Pando

Twitter needs Trump

By Sarah Lacy , written on December 11, 2015

From The Politics Desk

What do cable news, Saturday Night Live, and Twitter all have in common?

They all want Trump to continue being Trump.

Earlier this week, the Donald Trump stated that all muslims should be banned from entering the US, and set Twitter and the media world (inasmuch as those are different things) on fire. Hunter Walk asked a good question:

My guess: Something a hell of a lot worse than he’s said so far. Like cable news, Twitter needs Trump. @therealdonaldtrump himself uses Twitter as his preferred medium to appeal to fans and devastate anyone who challenges him. A large percentage of my feed, my own Tweets, and the reason I go to Twitter is increasingly Trump-related. Twitter was where Jeff Bezos, owner of the 5th largest newspaper in America by circulation, chose to shoot back at Trump.

The horrible, scary, unimaginable Donald Trump show is made for Twitter. It’s a slow-moving train wreck with moments of news and immediacy, but also prolonged fear, concern and handwringing. Twitter users love nothing more than outrage. Trump gives more reasons for outrage than anyone in Twitter history. He’s a billionaire, a celeb, a national emergency, and he's riding atop the news, TV and current events,. It's a Venn diagram of Twitter spikes.

And good for Twitter, because it needs something. It used to own celebrity expression, but Instagram has steadily made inroads there. It’s on Instagram that the younger Kardashians pout for their fans. While older “Kimye” may take to Twitter to announce her baby’s name, Instagram is where she posts her photoshoppery.

After the most recent mass shooting, the press trumpeted that Snapchat live stories was the most powerful medium for collapsing space and time to convey the heft of the moment – what we said about Twitter during the Arab Spring. Snapchat has the potential to be a visual, mobile-video Twitter in a way that Vine or Periscope never will be.

If you take away those two use cases Twitter’s reason to exist – and it’s main differentiation against Facebook – starts to wear thin.