President-elect Donald Trump’s meetings–one with TV network news executives and anchors, another with New York Times executives and columnists–highlights a tectonic power shift in the media.
One thing that was telling about the Monday meeting with TV executives and anchors from CNN, NBC, CBS and ABC, who were summoned to Trump Tower in Manhattan, was the timing. The off-the-record meeting, which was described as a “f***ing firing squad” by the New York Post was held in the afternoon after the Trump team had posted a two-and-a-half-minute “infomercial-style” video on YouTube. In the video, Trump lays out his agenda for his first 100 days in office and pledges to create jobs, renegotiate trade agreements, put in effect bans on lobbying and end restrictions on energy production.
In other words, Trump went OTT (over the top) of the TV networks and spoke directly to the American people, as his predecessor, President Barack Obama, had done on occasion. The intended message to the TV networks and to the American audience was, “I don’t need the TV networks to communicate with the people. I can use social media platforms on the internet.” He thus threw a spotlight on the shift of media power from linear TV to the random-access and immediate, on-demand-access content distributed on the internet.
Then, when he faced the TV network executives and anchors, including Wolf Blitzer, Lester Holt, David Muir and Gayle King, he could call them “liars, the deceitful, dishonest media who got it all wrong,” and they had to swallow it because they had agreed the meeting was off the record. None of them had their video cameras hot for a live shot or a tidy two-minute video story to present. They were powerless. They probably didn’t know what Trump knew — that they had been disintermediated by technology, the internet and social media.
The next day, Tuesday, unfolded in typically bizarre Trump fashion by the President-elect tweeting in the morning that he was cancelling a planned meeting at the New York Times with Times executives and columnists, then changing his mind, and going ahead with the mid-day meeting.
The Times meeting was structured differently than the meeting with the network TV people in that there was an off-the-record segment and an on-the record segment. The Times had the power to have Trump come to the Times and agree to make part of the conversation on the record, which had to add even more humiliation to the network TV attendees and remind them of their diminished power.
It’s also telling that the Times live-tweeted the part of the Trump conversation that was on the record, and, guess what, Trump was respectful and cordial. According to the Times’ tweets, Trump said he respected the newspaper. Times media correspondent Mike Grynbaum tweeted, “Donald Trump on The New York Times: ‘I do read it. Unfortunately. I’d live about 20 years longer if I didn’t.'”
The fact that the Times was doing real-time coverage of its conversation with Trump using a social media platform on the internet that readers could access as it was happening reinforced the power shift to digital news from old-fashioned, linear-accessed TV news that must occur in a studio or live with intrusive camera crews with reporters in make up.
No wonder the Times picked up 41,000 digital subscriptions after the election. Intelligent readers know where the news power resides.