Media

10 Big Media Realities in the Trump Era

New media monopolies, fake news, vampire news and bigger audiences for right-wing, progressive and investigative media, not to mention Twitter.

Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey / Flickr

Editor’s Note: This article is meant to help educate people on the many complexities of the rapidly changing media system—progressive, independent, conservative, and corporate. It is, in a sense, a work in progress because a good part of this article is about web traffic and data is ever changing, and because some websites are more or less accurately counted, e.g., by Quantcast, while other sites do not allow Quantcast to measure them. We only cited reader traffic that was confirmed by an independent source.

The mass media is the center of attention as never before, especially as Donald Trump’s favorite punching bag. Trump bullies the media as no other president has remotely done. (While Richard Nixon was paranoid and hated the media, he didn’t confront it head on.) Trump has called the media the “enemy of the people,” and attacks journalists and media figures by name, with no grace and usually no facts.

Trump mostly aims at what could be called the old media—CNN, the Washington Post, the New York Times, etc. He has repeatedly claimed that the "fake news media doesn't tell the truth." He said reporters should not be allowed to use anonymous sources: "We're going to do something about it." Which is pretty humorous, because Trump has used anonymous sources many times in his campaign and his presidency.

Trump's threat is what an authoritarian figure always tries to do: Silence the media and stop the free flow of information every way he can, and to simultaneously get the media to do the authoritarian’s work for him by covering his chaos, his extreme statements and even his attacks on the media itself.

The media system is now far more complex and multilayered than it was 10 or even five years ago. Today we have a more decentralized, personalized media menu dominated by social media, in which millions of people share their idea of what news and information is important. Carried by ubiquitous mobile devices, eased by thousands of apps to make communications easier and information available in a matter of a few seconds, media has been transformed into an almost unrecognizably complex phenomenon—a wave of top-down media crashing into bottom-up curating, social media pervasiveness, trolls piling on, and fake news sites spinning distractions.

So much of the media has changed, it is hard to keep pace. Much of the nuts and bolts of who is in control and who dominates travels well below the radar of most people. To help us get a firmer grip, here are 10 topics from a wide array of media arenas and themes, which tell us a lot about how the media has changed and hopefully provide new insights for a more up-to-date understanding of how the far-flung media system works in 2017, the era of Trump tweets.

1. The Media Is Still Helping Trump, Compensating for His Inflated Twitter Numbers

Many know about the staggering amount of press Trump got during the presidential campaign because of free media coverage, which the New York Times estimated was worth $2 billion. Trump’s free coverage was much more than the other GOP candidates in the primary, and well over twice of Hillary Clinton’s in the general election.

Of course, this was a symbiotic relationship with television news. The networks rode to record profits with the sky-high ratings that were the result of the public’s fascination with Trump's unpredictable, insult-a-minute, reality-TV-show style campaign. According to the Hollywood Reporter, Leslie Moonves, chairman of CBS, said of the Trump phenomenon: “It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS… The money’s rolling in, and this is fun. It’s a terrible thing to say. But bring it on, Donald. Keep going.”

So, the media helped Trump get elected, and the media is still doing much of Trump’s work for him. Trump uses Twitter, a tool of the new media, to communicate directly to his millions of followers. He claims to have 20 million, though a Forbes report said the 20 million figure is grossly exaggerated. Trump likely has roughly 3 million in actual, real people and businesses with IP addresses. Not a paper tiger, but not a juggernaut either compared to Katy Perry with 96-plus million, or Barack Obama with 85-plus million. (The website Twitter Counter gives Trump 26-plus million, so presumably all of these numbers are inflated.)

Whatever the size of Trump’s audience, the entire media universe pays rapt attention to his tweets. They are treated as direct signals from the unpredictable, reactive Trump psyche. This massive media attention serves Trump very well, because corporate media amplifies Trump’s tweets to potentially larger audiences, much larger than the perhaps 3 million who have direct access to him on their devices.

Think about it: Trump hates the old establishment media. He constantly attacks these outlets using a tool of the new media with tweets. The older media then spreads Trump's new media tweets by repeating them on the air, in newspapers and also by retweeting his missives. So establishment media helped Trump spread the word that they, the media, are "the enemy of the people." That is quite a win-win for Trump.

