Former President Donald Trump’s proposed digital media company could quickly become a serious competitor in a crowded field of right-wing websites and social networks thanks to Mr. Trump’s notoriety and online following.
“Everyone asks me why nobody stands up to Big Tech? Well, we’ll be soon! ”Trump, chairman of the Trump Media & Technology Group, said in a statement on Wednesday.
The deal would not affect Trump’s ability to run for the White House again in 2024, if he so chooses. There are no laws preventing Trump from continuing to run or own business while he is a presidential candidate or serving as president should he win another term in the White House.
The new media company emerged from a meeting between Mr Trump and Patrick Orlando, a former derivatives trader at Deutsche Bank AG, within weeks of leaving office this year, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Orlando is chairman and chief executive of Digital World Acquisition Corp.
, the purpose-built acquisition company that agreed to IPO Trump Media & Technology Group.
The company didn’t reveal many details about the look and feel of Truth Social, which is slated to be available to select users next month and rolled out broadly early next year. Screenshots of the mobile app from a company presentation and Apple Inc.’s
App Store show a user interface very similar to that of Twitter and other social media platforms.
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A representative from Trump Media & Technology Group did not respond to requests for comment.
In addition to Truth Social, the company plans to launch a subscription streaming service that will offer entertainment, news and podcasts. The company did not disclose a start time frame or potential subscription costs for the service. Scott St. John, an executive producer on television programs such as “Deal or No Deal” and “America’s Got Talent,” which the company said will lead the new service, did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr Trump kept political allies – and some of his political collaborators – in the dark about the company’s creation, said people familiar with the matter. In recent months, his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., has taken an active role as the lead advisor to the new project and could take on a leadership role in the company, it said. The younger Mr Trump asked the company to use servers that would make it difficult for political enemies to target them, people said. Dan Scavino, a longtime advisor and social media advisor to the former president, had an informal advisory role in building the social media platform, they said.
Mr Trump’s new company will battle for attention with a bevy of websites and news outlets aimed at a conservative audience, including Fox corps
Fox News cable channel, Newsmax TV, the Daily Wire website, and The Blaze, a media company founded by conservative media figure Glenn Beck. Fox Corp. and the parent company of the Wall Street Journal, News Corp, share common ownership.
It will also compete directly with other social media platforms aimed at conservatives, such as Parler and Gab, as well as Gettr, which was launched earlier this year by former Trump adviser Jason Miller. In an interview, Mr. Miller said he had conversations with Mr. Trump over the summer to get him to join the service, but they couldn’t get the “right number”.
Parler didn’t respond to a request for comment on the Truth Social launch. Gab, meanwhile, said it supported Mr Trump’s new network and said users could continue to follow the former president on his reserved Gab account.
According to a presentation by Trump Media & Technology Group, Mr. Trump had 89 million followers on Twitter, 33 million on Facebook and 24.5 million on Instagram, a unit of Facebook, before his accounts were suspended earlier this year.
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Existing conservative social media platforms have much smaller user bases, according to the app analytics company Sensor Tower. The three-year-old Parler was installed by about 11.2 million smartphone users, compared to 1.1 billion on Twitter, which has existed for 15 years. Just a few months old, Mr. Miller’s Gettr was installed by around 2.2 million smartphone users, Sensor Tower said.
Neil Patel, founder and editor of the conservative Daily Caller, said Mr Trump’s support for the new company would give it an initial advantage over some of its competitors in the conservative media sector.
“It could be serious,” said Mr Patel. “Well, would anyone other than Conservatives use it? I do not know.”
Alan Knitowski, CEO of Phunware Inc., an enterprise software company that worked on apps for Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign, said Truth Social could find an audience among Americans who believe the leading social media platforms are moderating Content has gone too far.
Certain content remains blocked on Truth Social, including posts that the Company believes “disparages, taints, or otherwise harms” Truth Social or the Trump Media & Technology Group under the Company’s Terms of Service.
“This seems very clear to me as an attempt to ensure that the site cannot be used by Trump critics,” said Jillian York, director of international freedom of expression at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil rights not-for-profit group.
Chris Balfe, former CEO of Blaze, said in an interview that Mr Trump’s streaming business could thrive by signing up large numbers of subscribers, adding that many subscription products have been successful for conservative users.
“If this new service can get up to 2 million subscribers, they could have $ 240 million a year in revenue with minimal content spending,” said Balfe, assuming subscription fees of $ 10 a month.
Investors have responded enthusiastically to Mr. Trump’s launch of the media venture. Shares in Digital World Acquisition, the SPAC that brings Trump Media & Technology Group public, have risen nearly ten-fold since the announcement.
The SPAC has about $ 290 million that Trump’s media company could use to fund its growth, though investors have the right to withdraw cash at $ 10 per share before the deal is closed. They are much less likely to do so if the stock stays above this price as they would lose money by pulling out.
Mr Trump’s new business comes as his family business faced financial hardship, including $ 400 million in debt due over the next few years. The pandemic has caused a slump in business in its hotels and golf resorts. Talks continue to sell the Trump organization’s rights to a Washington, DC hotel that became popular with Republicans but waned after Mr. Trump lost the election. Lenders have stated they are cautious about doing business with Mr Trump and he is facing a number of investigations, including an indictment against the Trump organization and its chief financial officer in New York.
—Benjamin Mullin and Alex Leary contributed to this article.
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