Aemilius Cupero News:
As you’ve no doubt heard by now, Donald Trump announced Wednesday night that he will be launching his own social media network, the embarrassingly named TRUTH Social. For those of you scratching your heads and wondering, But wait, didn’t Trump already launch a new social media company? you are likely thinking of (1) one of the right-wing networks tangentially associated with the ex-president, like Gab, Parler, or Gettr, or (2) something called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” the blog that published Trump’s comments and was shut down after just a month because it had almost no readers.
Obviously, the lack of readers was upsetting to the former president, who spent much of the last decade tweeting every deranged thought that came into his head, from “I would like to extend my best wishes to all, even the haters and losers, on this special date, September 11th” to “NEVER, EVER THREATEN THE UNITED STATES AGAIN OR YOU WILL SUFFER CONSEQUENCES THE LIKES OF WHICH FEW THROUGHOUT HISTORY HAVE EVER SUFFERED BEFORE” to “An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that @BarackObama’s birth certificate is a fraud.” Unfortunately for Trump, his ban from Twitter, on account of inciting an insurrection, remains in effect. Hence, TRUTH Social.
Like most Trump initiatives, TRUTH Social is incredibly cringeworthy and embarrassing. For one thing, before it even launched, per The Washington Post, patriotic pranksters were able to find a seemingly unreleased version and post “a picture of a defecating pig to the ‘donaldjtrump’ account,” causing it to be pulled offline. For another, the network’s terms of service dictate that users must refrain from “excessive use of capital letters,” i.e., the only way Donald Trump knows how to type. Then there’s also the fact that TRUTH Social, billed as a vehicle for “stand[ing] up to the tyranny of Big Tech,” which conservatives claim hates free speech, prohibits users from saying anything to “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” Meanwhile, the whole thing is basically a crappier version of Twitter. Per the Post:
The site looks almost entirely like a Twitter clone: A user can post Truths, which are like tweets, or Re-Truths, which are retweets. There’s also a news feed, called the Truth Feed, a notification system so users can know “who’s interacting with your TRUTH’s,” the social network’s App Store profile states.
So yes, the whole thing already looks like a big flop that will no doubt have very few users, and Trump himself will probably get bored of the app and only post there sporadically. But in this case, it doesn‘t actually matter, and Trump might have actually figured out a way to make millions despite the product being a joke. How? We’re glad you asked!
TRUTH Social is being formed through a merger of a new company set up by Trump, the Trump Media & Technology Group, and a special purpose acquisition company, a.k.a. a SPAC. SPACs, which are all the rage these days for reasons that will soon become clear, are shell companies that are listed on exchanges like the NYSE or the Nasdaq and exist for the one and only purpose of merging with companies that want to go public—like the Trump Media & Technology Group. In this case, the SPAC TMTG will merge with is called Digital World Acquisition Corp., which is run by a guy named Patrick Orlando, a former investment banker who once cofounded a sugar-trading company. As Axios’s Dan Primack tweeted this morning, “Trump social media SPAC thing filed SEC paperwork this morning, but it’s basically just the press release again. Nothing of substance, including management, etc. So far, this is a shell buying a shell.” Normally, this would be pretty embarrassing for a company, but in this case, due to the SPAC of it all, plus Trump’s uniquely gullible supporters, it doesn’t matter.
As Bloomberg’s Matt Levine writes:
I am not going to pretend to make a business case for [a Trump social media network]—there is a long history of hilarious failure in the “social media for Trump” category—but maybe you can. It is not a sure thing, in any case. Maybe it would work, maybe it wouldn’t. When Twitter Inc. went public, it had never been profitable, and it was, you know, a real social network that people used. Maybe Twitter But Trump would immediately be profitable, but boy, I have some doubts. On the other hand, if Donald Trump launched a company that was like, “I am going to start a social media platform for Trump fans,” could he get people to buy the stock? I think that two fundamental lessons of the last few years are:
- You can get people to buy any stock; and
- Donald Trump can get people to buy anything.
So if Donald Trump announced, “Hey, I’m gonna do a social media company, buy some stock,” people would buy some stock. And then he’d get a lot of money. And then if the social media platform did not end up being profitable—as I cannot imagine it would be!—then he would, uh, still have that money? And if the social media platform did not end up being launched—if Trump and his crack team of technologists just couldn’t actually build a well-functioning online social network—then he would, uh, still have that money? And if there was no crack team of technologists at all, if nobody even tried to build the social media platform—then you see where I am going with this, right?
The point is that if you launch a company with the goal of making it profitable, you have to, like, have a workable business plan and execute on it and deal with a million different operational complexities. If you launch a company with the goal of selling a lot of stock, you have to get people to trust you and give you their money. There is some overlap between those things! But they are different things!