Which is the more powerful media? Trump’s tweet or the traditional media establishment? So far Trump’s Twitter account, with its 140-character missives, seems to be winning, even as traditional media is trying to push back (as newspapers did to radio in the 1920s, and radio did to television in the 1950s).

2. There Is a New Media Monopoly, but it's Not the One You Think

In the pre-internet days, the progressive analysis was that six corporations controlled 90 percent of the information we read, watch and isten to. Even in 2012, Business Insider was still reporting that six corporations were firmly in control: CBS, Time Warner (CNN), Viacom, Disney (ABC), News Corp (Fox), and Comcast (NBC).

While it is highly unlikely these six corporations ever controlled anything close to the 90 percent figure five years ago, or 20 years ago, they certainly do not today. That’s because at the same time this predictable and superficial analysis was done, huge investments and advancements were made in technology, leading to the domination that social media now has of the news.

There is a massive media monopoly, but it's not the one you may think. A small group of companies took the original decentralized notion of the internet and drove it to create massively powerful companies that now, for better or worse, control much of the future of journalism, music, video, and book publishing. These companies are Google, Facebook and Amazon. Apple also plays a major role, as does Microsoft.

In fact, the five most valuable companies in the U.S. stock market, as measured by market capitalization, are all technology firms: Apple, Alphabet (Google), Microsoft, Amazon and Facebook.

According to the forthcoming book Move Fast and Break Things (Little Brown & Company, available mid-April) by tech insider Jonathan Taplin, “The founders of Facebook, Google, and Amazon have together built a way of business predicated on surveillance marketing.” As a result, “more creative content is being consumed than ever before,” but much less revenue is flowing to those who make and own the content. To give a sense of the enormous growth of these companies, according to Taplin’s data:

  • In 2003 Google’s revenue was $400 million; in 2015, it was $75 billion
  • In 2004 Amazon sales revenue was $7 billion; in 2015, it was $107 billion
  • In 2009 Facebook generated $777 million in revenue; in 2015, it was $18 billion

During this time:

  • Recording music revenues fell from $19.8 billion in 2000 to $7.2 billion a year
  • Home video revenue fell from $24.2 billion in 2006 to $18 billion in 2014
  • Newspaper ad revenue fell from $65.8 billion in 2000 to $23.6 billion in 2014

Google, Facebook and Amazon are clearly the new monopolies. Google has an 88 percent market share on online search and search advertising; Facebook has a 77 percent share in mobile social media; and Amazon has a 70 percent share in ebook sales. Using monopoly-like business practices, these companies are immensely profitable. Apple has $150 billion on its balance sheet; Google has $75 billion.

A new study from Pew Research claims that 62 percent of people get their news from social media, with 18 percent doing so very often. As expected, the top social media news source is Facebook. Pew’s study claims that two-thirds of Facebook’s users read their news on the platform. They say Facebook reaches 67 percent of U.S. adults, equal to 44 percent of the U.S. population.

Only about a quarter of those polled (4,654 members of the Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel) get news from two or more sites, and only 10 percent receive news from three or more platforms, putting people who consume more than one news source in the minority.

As the World Economic Forum recently reported, “In 2015 alone, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Apple and Google all launched initiatives with news publishers to host journalistic and other content directly on the platforms, or to optimize their performance through tools developed by the technology companies. This has created a business dilemma for professional news publishers, and raised larger civic-democratic questions about the nature of independent journalism.”

3. There Are Progressive Websites with More Audience Traffic Than Ever Before

When you think back only about 20 years, progressive content of the printed word in magazines of opinion reached roughly a maximum of 250,000 readers per issue. Mother Jones has always had the highest magazine circulation among progressive magazines.

But today, on the web, those numbers would seem very modest indeed. The Daily Kos, a combination of blogs, Democratic Party activism, and in-house writers, owned by Markos Moulitsas, has had audiences as high as 17.4 million visitors in the past 10 days, ranking it as the 104th most-visited website in America.

Three other progressive websites passed the magic 10-million-visitor traffic mark in February: First, the tabloid-esque Raw Story, owned by founder John Byrne, with 13.1 million visitors and ranked 147. Then, the non-profit investigative magazine Mother Jones (which was named Magazine of the Year in 2017 by the American Society of Magazine Editors and is the only top-ranked web magazine with a print version) with 12.9 million. Then Salon, a granddaddy of progressive webmags and the only publicly traded company among progressive websites, with venture Fund Spear Point Capital buying a controlling stake, with 11.9 million and ranked 181.

