With print advertising revenue in decline and newsstand sales in a seemingly endless downward spiral, the magazine industry is an easy target for cheap shots these days, but that shouldn’t excuse the president-elect from making unsubstantiated swipes at individual publications.
Yesterday, Donald Trump tweeted that numbers for Vanity Fair magazine are “way down,” and that the Condé Nast-owned lifestyle publication is in “big trouble.” The tweet—apparently a response to VF’s skewering of Trump Grill on Wednesday—is part of a pattern for Trump, who has a history of taking to Twitter to attack media brands that write unflattering things about him.
According to Trump, Vanity Fair’s numbers are “really poor,” but what numbers is he talking about? Audience data for the magazine shows it had a pretty good year both in print and online. In fact, it’s having a pretty good decade. According to the Alliance for Audited Media, VF’s verified and paid circulation averaged 1.2 million for the first six months of 2016. That’s slightly above where it was five years ago and not too shabby for a print magazine these days.
Meanwhile, data from comScore shows an even rosier picture for VanityFair.com. The website attracted 14.3 million unique visitors in October, a 26% increase over October of last year, and more than twice the traffic it got in October 2014. In fact, it was the best month for Vanity Fair since June 2015, when the Caitlyn Jenner cover story went viral.
Of course, Trump has a right to defend himself if he feels he received an unfair review, but a president who tweets without regard to facts is troubling, and he continues to do that. The sad part is, his labels often stick, whether it’s “crooked” Hillary or the “failing” New York Times.
Fortunately, for Vanity Fair, Trump’s criticism seems to have had the opposite of its intended effect. The Trump Grill review, written by Tina Nguyen, has received nearly 1 million unique visitors, according to Beth Kseniak, a spokeswoman for the magazine. Subscriptions, she says, increased 100-fold over an average day.
“This was the highest number of subscriptions sold in a single day ever at Condé Nast,” Kseniak tells Fast Company.
The bump is also part of a pattern. Subscriptions to the New York Times, a regular Trump target, have increased tenfold since the election. It’s no secret that the media business has had a tough year. Maybe we now have a winning strategy for 2017—just get under the notoriously thin skin of the next president of the United States.