Donald Trump started a Twitter-style blog called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump” 30 days ago. Yesterday his team took it down — apparently there was just too little traffic to make it worthwhile, and Trump was disappointed. What went wrong?
The correct reason is not “the blog was filled with bombastic and hateful rhetoric.” Bombast and hate do not prevent a blog from succeeding. Why was Trump’s Twitter feed so popular when this blog, featuring the same type of content, was a flop?
The biggest reason: no interaction
Imagine a Trump rally with no visible audience — just him at the podium, and people listening at home one at a time.
It wouldn’t be very interesting. The audience is what makes a rally exciting.
The audience is a key part of social media, including blogs. What matters is not just what the blogger says, but how other people react — and how they react to each other. That includes back and forth with people who disagree with the blogger.
Trump’s site made it possible to comment on posts in other social media sites, but you couldn’t see the comments on his site. That made it seem as if he was just shouting into the void. And that’s no fun to watch.
Trump’s team didn’t put any work into building an audience
You don’t just start posting and instantly get tens of millions of subscribers. Building an audience takes time and effort, even if you are the former president. I saw no evidence that Trump’s team was building an audience — by, for example, referencing posts in other material, posting and promoting exclusive content, promoting blog posts on other social media, or promoting the blog on broadcast and print media. Trump’s team has formidable assets; they deployed none of them.
To get a plant to grow, you need to water and feed it for months. Trump didn’t wait long enough, and he didn’t feed traffic to the blog. So it withered and died and they got rid of it.
It wasn’t mobile friendly
Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram are apps designed well for mobile interaction, including notifications. Trump’s blog wasn’t. Therefore, it didn’t create alerts for new posts. No reminders means far less traffic.
Trump needs a social platform to survive
I am sure there is plenty of shouting and screaming going on a Mar-a-Lago right now about this failure.
The problems with Trump’s blog are fixable, but they require a social network — one that has a mobile presence, enables interaction, and can build an audience for him.
Trump’s team could build their own, but that would likely fail just as this blog did. If Trump insists on controlling who posts and who is allowed, the resulting social application would flop. And building a social network from scratch isn’t easy, even if Trump is at the center of it.
Trump’s team could also throw in with (or buy) Parler. That’s more likely to work, although the moderation challenges with balancing control and interaction would remain.
I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say what happens with Trump and his online platform is crucial to his viability as a candidate going forward. This isn’t over, even if the blog is gone.