After the top four, there is a big drop-off in traffic to #5, The Guardian, ranked 311 with 4.7 million U.S. readers. Next at #6 is yours truly, AlterNet, a non-profit with global traffic of 6 million, ranked 436 in the U.S. Number 7 is Talking Points Memo, ranked at 527 with 4.4 million.

Then another sharp drop-off to #8, ThinkProgress, the website for the Center for American Progress, where Obama and Clinton adviser John Podesta has been the leader, with U.S. traffic of 1.8 million and a ranking of 958. Followed by #9, The Nation, with 1.2 million U.S. unique visitors a month and ranked 1,443. And then there is #10, Crooks and Liars, with 1.4 million global visitors and a rank of 2,126.

Top 17:

  1. Daily Kos: 17.4M visitors and a ranking of 104
  2. Raw Story: 13.1M visitors and a ranking of 147
  3. Mother Jones: 12.9M visitors and a ranking of 248
  4. Salon: 11.9M visitors and a ranking of 181
  5. The Guardian: 4.7M U.S. visitors and a ranking of 311
  6. AlterNet: 6M visitors and a ranking of 436
  7. Talking Points Memo: 4.4M visitors and a ranking of 527
  8. ThinkProgress: 1.8M U.S. visitors and a ranking of 958
  9. The Nation: 1.2M U.S. visitors and a ranking of 1,443
  10. Crooks and Liars: 1.4M visitors and a ranking of 2,126
  11. Democracy Now!: 767.5K U.S. visitors and a ranking of 2,356
  12. Truth Out: 514K U.S. visitors and a ranking of 3,432
  13. Truthdig: 539.9K visitors and a ranking of 5,219
  14. Bill Moyers: 394.4K U.S. visitors and a ranking of 4,382
  15. American Prospect: 378.3K U.S. visitors and a ranking of 4,959
  16. Common Dreams: 278K U.S. visitors and a ranking of 5,945
  17. The New Republic: 174.7K U.S. visitors and a ranking of 8,855

Editor's Note: All numbers are from Quantcast, unless otherwise noted. They reflect the global traffic of the websites when possible. Ranking is within the U.S., which explains discrepancies in (global) traffic numbers and ranking. Some websites have chosen to make their traffic and ranking private, in which case where the data comes from and what it is have been noted. Rankings are based on the past month, and therefore shift slightly daily. These numbers were collected in the first two weeks of March 2017.

4. Vampire News Sucks Content from Legitimate Progressive Websites

Some new media vampires on the internet block are pilfering content from independent journalism websites and deceitfully posting it as their own on Facebook and on individual websites. These Facebook pages and their affiliated websites pose as progressive champions, but their content is largely copied, if not plagiarized from legitimate news and opinion outlets with real reporters and analysts, not rewrite teams.

Their goal appears to be making money by attracting millions of readers as unknowing users click on links or share their memes—photos with slogans—because viewer traffic generates advertising revenues via Google ads.

These are Facebook pages and affiliated websites like USuncut.com, Occupy Democrats, Share Blue, The Other 98%, The Blue Nation, Addicting Info, and hundreds more.

Many subscribers and sharers of these Facebook pages don’t know about this content’s oft-pilfered origin nor its parasitic business model. They are unaware that these operations use software like Spike from Newswhip, an online analytic tool some say is akin to spyware. It tracks viewer engagement with any website (likes, shares, comments, tweets, etc.) to find hot stories. Especially useful is its measure of “velocity,” or how quickly an article is taking off and provoking responses. Within an hour or less, these sites post their version on Facebook, often using the same photo and headline as the original, and linking to their quick rewrite with no credit given to the original article or author. The rewrites steal the original's traffic, usurping its popularity and rerouting ad revenue driven from people clicking on the copycats.

As a consequence of vampire pages and sites, progressives using Facebook are being duped on several levels. Newsfeeds are being inundated by operators out to make ad revenue profits or attract donations by posing as news and activist websites. Further, reader attention is being diverted from real independent journalism outlets. The vampires don't credit their sources, as legitimate media organizations do when rewriting or aggregating others’ content. This is happening at a time when progressives need to organize and respond to an authoritarian presidency.

