Could Donald Trump start a media empire if his White House bid falls short?
Sure, experts say. In fact, he’s already halfway there.
The GOP candidate made his bones as a successful reality-TV host. His anti-immigration, America-first political views have connected with a large segment of the U.S. population. His name recognition is unbeatable. And the 70-year-old real estate mogul has spent his career plastering that name everywhere.
To paraphrase Trump himself, what would he have to lose chasing a media dream?
“I can’t see how he wouldn’t start some type of a modern-day news/entertainment company because he is, if nothing else, the greatest shock jock of all time,” said Michael Harrison, the founder and publisher of Talkers magazine, which covers the talk-radio business.
“He has surpassed Howard Stern in terms of proving his mastery of this peculiar digital-age, 21st-century brand of media that has combined sensationalism, news, opinion, journalism, non-journalism and shock,” Harrison told TheWrap.
Trump has precedents to follow. The late Andrew Breitbart helped produce The Drudge Report before starting his own news service, which has become an outlet of choice for conservatives. Steve Bannon temporarily left his post overseeing Breitbart to run Trump’s White House campaign. If he loses the race, Trump could either combine forces with Bannon in the media world — or forge his own path.
If we went solo, Trump could follow the path of conservative host Glenn Beck, who started out as a morning-zoo radio DJ, graduated to Headline News and Fox News, and now runs his own network, The Blaze. As a candidate, Trump has reportedly been getting advice from Roger Ailes, the ousted boss of Fox News.
Then there’s Sarah Palin, who resigned as Governor of Alaska following her unsuccessful vice presidential run in 2008. Palin was able to parlay a thin political resume into an occasional reality TV career and is continuously in-demand as a program guest and speaker.
Trump may be more skilled at getting attention than any of his possible media models. Throughout the campaign, voters have looked to his Twitter to get the candidate’s often-outrageous takes on opponents and current events, making his feed nearly a reality show unto itself. He has 11.1 million Twitter followers — about 10 times as many as Palin.
But if he does decide to become America’s next media mogul, Trump may have a big enemy: Himself.
The GOP candidate would have to turn to others to build the necessary infrastructure for a news empire. And turning to others has never been a Trump strength.
“If it all falls on Trump, I suspect that he will burn out quickly,” Harrison said.