Trump’s repeated comments are a window into his fixing of the ratings – and the alternative sources of information he and his supporters rely on.
Convention organizers managed to plant stories on many pro-Trump websites that claimed the overall audience for Trump’s speech was larger than the audience for Biden’s speech at the virtual Democratic convention a week longer early.
So in Trump’s media bubble, the president’s speech is seen as the winner in the odds race, even if the numbers don’t add up.
Here’s the key thing to understand: TV ratings are apples and online video views are oranges. Apples are counted in a standardized way by Nielsen, the industry’s measurement company. Oranges are counted in many different and often sketchy ways.
The difference, of course, is that Biden didn’t brag about the ratings and left-wing websites didn’t promote an alternate reality about it.
According to Nielsen, an average of 24.6 million viewers watched Biden’s DNC address on twelve television networks. On average, 23.8 million viewers watched coverage of Trump’s RNC address on thirteen networks.
Biden aides have touted the odds victory as a way to get under Trump’s skin. It may have worked, as Trump has repeatedly tweeted claims that his convention had more viewers.
Trump, a Nielsen geek, switched to “Online Streaming Numbers” and tweeted, “How does the fake news not include online streaming numbers where Republicans are blasting dem numbers? ”
The answer: they are oranges and they are not measured reliably.
In a follow-up tweet, Trump claimed that “we had 147.9 million” and that overall opinions were “not even close.”
It was part of a counter-narrative promoted by the RNC. Fox News was the first to report the 147.9 million figure, describing it as “a total of views on television and online between Monday and the end of Thursday night programming.” The figure was provided to a “senior campaign official”.
Democrats had released a lower figure, 122 million, for audience ratings on TV and the web. So the Republicans essentially declared victory. But the RNC has been opaque about what the 147.9 million figure actually means. The party has not released its methodology, but the total apparently includes campaign live broadcasts, live news and TV ratings.
“It is absurd of the president to suggest that more people have watched the RNC convention. You can’t just add the online views of clips to live broadcast numbers, ”said Jason Kint, CEO of Digital Content Next, a digital trade association. editors.
“To be fair,” Kint added, “Biden’s camp seems to have done the same after the DNC. ”
That’s right – Democrats issued a press release that counted the number of viewers for the four nights plus “35.5 million total live views.” This is how they reached the total of 122 million.
Among the many problems with this method, TV ratings estimate the average audience for each minute of a given program, while online statistics count ephemeral views of a video, not start-to-start viewership. the end.
And there is no industry standard for the dozens of websites where convention coverage was broadcast live. Different sites measure video traffic differently.
So there is no legitimate way to come up with a total like 147.9 million. But Trump is not discouraged. He tweeted about this lack of full audience claim on Wednesday, writing: “We had a lot more people (several million) watching us at the RNC than Sleepy Joe and the DNC, and yet an ad just ran. saying the opposite. ”
He was responding to an ad from the Lincoln Project, an anti-Trump PAC, which was buying airtime for an ad that said “the odds are for your convention” and “that’s not pretty. Joe Biden beat you. Greatly. ”
But Trump has something else going for him: a constellation of pro-Trump websites with 147.9 million complaints. Sites like Breitbart and The Gateway Pundit gave Trump fans the headlines they needed, touting unsubstantiated claims that Trump was more popular than Biden.