“I can see what’s happening—they’re dragging business away from serious places, so they can collect the ad money as parasites,” said David Cay Johnston, a top investigative reporter whose coverage of taxes and legal loopholes at the New York Times won a Pulitzer Prize. “That’s a really terrific story that needs to be told."

Read an article documenting the vampire sites with a longer explanation of how it all works.

5. Despite Growth Among Progressive Websites, the Right-Wing Online Presence Tends to Dwarf the Left-Wing Online Presence

Led by the spectacular rise of Breitbart News to the 32nd most-visited website in the country (also the site where White House consigliere Steve Bannon was chairman and by most accounts the prime mover), conservative websites have considerably higher traffic than their liberal counterparts. Cumulatively, the top 10 right-wing sites have far more monthly unique viewers than the top 10 progressive sites.

The list of conservative websites does not include Fox News, which would be ranked #37 overall, with 23 million monthly visitors in the United States, and would be the second most-popular conservative website. Fox is left out because it is primarily a TV news channel. But for contrast, the mostly liberal MSNBC, with Rachel Maddow, gets 13.5 million monthly viewers and is ranked 140.

The top 15 conservative websites:

  1. Breitbart: #32 in the U.S. (Alexa)
  2. Conservative Tribune: #58 in the U.S. (Alexa)
  3. The Daily Caller: 14.2M visitors and a ranking of 127
  4. The Drudge Report: 20.6M visitors and a ranking of 135
  5. Young Conservatives: 12.1M visitors and a ranking of 154
  6. The Blaze: 10.7M visitors and a U.S. ranking of 188
  7. Western Journalism: 10.3M visitors and a ranking of 192
  8. Washington Times: 8.3M visitors and a ranking of 223
  9. National Review: 7.2M visitors and a ranking of 256
  10. Washington Examiner: 7.0M visitors and a ranking of 264
  11. Newsmax: 5.4M U.S. visitors and a ranking of 266
  12. The Gateway Pundit: 7.0M visitors and a ranking of 282
  13. Infowars: 7.7M visitors and a ranking of 313
  14. Allen B. West: 6.6M visitors and a ranking of 336
  15. WND: 5.7M visitors and a ranking of 378

Editor's Note: All numbers are from Quantcast, unless otherwise noted. They reflect the global traffic of the websites when possible. Ranking is within the U.S., which explains discrepancies in (global) traffic numbers and ranking. Some websites have chosen to make their traffic and ranking private, in which case where the data comes from and what it is have been noted. Rankings are based on the past month, and therefore shift slightly daily. These numbers were collected in the first two weeks of March 2017.

6. There Is Still Plenty of Good Investigative Reporting Being Produced

Investigative reporting is journalism’s gold standard. Its goal is to keep corporations and governments honest and hold them accountable. The intrepid reporter who digs for the truth and exposes it, despite duress, is an icon represented in many Hollywood films, the most famous when Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman played the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein in the Watergate saga, All the President’s Men. More recently, Spotlight, a story about the Boston Globe’s painstaking work investigating child abuse in the Catholic Church, won the Academy Award for Best Picture in 2016.

With the large drop-off in advertising revenue in newspapers and magazines, there has been a steep decline in national investigative reporting, while the need for it is on the increase. Meanwhile, in most state capitals, the largest print outlets have cut coverage, creating a vacuum on local coverage. This void in recent years has allowed single party majorities to consolidate power and inflict real damage, repealing reproductive rights, voting rights and LGBT rights, and trampling on unions and cutting public education.

“That’s a really important story,” said David Cay Johnston, who previously covered state legislatures. “Most statehouses now have virtually no reporters.” In the internet era, there are more newsgroups doing investigative reporting than ever. But they don’t replace vanquished statehouse reporters who often had longer memories than the elected officials they covered. The Institute for Nonprofit News lists 120 outlets across the country.

In part, because of the heroic nature of some investigative work, the liberal public tends to think very highly about investigative reporting, which is in turn made possible by their financial support. Support of investigative reporting is of course good, but is also a bit idealistic. While an important ingredient for change, investigative reporting cannot make change by itself. The bigger the audience that reads these pieces, the better, in terms of effecting change. But successful, societal change also requires organizing campaigns to highlight investigative findings and push for solutions: diligent prosecutors willing to follow up on stories with possible law-breaking, and conscientious elected officials willing to push back against the corporations and political players who are typically targeted by investigations.

