Donald Trump Dominates 2015 Media Coverage

Did you watch the debate last night? Perhaps Jeb Bush put it best when he mentioned that Donald Trump is a “chaos candidate.”

Trump’s chaotic relationship with the media, in particular, has confounded voters this political season (see some great summaries: here, here, and here). The media, including Mashable, Huffington Post, The Atlantic, and others are having to rewrite their own rules when it comes to coverage of Trump’s campaign, and data has already shown that his place in the polls correlates highly with how much media attention he receives.

Just how much media coverage does Donald Trump receive versus other topics?

As part of our latest research, the team looked at readership patterns for the top news stories of 2015. We identified the most-read stories in our network and found that Charlie Hebdo, Bobbi Kristina Brown, the Ashley Madison hack, Cecil the Lion, the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight, Ahmed Mohamed, and Rachel Dolezal topped the list (the Paris attacks had not yet happened when we ran our analysis).

In order to look at a story over a certain period of time, we made the decision to only include topics that had only one “event” at their core, which excluded coverage of other ongoing popular topics like President Obama, the Kardashians (really), ISIS, and of course, Donald Trump.

But to give you a sense of just how dominant coverage of Trump was in 2015, we compared the volume readership by page views of stories including Donald Trump to the top news topics identified above; how do they compare?

Donald Trump and Media Coverage

Coverage of Trump received an equal amount of page views to all of the top news stories combined.

Social Media Driving Trump Discovery

One trend that Trump coverage shares with many of the top news stories looked at in our recent Authority Report? Social media drove more page views to the stories than search traffic.

  • 10.5 percent of all referral traffic to articles about Donald Trump were from search
  • 16.6 percent of all referral traffic to articles about Donald Trump were from social

This isn’t quite as much social traffic as the truly “viral” stories we looked at in 2015 because many readers found Donald Trump stories through more direct paths to websites — including from homepages, emails, and recommended stories.

So now we know the relative coverage of Donald Trump compared to other topics this year, and how readers consume articles about Donald Trump, but we’re still left with the perplexing question that much of the media still faces in their coverage of the 2016 presidential campaign: How should the media cover Donald Trump?

Weigh in on the media’s coverage of Donald Trump via Twitter @parsely.