Carlos Barria / Reuters
When it comes to the ongoing Trump/Russia investigations, the media — and readers — have made their interests clear: former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort may be a crucial figure, but he's nowhere near as interesting as Don Jr. or Michael Flynn.
That is according to Facebook data collected by the social media data and optimization firm Social Flow, which tracked how many stories have been written about Trump's family members and associates regarding Russia in 2017 across its network of over 300 major media companies. The company also monitored engagement across its network on Facebook, tracking average clicks per story for articles about each associate, as well as the aggregate Facebook reach of articles they're mentioned in. Taken together, the chart attempts to gauge reader interest in each player (according to Social Flow President Trump was left off the chart because his results “dwarfs everything” and skew the results).
Here's what we learned from the data:
The Trump associate Russia narrative is dominated by Flynn.
With regard to Russia, Flynn is by far the most covered of anyone in Trumpland (besides the President). According to Social Flow, Flynn has been mentioned in at least one Russia-related article 157 days in 2017 (out of 260 counted in the data) meaning his name has rarely been out of the news.
According to the data, Russia stories involving former national security advisor Michael Flynn and Donald Trump Jr. are far and away more interesting to readers than other associates like Manafort or even Jared Kushner. Individually, Russia stories about Flynn and Trump Jr. have an aggregate reach on Facebook of nearly 300 million users since January 1, 2017. Meanwhile, Social Flow data on Russia-related stories about Kushner shows an aggregate Facebook reach of just over 125 million users — Manafort's trails far below that with an aggregate reach on Facebook of just 50 million.
The data also shows that many prominent Trump associates whose names have been mentioned in media coverage of the campaign's potential involvements with Russia are not necessarily household names. According to Social Flow, Trump advisors Roger Stone, Carter Page, and Michael Cohen have appeared frequently in media coverage (Stone, for example, has been mentioned in at least one article about Russia 98 out of 260 days in 2017) but none have attracted the kind of substantial reach across Facebook as Flynn, Don Jr., and Kushner.
When it comes to Russia, data shows that not all Trump sons are equal.
While stories about Don Jr. have vast reach across Facebook and a high number of average clicks across the social network, Russia related stories mentioning Eric Trump have not captivated audiences. This can probably be chalked up to the coverage disparity between the two brothers (in 2017 Don Jr. has at least one Russia related article published about him on 76 days comapred to just 23 for Eric Trump) as well as the midsummer revelations of Don Jr.'s 2016 contacts with Russia.
There's no shortage of media coverage of Trump associates' ties to Russia.
Social Flow tracked the combined stories published each day across its network, which includes major publications like the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, BBC, Politico, and more. The data illustrates that, while coverage ebbs and flows, it never stops. Across Social Flow's network, coverage of Trump associates and Russia rarely dips below a combined 100 articles a day.
And since most of the coverage is driven by breaking news, Social Flow's chart also acts as a helpful map of the year according to Russia. The chart's spikes, for example, show some of the biggest stories of the year, including the Steele Dossier published by BuzzFeed News on January 10th, revelations on May 15th that President Trump revealed highly classified intelligence with Russian ambassadors, and the July 10th and 11th stories about Don Jr.'s contacts with Russia.
All told, however, the data seems to confirm what many already take to be true: the Trump/Russia reporting is massive, complex story that's captured the interest of hundreds of millions of readers. And it's one that doesn't appear to be going away.