A handful of major newspapers continue to produce solid national investigative work including the New York Times, Washington Post, The New Yorker, Bloomberg, The Guardian, sometimes the Wall Street Journal, and syndication services like McClatchy. On the other hand, there is no shortage of examples where small investigative websites, like the new DCReport.org, upstage the majors, such as a report on a Donald Trump cabinet pick’s banking ties to Soviet oligarchs. The senators grilling him at confirmation hearings would not have read about this in the Times.

Independent media with pro-democratic values have always provided a counterweight to mainstream media. This is especially true for those doing investigative reporting. The best known non-profit doing investigative work is Mother Jones, which dramatically increases the impact of its stories by having a high-trafficking website: over 10 million unique visitors, ranking it in the top four progressive sites.

If there has been a change in investigative reporting, it has been the arrival and growth of a handful of non-profit investigative efforts led by ProPublica.org, started by the billionaire couple Herbert and Marion Sandler in 2007. ProPublica, like the Center for Public Integrity, another investigative non-profit, shares its content with other websites and media outlets, giving its material wider visibility.

Other valuable investigative efforts tackle national issue beats, such as the Marshall Project on criminal justice, the Center for Media and Democracy on the Koch brothers’ right-wing network, or the Daily Climate. Many are regional, like InvestigativePost.org, covering northwest New York, whose reports led to federal indictments for corruption, or TexasTribune.org, covering that state’s legislature. Similarly ambitious and effective is Capital and Main, which covers California politics.

There are other notable investigative efforts—e.g., the Nation Institute, which primarily collaborates with other media, often mainstream for-profit companies, and feeds content to the Nation magazine, which is a for-profit entity. The Center for Investigative Reporting is a Berkeley-based operation that mostly serves California, and has a new website at RevealNews.org.

The Intercept, funded by the eBay billionaire and social entrepreneur Pierre Omidyar, is the home of several top-flight journalists including Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill. It has produced a number of investigations, and is associated with continuing national security disclosures from Edward Snowden. Greg Palast is a freelance investigative journalist who affiliates with various media sources, and finds and publicizes stories in part based upon his personal moxie. Other websites track and highlight investigative reporting, such as BillMoyers.com and AlterNet.

7. Is There a Progressive Twitter to Do Battle with the Trump Twitter?

Twitter is constantly on the minds of millions thanks to Donald Trump, who uses the tool as his obnoxious megaphone, seemingly impulsively and irrationally, but to shocking effectiveness. Do liberals and progressives have any kind of answer to Trump's Twitter?

In mid-January, Trump supposedly passed 20 million worldwide Twitter followers, which would be a prodigious number. But as mentioned in #1, like most things about Trump, the hype is much bigger than the reality.

A major irony is that even as Trump and Twitter have become synonymous with media dominance and manipulation, as well as collective anxiety attacks, Twitter the company continues to falter.

As CNN Tech reported on 2/16, “It's hard for the small core of Twitter addicts to accept [presumably including Trump,] but Twitter just isn't popular enough to be successful. In fact, Twitter is losing customers. The social media company reported in February '16 that it lost 2 million users in the last three months of 2015. Shares plummeted as much as 12 percent in after-hours trading. Twitter had 305 million active users by the end of 2015. By contrast, Facebook has 1.6 billion. Google has eight products with over 1 billion users each. Even Instagram surpassed Twitter in September, growing to 400 million users.”

Is it possible that the inability of Twitter to find an effective way to monetize all the attention could mean the failure of the company? No more Twitter? Not likely anytime soon, but there are many who would pray for this result, to eliminate one of Trump’s most effective tools.

On the other hand, Twitter is also a mainstay of many liberal and progressive media outlets, as they push out tweets in response to Trump and the large army of conservative tweeters. Every progressive media site has its own social media strategy—some emphasize Facebook, some Twitter, some both, as a key tactic for reaching people and keeping their articles and ideas in play.

