Friday, October 22, 2021

The latest Trump business failure - steaks, mattresses, phony degrees, and now a tech company

Will Trump’s latest venture, a media company, be any more successful than any of his earlier fiascos? Trump University comes to mind. (With thanks to Charlie Sykes.)

Jack Shafer at Politico offers this Opinion | Trump’s New Media Outlet Will Go the Way of His Steaks and Mattresses. The former president promises to take on the biggest competitors in the business. But he has no clue how to run a media company, and it’s not clear he can attract an audience. Lightly edited excerpts follow.

Nobody can doubt the power of former President Donald Trump to draw and keep an audience. Before Twitter permanently suspended him in January, he could boast 88.7 million followers. At least 35.4 million subscribed to his Facebook account prior to his defenestration there. His many books clotted the New York Times bestseller list, and even after his November defeat, he can still reliably fill basketball arenas and state fairground exhibition halls. Wherever Trump has gone, his supporters have flocked to partake of his strange charisma.

But is their allegiance so pure and enduring that they’ll follow him to a new company, announced Wednesday night — a business that promises a social media outlet to take on Twitter (called Truth Social), “non-woke” streaming video news and entertainment to compete with CNN and Disney, podcasts, and cloud software and services to go up against Microsoft, Google and Amazon? A public statement announcing the merger of the newly formed Trump Media & Technology Group, of which Trump is chair, and a speculative “blank-check” company named Digital World Acquisition Corp. promises that TMTG will enter all these media spaces to “fight back against the ‘Big Tech’ companies of Silicon Valley, which have used their unilateral power to silence opposing voices in America.”

At least that’s Trump’s pipe dream. There’s nothing new about the comic grandiosity of TMTG’s ambitions, revealed in its corporate slide deck. It only conforms with Trump’s long-held belief that “truthful hyperbole” is the key to selling real estate — or any of the crap products (steaks, mattresses, water, men’s wear, vodka, perfume, eyeglasses, coffee) (and did I, your Scriber, mention faux degrees from Trump U?) Trump has hawked to resistant customers. Trump is a moderately successful businessman when he sticks to his specialties — real estate and hotels. But all those overpriced, shoddy namesake products failed in the marketplace because Trump didn’t know how to compete with people who really understood those businesses. We can expect Truth Social and the other world-beater enterprises TMTG proposes to likewise be sucked into the void because Trump 1) has no clue about how to run media or tech properties and 2) lacks sufficient appeal.


As an example of the kind of thing Trump is now trying out: “Then came the disaster of the Trump blog, which died earlier this year after just 29 days, finding a permanent resting place in the Trump cemetery interred alongside his steaks, coffee pods, neckwear and vodka bottles.” And could I again lobby for Trump U?

"… are we really expected to believe a media and tech start-up with the pocket-change of $293 million in the kitty and overseen by a 75-year-old man can outduel Fox, CNN, Disney and Microsoft?

For the better part of his career, Trump has been frequently characterized in the press as a grifter, somebody who preys on people for a living. That’s a tad unfair. Trump’s reputation for milking consumers with slapdash goods and bamboozling investors has been so well established for so long that anybody who buys from or invests with him must first ignore the ample evidence arguing against dealing with him. It’s too early in TMTG’s story to call the company a grift, even if, as the Washington Post puts it, TMTG appears to be little more than “a vaguely defined company headquartered at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s club in Palm Beach.” Based on TMTG’s public statement, there’s no clue the company has a product ready to sell, unique technology or even name recognition to trade on. (You can, however, download the Truth Social app, but the beta site doesn’t go live until November.) That Trump can only start something so small to take on businesses that are so large indicates that his reputation for business failure has finally caught up to him. Billionaires and other truly moneyed folk must not have returned Trump’s calls. It’s an old story: Eventually, every grifter runs out of people to grift.

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