Earned Media, Distractions May Count More In Politics

Presidential talk. Presidential rants. Tuesday's debate showed this. But think about the overall messaging and press accounts. It amounts for something. Here’s your shiny object.

Digital product brand agency Area 17 wants to go deeper with earned-media content. So it launched Media Election 2020, a data tool calculating media attention of political candidates.

Earned media is essentially non-paid messaging/exposure -- a story/article in a newspaper; a TV video story about a specific bit of content. Politics? Content can be candidates or a proposition to vote on.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton led Donald Trump going into the election by around 3%-6% in nationally ranked polls.

But, of course, that isn’t the complete picture. Trump was actually ahead in something more valuable: media mentions. He had a lead of 8% over Clinton in this area, according to Media Election 2020.

Some accounts claim Trump earned close to $2 billion worth of free media attention -- more than twice the amount Clinton received, according to The New York Times.



Complicating this was the reality of tallied votes. Clinton ended up winning the popular vote — by 3 million over Trump. But not the Electoral College. Some 70,000 Trump voters in four key states -- in close races -- were key to his win.

Those media mention numbers are much higher this time. Trump, now the incumbent President, dominates media coverage over Democratic contender Joe Biden by 50%. (Add in the total amount of time -- “words” and “interruptions” -- Trump made during the first Presidential debate on Tuesday night.)

Earned media is still a trickier measure. For example, is this media exposure positive, negative or eliciting just a shrug of  the shoulders? And is it a substitute for something else? Area 17 says perhaps it could be a better indicator for voter behavior than voter polls.

Other earned-media data to consider: Articles about Trump (from July 31 to September 29) 1,042,516. Biden: 311,616.

Being President, of course, has a lot to do with higher earned media. Perhaps Trump has more than usual: Big impeachment news, senior staff ousters and legal issues, Russian interference in the 2016 election, and more recently, the pandemic and a sinking economy. Just to name a few.

Still, though media attention has been higher for Trump, Biden leads Trump in national polls by 8% to 10%. What does that mean this time around?

“Dominating the news cycle is often less about policy or substance and more about distraction and diversion,” says the bsite for Media Election 2020.

Concerning those last two points: the presidential debate Tuesday night.

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