Here are the top 20 liberal and progressive media with the largest Twitter followers:

  1. Huffington Post, @HuffingtonPost: 9.18 million
  2. Slate, @Slate: 1.71 million
  3. The Atlantic, @TheAtlantic: 1.48 million
  4. The Daily Beast, @thedailybeast: 1.05 million
  5. The Nation, @thenation: 998K
  6. Salon, @Salon: 934K
  7. ThinkProgress, @thinkprogress: 733K
  8. Mother Jones, @MotherJones: 683K
  9. Democracy Now!, @democracynow: 573K
  10. Vox, @voxdotcom: 541K
  11. ProPublica, @ProPublica: 531K
  12. Daily Kos, @dailykos: 251K
  13. Talking Points Memo, @TPM: 249K
  14. Bitch Magazine @BitchMedia: 157K
  15. The New Republic, @NewRepublic: 155K
  16. AlterNet, @AlterNet: 130K
  17. Raw Story, @RawStory: 129K
  18. Ms. Magazine, @MsMagazine: 124K
  19. Colorlines, @Colorlines: 111K
  20. Harper’s Magazine, @Harpers: 107K

But of course, as with Trump, Twitter is often the expression of an individual's opinions and views on the world. Here are the top 15 liberals and progressives with the biggest Twitter followings. (An interesting fact is that 6 of the 15 top individual tweeters are African Americans.)

  1. Rachel Maddow, MSNBC, @maddow: 6.32 million
  2. Michael Moore, @MMFlint: 4.1 million
  3. Paul Krugman, @paulkrugman: 2.6 million
  4. Arianna Huffington, @ariannahuff: 2.59 million
  5. Ezra Klein, @ezraklein: 1.59 million
  6. Christopher Hayes, @chrislhayes: 949K
  7. Ta-Nehisi Coates, @tanehisicoates: 843K
  8. Melissa Harris-Perry, @MHarrisPerry: 658K
  9. Shaun King, @ShaunKing: 628K
  10. Van Jones, @VanJones68: 612K
  11. Joy Ann Reid, @JoyAnnReid: 512K
  12. Robert Reich, @RBReich: 394K
  13. David Corn, @DavidCornDC: 361K
  14. Charles M. Blow, @CharlesMBlow: 313K
  15. Matt Taibbi, @mtaibbi: 308K

Finally, everyone has their own favorite Twitter sources and follows them closely. At AlterNet, Kali Holloway is our Twitter maven. Here is a list of people on Twitter she pays the most attention to:

  1. Adam Khan, @Khanoisseur
  2. Joy Ann Reid, @JoyAnnReid
  3. Charles Blow, @CharlesMBlow
  4. Imani Gandy, @AngryBlackLady
  5. Jamelle Bouie, @jbouie
  6. Carlos Maza, @gaywonk
  7. Chase Strangio, @chasestrangio
  8. Tina Vasquez, @TheTinaVasquez
  9. Maggie Haberman, @maggieNYT
  10. Garry Kasparov, @Kasparov63
  11. Caroline O., @RVAwonk
  12. Aura Bogado, @aurabogado
  13. Sopan Deb, @sopandeb
  14. Scott Dworkin, @funder
  15. Matt McDermott, @mattmfm
  16. Eric Garland, @ericgarland

8. YouTube Is a Huge Content Magnet: This Is the Young Turks' Terrain

More than 200 million or more visit Google-owned YouTube every month, an extraordinary number, surpassed in the U.S. only by Google search, and roughly more than 60 million more than the vaunted Facebook, which is often said to dominate web traffic.

Users spend an extraordinary amount of time on both sites, by some estimates, around 50 minutes a day on Facebook and 17 minutes a day on YouTube (New York Times/ComScore). Tech Times reports that the average length of a YouTube viewing session on a mobile device has now lengthened to an average of 40 minutes.

Success on YouTube can be measured by number of subscribers, and this is where "The Young Turks" stand out with 3.26 million, well ahead of Russian TV, which has 2 million.

Visits to watch individual videos on YouTube is another measure of success. The progressive film company Brave New Films, which has 100,000 subscribers, has had at least 10 videos viewed by more than 1 million people on YouTube.

