Have readers moved past Trump? What current audience trends tell us

While former President Donald Trump dominated reader engagement for much of last year, we wondered if those audience trends would continue, or begin to tilt in favor of current President Joe Biden following the election and Trump’s subsequent ban from Twitter and Facebook. 

Our latest research signals a shift in readership towards Biden. And while, as the current president, he is bound to command a large share of news coverage, we wanted to take a closer look to see if we’re truly entering a post-Trump readership landscape.

More from our analysis below.

A shift in audience traffic towards Biden

For this research, we analyzed reader data from more than 250,000 articles focused on Biden and Trump. Similar to what we saw in past months, Trump drew more attention from audiences throughout January as he denied the results of the election, became embroiled in the chaos surrounding the insurrection at the Capitol Building, and through February with the subsequent impeachment proceedings.

While pageviews focused on Trump jumped to more than 80 million in January around the time of the inauguration, we began to see a steady decline. This culminated in a recent shift in readership — Biden started to generate millions more pageviews than Trump.

The same tilt towards Biden can be seen when we look at Engaged Time, which coincided with a few major news events that we outline above.

Search and social trends flip among candidates

When we analyzed search traffic to the current and former presidents, those gaps were even more pronounced.

We can hypothesize that a few recent headlines may have contributed to the search and social traffic influx in Biden’s favor, including:

  • Feb 26: when Trump’s tax returns were given to the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, and Biden released a controversial U.S. Intelligence report.
  • March 4: Trump continued to spread election falsehoods, while Biden criticized state governors who lifted mask-wearing restrictions.
  • Week of March 8: Biden gave a speech on the anniversary of the start of the pandemic, and the third stimulus bill was passed.

Social media referrals did not lean as heavily in Biden’s favor up until recent weeks, when they overcame traffic to Trump-related content, as we see below.

However, when we analyzed overall social media referrals (including Twitter) and those from Facebook Instant Articles (Facebook’s in-app browser), we could not see a significant impact on traffic from Trump’s ban.

In fact, pageviews from FBIA related to Trump rose quite a bit up until March, especially when compared to the overall decline seen in the same period.

Is audience attention moving away from Trump? Our takeaways

Some final thoughts from our latest round of research:

1. Did Trump’s social media bans impact engagement?

There appears to be no conclusive data to connect the former president’s social media bans and drops in reader attention driven to publishers, despite his outsized presence on those platforms. This is especially notable on Facebook, where the current and former presidents are still closely tracking in referral traffic.

2. Search traffic shifts in Biden’s favor

Readers have increasingly turned to search for political information, evident from the jump we saw in traffic related to Biden. While it is too soon to say whether this trend is here to stay, the combination of the current president’s propensity to stay away from social media controversy, combined with our past research showing that U.S. presidents will often find their way into national and global news, may have contributed to Biden’s rise in search traffic.

That said, there is no clear indication that the former president is fading from the media spotlight any time soon. We’ll continue to monitor reader traffic and engagement in coming months to see where — and to whom — audiences are focusing their attention.

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