Commentary: Sucker’s Bet

By Jim Cossler

Probably the biggest grievance inflicted on former President Donald Trump is his removal from all the social media platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube have all either permanently “de-platformed” or suspended him.

Facebook even took it a step further when it recently announced that “content posted in the voice of Donald Trump” would also be removed. This was in response to his daughter-in law attempting to post a lengthy video interview of him on the Facebook platform.

I have serious misgivings about this effort to silence him after leaving office. I strongly believe that all voices need to be heard, no matter how
much we might disagree with the content.

Of course, there should be some obvious exceptions to the totality of free speech. And, perhaps, after the violent storming of the U.S. Capitol building on Jan. 6, which many believe Trump directly incited, this may be one of those exceptions. There is certainly a good argument for it.

To get around these social media bans, it has long been rumored that Trump will create a platform of his own.

The first indication came in July 2020, when The Washington Post reported that The Trump Organization wanted to trademark the word “tele-rally.”

It’s a curiously archaic sounding word, and not one that conjures cutting-edge technology. Nevertheless this is the word they chose.

However, even this first step ended in failure when the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office rejected the application as overly broad.

Despite this initial setback, I know that Trump desperately wants to be back on social media. He craves the attention it affords. I’m convinced that, if he can’t get back onto the existing platforms from which he is banned, he very well may try to create his own. At least, that’s what his closest aides keep telling us.

Doing so, however, will be an enormously expensive and difficult undertaking. I have serious doubts, for several reasons, that a Trump social media platform can be profitable.

Still, if Trump really wants to throw a ton of money at it, just to lose more money, here are some of the obstacles he will have to overcome:

First, social media is completely out of the domain of expertise of The Trump Organization. The former president’s company is successful, we think, in real estate. Although it may come out that it is not nearly as successful as we were led to believe.

Look what happens when the Trump Organization leaves its lane.

Trump failed as an airline owner, football team operator, steak entrepreneur, magazine publisher, university proprietor, casino owner, mortgage lender, beverage seller and vodka merchant, to name a few.

I’ll add social media tycoon to the list even before its launch.

The next big obstacle will be securing a top tier hosting agreement for its platform.

Let’s say its goal is to expand its user base to at least the 90 million followers Trump had on Twitter. For a lot of reasons, I don’t that is possible.

But should it reach that user-base size, it will absolutely need one of the “big boys” like Amazon, Google, Microsoft, IBM, Dell, HP, Salesforce or Oracle. 

I seriously doubt any one of those companies would enter into a hosting agreement post Jan. 6.

Patent navigation for the platform development team will be a complete nightmare. Social media has been around for some time now. And so has the ever-growing number of patents protecting the developers.

It is estimated that more than 30,000 patents have been filed in United States alone on social media-related technologies and methods.

And I can assure you, the moment Facebook, or any other patent holder that Trump attacks finds an infringement, it will immediately seek an injunction demanding that Trump’s platform be shut down pending adjudication. 

Finally, can a Trump platform attract paying advertisers?

Clearly, there are advertisers who want to reach political conservatives. But, already there are 34 (and counting), social media sites delivering that same audience.

So again, after Jan. 6, which is the better and safer choice in the minds of advertisers to reach that market? Advertisers want audience, not controversy, for their brands.

So let me handicap the odds for a new Trump social media platform.

Odds of a launch? Possible, not probable.

Odds of it being successful. Zero.