Here is a list of the top progressive channels, by subscribers:

  1. The Young Turks: 3.26 million
  2. Russia Today: 2 million
  3. Democracy Now!: 271K
  4. Telesur: 188K
  5. The Real News: 170K
  6. Brave New Films: 100K
  7. FreeSpeechTV: 18K

9. How Many Ways Does the Ubiquitous Democracy Now! Reach People—and What About Thom Hartmann?

Democracy Now!, with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, has a multiplatform media powerhouse: 800,000 unique monthly visitors come to the website. DN has 270,000 subscribers to YouTube. But the largest audience, in addition to live streaming, may be from a dizzying array of audio and video broadcast feeds via Pacifica radio stations, NPR stations and community and college radio stations on the audio side. On television, DN is seen on public access television, PBS stations and satellite television via the Dish network, as well as Free Speech and Link TV.

Thom Hartmann's overall audience is impressive, as are his methods of delivery. His daytime radio show, the Thom Hartmann Program, is the only progressive radio show in the top 20 nationally, with an estimated 2 million weekly listeners, ranked around #14. The show is also broadcast through Sirius and XM radio. Hartmann also has a video broadcast on Free Speech TV, which in theory has access to reach into 40 million homes, through DirecTV, Dish, Roku, and a wide array of cable affiliates.

After Hartmann hangs up his spurs on his radio show, he switches broadcast booths to Russia Today, to a separate audience with its own digital footprint. (Note: Russia Today doesn't participate with Nielsen ratings in the U.S. An IPSOS Poll from March 2016 said that in the U.S., RT's weekly audience is above 8 million viewers, which places the broadcaster among the top five international TV news channels.)

Along the way, the audio recordings of Hartmann and Goodman's shows are also popular downloadable podcasts.

10. Are You Surprised? Fox News Still Dominates Cable News, but a Large Number of Its Viewers Believe Media Is the 'Enemy of the People'

We know how free advertising by the news media helped Donald Trump get elected (see topic #1). And that cable television had boffo audience numbers during the fall campaign. Cable executives expected numbers to fall off, but they haven't, because Trump as president is not much different than the reality TV-style approach he used during the campaign.

Still, Fox, not surprisingly, is the biggest beneficiary of Trump attention, helping continue its stranglehold at the top of cable news for the past 15 years. According to the New York Times, “Fox averaged 2.8 million viewers in prime time in January, up 17 percent compared with its audience in 2016. Though the network recently lost the anchor Megyn Kelly to NBC, her successor at 9pm, Tucker Carlson, has seen a huge ratings surge." The Times continued: "Carlson finished the month with an average of 784,000 viewers in the 25-to-54-year-old demographic, making him No. 1 with the group most important to advertisers. Bill O’Reilly, once again, had the No. 1 show in total viewers for the month, averaging nearly 4 million viewers a night."

In contrast, the more center-left networks were watched by far smaller audiences, the Times reported: "MSNBC nearly tied CNN in total viewers in prime time, with an average of about 1.2 million viewers. Though Fox and MSNBC both had gains in prime time for January versus last year, CNN slipped 7 percent in viewers compared with its 2016 averages."

According to a Suffolk University early March poll conducted with USAToday, two-thirds of people who identify Fox News as their most trusted news source agree with President Trump's claim that the media is the "enemy of the people." That percentage dwarfs the number of CNN, ABC, NBC and CBS viewers who feel that way. Remarkably, Fox, after 15 years at the top of the cable news heap, has convinced its viewers that Fox somehow is not part of mainstream media.

"Far more unnerving is the new American reality this polling data reflects: Fox News viewers will agree with whatever the president says, even if it means directly contradicting themselves… This is partisanship, not media criticism," wrote the Washington Post’s Philip Bump in an analysis. "Fox News is on Team Trump, in the eyes of its viewers, not Team Media—despite it literally being media."

Image Credit: The Washington Post

Don Hazen is the executive editor of AlterNet.

Jan Frel is AlterNet's editor-at-large and associate publisher. He is the author of Neighbors from Hell: An American Bedtime Story (Feral House, 2015). 

Steven Rosenfeld covers national political issues for AlterNet, including America's democracy and voting rights. He is the author of several books on elections and the co-author of Who Controls Our Schools: How Billionaire-Sponsored Privatization Is Destroying Democracy and the Charter School Industry (AlterNet eBook, 2016).

Kali Holloway is a senior writer and the associate editor of media and culture at AlterNet.

Ivy Olesen is an editorial assistant in AlterNet's office in Berkeley, CA.

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