Why did my recent post–featuring excerpts from the transcript of Donald Trump’s New York Times interview--go viral? I have a theory.
But first, some statistics: After I published it here on Occasional Planet—the progressive political blog that I co-founded and edit—the post got so many hits that the site crashed several times. We’ve been publishing since February 2010, and nothing even close to this has ever happened. On a typical day, we expect between 500 and 1,000 total clicks on the various stories that we write. The Trump transcript post blew those numbers out of the water: Two days after publishing this post, we had more than 2,600 hits; on the 7th day after publication, we reached 20,000 hits in a single day. To date, more than 65,000 people have clicked on this single post, and more than 10,000 of them have shared it, via this website, to Facebook.
And those crazy [for us] numbers are only part of what happened. I cross-posted the article on Daily Kos, and it got more than 43,000 additional shares on Facebook. For the week ending December 3, it made the list of High Impact Posts.
How did this happen? Here’s my theory–It’s Access Hollywood
I’m hoping that most readers were seriously and sincerely interested in reading the full account—or at least part of it—just to get a better understanding of what Trump said and how he said it—and because the post offered a convenient way to do so, if they had missed the original story in the New York Times. You could link to the transcript on the Times’ website, but, as far as I know, it was not offered in print. According to our site’s Stat Counter, more than 8,000 people who came to the post on our site clicked on the outbound link to the full transcript at newyorktimes.com.
There’s also, I think, a segment of readership that read the post, and the full transcript, out of “prurient” interest. And this is where it gets really interesting, I think.
It’s as if the headline had said, “Here’s What Donald Trump Doesn’t Want You to Read About What He Said at the New York Times.” That would have been a rather click-bait-y headline—and I avoid those—but I’m speculating that the effect was similar.
I think that some readers viewed the transcript as something like an episode of “Access Hollywood,” or the after-show extras from “The Bachelorette,” or other reality TV shows: Here’s what was left on the cutting-room floor. Here’s what you didn’t see in the press coverage of the latest episode of “Celebrity Apprentice President.”
What I excerpted were, in essence, the outtakes from the interview.
It’s sad that Donald Trump is treating the presidency as a reality TV show; and it’s sad if some people read the interview transcript in that spirit. But I’m just glad that they’re reading it. Not just because a viral post is good for my writer’s ego [I cannot lie: It is], but because of what readers may have learned from it about the mind and thought-processes of the person who is about to [shudder] become our 45th President.