Political communication on X: what we can learn from the presidential debate and Trump
There is always something to learn from the political communication in United States.
Last week, the scene was dominated by the Republican primaries, in which Trump decided not to appear on television with the other candidates and instead opted for a solo interview in X, conducted by Tucker Carlson, a journalist who’s notoriety comes from strong opinions against mainstream.
What are data?
According to data, Fox News reported the TV confrontation as a great success, with 13 million Americans tuning in, making it the most-watched non-sports program of the year.
X, on the other hand, shows that the private interview of Carlson with Trump on the social channel reached 260 million views.
What? Is that the difference? You’re right, obtaining accurate viewership numbers can be challenging, and there are different methodologies used by various platforms. X may count views even when a user scrolls quickly through the video without actually watching it, while television typically relies on statistical data. Therefore, the difference may not be as significant. However, taking all considerations into account, it does appear that the online format reached a much larger audience compared to television.
Indeed, it is interesting to note that in this case the two broadcasts were highly comparable, which is not a common occurrence. They aired on the same day and at the same time, targeting relatively overlapping audiences (excluding younger individuals who are more likely to consume social media content). So, it is a fact that the political information and debate on X reached a larger volume of users compared to television.
But the question is: is it just a matter of the channel?
The simplest thought that comes to my mind is that if the channel was the sole determining factor, Fox News could have easily gained viewership on X as well, considering its presence with 24 million followers on that platform.
Actually, Fox News posts on the topic in X have had variable views ranging from 50 to just under 300,000. That's few compared to Carlson's results, who has 9 million followers.
And thus we arrive at the theme I would like to share: it is not true that television is dead, and it is also not true that it is solely a matter of channel. The success of Trump's interview on X depends on various other factors that come together... in addition to the fact that, whether we like him or not, Trump is Trump and others are others:
- ENGAGEMENT How much do we really know how to engage our followers? Tucker Carlson has certainly been able, by taking very strong viewpoints, to build an audience of hyper-participative and hyper-engaged users. Traditional televisions, by their nature, take a more moderate approach to political debate, exposing themselves to the risk of generating less intense reactions.
- INDIVIDUAL Television as a medium has always favored a one-way communication model, with the journalist remaining a detached figure who does not interact. Digital media, on the other hand, have made people used to expressing opinions on what they see. X has been able to exploit this characteristic by bringing the human, personal figure of the anchor. In this format the presenter becomes an integral part of the story, almost a friend with whom to share one's ideas. X has been able to enhance the figure of the narrator compared to TV, making the story more humanized.
- CONTENT Every media success is based on the quality of the content offered. Television has grown us familiar to programs with an already seen format and a low degree of innovation. X, on the other hand, has managed to distinguish itself by creating an innovative and unmissable format, capable of truly capturing the audience's attention.
- STORY Trump has accustomed us to seeing how the storytelling is more effective than the simple exposition of political ideas and programs. Like any skilled storyteller, he uses personal issues as a way to reason about political ideas. Those who listen lower their defenses and become empathetic.
Therefore, in the end I believe...politics is a great show. Not the best always wins. But the one who knows how to tell the best story. And this is the power of communication.