Trump ranked higher in Google searches, social media attention and cable news mentions every recent day before Jan. 20, and Biden has had more on every day since.

What's next: Biden is making a splash in his first days by rolling out executive orders — many of them reversals of Trump policies — and planting a flag on proposed legislation while Trump lays low.

  • But past behavior indicates that Trump can only go so long without stirring up controversy, while Biden will tend toward predictability and consensus.

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