Trump's Staggering Free Media Measured

Trump is far better than any other candidate — maybe than any candidate ever — at "earned media."

The saying is that there is no such thing as bad publicity and right now Donald Trump is living that. The Donald has spent little compared to other campaigns on paid advertising but has benefited greatly from free or "earned media" because people just can't stop talking about him.

While this advantage has been widely known there has been little to help quantify the value of that free media coverage, until now. The New York Times partnered with a firm called mediaQuaint that says while Trump spent just $10 million on ads through the end of February, his earned media coverage is unreal.

But Mr. Trump is hardly absent from the airwaves. Like all candidates, he benefits from what is known as earned media: news and commentary about his campaign on television, in newspapers and magazines, and on social media. Earned media typically dwarfs paid media in a campaign. The big difference between Mr. Trump and other candidates is that he is far better than any other candidate — maybe than any candidate ever — at earning media.  

No one knows this better than mediaQuant, a firm that tracks media coverage of each candidate and computes a dollar value based on advertising rates. The mentions are weighted by the reach of the media source, meaning how many people were likely to see it. The calculation also includes traditional media of all types, print, broadcast or otherwise, as well as online-only sources like Facebook, Twitter or Reddit.  

Its numbers are not quite an apples-to-apples comparison to paid advertising. But they do make one thing clear: Mr. Trump is not just a little better at earning media. He is way better than any of the other candidates.