People Faces Backlash Following Shift in Trump Coverage
With a complex audience demographic, and the impending One Time Inc., editorial policy at People comes into question.
People magazine faces backlash against the brand following positive coverage of president-elect Donald Trump. Using #BoycottPeopleMagazine, a range of Twitter users have called for celebrities to withhold content from the Time Inc. brand and for readers to cancel their subscriptions.
— zoe kazan (@zoeinthecities) November 10, 2016
It was just last month that the magazine published a first-person account from its own reporter, Nastasha Stoynoff, who was allegedly sexually assaulted by Trump while reporting for the magazine.
“We stand steadfastly by [Stoynoff], and are proud to publish her clear, credible account of what happened,” editor-in-chief Jess Cagle wrote at the time. “It is heartbreaking that her fear of retaliation by Trump kept her from reporting the incident when it happened.”
Then, following the unexpected electoral college victory of Trump, People dedicated its latest cover to his election, and published several stories celebrating the Trump family, even featuring a photo of Trump and People senior editor Charlotte Triggs in a smiling side-hug.
Cagle could not be reached for comment on the brand's editorial policy, but a People spokesperson defended its coverage.
“Donald Trump’s win is a history-making news event that warranted the cover of the magazine,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The story is not a celebration or an endorsement and we continue to stand by Natasha Stoynoff, whose account of being attacked by Trump in 2005 is recounted in this week’s cover story.”
— People Magazine (@people) November 9, 2016
As 47.7 percent of the country mourns the loss of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, and 47.5 percent celebrate the unanticipated victory of Trump, People faces a rather complicated audience satisfaction question: what do its readers want?
The magazine declares a readership of 39 million as of fall 2015. Over 33 percent of its audience is in the deeply-red South (12,903,000) and 22.2 percent is in the Midwest (8,612,000). Both regions swayed highly in favor of Trump.
Seventy-three percent of its audience is white. Plenty of white voters supported Clinton, but an exit poll by the Edison Research for the National Election Pool found that white voters supported Trump over Clinton, 58 percent to 37 percent.
While much of the controversy in Trump's campaign centered around alligations of sexual assault, as well as a recording of the president-elect explaining how he sexually assaults women, white female voters supported Trump over Clinton, 53 percent to 43 percent. For non-college graduated white women, it was 62 to 34.
This is aligned with People's readership. Around 72.5 percent of its audience is female, but only 30.3 percent has graduated college. Though these figures don't account for race, People's typical reader is a non-college graduated white female in the South.
One of the groups most directly influenced by the Trump presidency is Latinos, who report feeling threatened by his campaign promises to deport immigrants and to build a wall between the U.S. and Mexico.
People en Español, a Spanish-language offshoot of the brand, had an audience of 6,654,000 as of 2015 — 4,497,000 of whom are female. Meanwhile, nearly 16 percent of the English language audience for People is Latino.
Latinos made up 11 percent of the total American vote, according to The New York Times, citing exit polls which also showed that Latino voters favored Clinton by more than two to one.
If judging by race alone, which in this election was proven to be a high-indicator of candidate alignment, People has an entire print title on the line when deciding how to cover the Trump family.
One Time Inc.
As Time Inc. eliminates silos through the launch of cross-brand digital desks, the legacy publisher may be forced to reconcile some yet unsorted issues of editorial discretion.
The new Time Inc. is broken up into four groups with editorial directors who report directly to chief content officer Alan Murray.
Michael Duffy, deputy managing editor of TIME magazine, is editorial director for all of Time Inc. He also reports directly to Murray. Just one of many diverse titles, TIME has not shied away from critiquing the problems of the impending administration in its current events coverage.
Should People — part of the celebrity, entertainment, and style group — continue its current editorial output, it may see great difficulties when it comes to cross-brand allignment. In addition to his EIC role at People, Cagle leads the celebrity, entertainment, and style group, which also includes Entertainment Weekly, InStyle, Essence, and xoJane.
Essence is written for black women, and xoJane.com is directed at feminist women. With people of color and women directly attacked throughout the Trump campaign, Cagle faces an interesting dilemma in managing cross-brand coverage of the Trump administration.
People magazine may be able to write about the Trumps for its majority-white, and highly-Southern audience, but it may not bode so well with audiences at other Time Inc. titles.