Earlier this week, in the middle of an already speedy news cycle, both the New York Times and the Washington Post broke their respective site traffic records.
On Monday, the New York Times published a piece about a memo from former FBI Director James Comey that claimed President Trump asked Comey to shut down an investigation into his (now former) national security adviser, Michael Flynn.
According to the New York Times, that one post received 4.5 million pageviews on the paper’s platforms in just under 24 hours after publication, and an additional 1.6 million views off its platform due to apps like Apple News.
According to Politico’s report, which the Times confirmed, the highest number of people reading the piece at the same time was over 100,000.
While the Washington Post doesn’t release metrics for individual stories, the paper was able to confirm that their piece on the leaked intel to Russian officials from President Trump himself was their most popular story on Monday and Tuesday; the piece even saw more concurrent readers than David Fahrenthold’s October bombshell on the Access Hollywood tape. Post reporters tweeted that the Russian story had over 100,000 concurrent views, much like the Times’ story the previous day.
“In an odd way, the Trump administration has been the media’s friend,” said Rick Edmonds, Poynter’s media business analyst. “He’s so restless and impulsive, and he wants to dominate the news cycle.”
Edmonds said both the Times and the Post have seen successive quarters of digital subscription growth, which shows “that there’s a premium for aggressive reporting.”
Kyle Pope, the editor in chief and publisher of the Columbia Journalism Review, noted that the pace of that reporting is tough for both reporters and readers by this point.
“We’re being bombarded, and it’s getting hard to digest information,” said Pope. “Four days after the healthcare bill was passed, Trump fired Comey. In a normal news environment, healthcare would’ve been the story for one or two months, with people interviewing doctors, insurance providers, or just people in any town,” he said. “It would’ve been a big, thoughtful thing.”
Instead, reporters who are currently covering national politics were also on the campaign trail, so they’ve been going at this pace for more than a year.
“There was an expectation that Hillary would win, that there would be a reset and a new crop of people could come in,” said Pope. “They never had that reset.”
Pope has also been pleasantly surprised by how accurate these groundbreaking stories have been.
“When you run at this pace, mistakes happen,” he said. “But we’re in an environment where the media in general can’t afford to make mistakes, so it’s been striking how solid and bulletproof these stories are.”
“In an era where cable news is just on all the time, these kinds of pageviews play into which organization has a better handle on print and digital formats,” said Edmonds. “Turns out, reporting trumps opinions. Which these papers also provide.”