Trump Plan for New Media Venture Gets Investors’ Thumbs Up

NEW YORK (AP) -
President Donald Trump speaking during a rally protesting the electoral college certification of Joe Biden as President in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File)

Some investors aren’t waiting to see if former President Donald Trump’s plans for a media company to challenge the likes of Facebook, Twitter and even Disney can actually become reality — they’re all in.

Trump said Wednesday that he’s launching Trump Media & Technology Group as a rival to the Big Tech companies that have shut him out and denied him the megaphone that was paramount to his national rise. The announcement came nine months after Trump was expelled from social media for his role in inciting the Jan. 6 Capitol insurrection.

The new venture said it had been created through a merger with Digital World Acquisition Corp., and seeks to become a publicly listed company. Shares of Digital World Acquisition quadrupled in value in afternoon trading Thursday, even though there’s a long way to go before the deal gets finalized and the venture becomes a bona fide media outlet.

“It’s been many, many months since there’s been a SPAC merger greeted with this amount of enthusiasm,” said Jay Ritter, a professor at the University of Florida who specializes in initial public offerings.

Trump has spoken about launching his own social media site ever since he was barred from Twitter and Facebook. An earlier effort to launch a blog on his existing website was abandoned after the page drew dismal views.

“We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favorite American President has been silenced,” he said in a statement. “This is unacceptable.”

TMTG has not set its sights low. In addition to the Truth Social app, which is expected to soft-launch next month with a nationwide rollout early next year, the company says it is planning a service dubbed TMTG+ that will feature entertainment programming, news and podcasts.

One slide in a TMTG presentation on its website includes a graphic of TMTG’s potential competitors, and suggests that over the long term TMTG will also become a power in cloud computing and payments and suggests it will go head-to-head with Amazon, Microsoft, Google and Stripe.

TMTG also takes some jabs at Trump’s previous favorite social network. Slides accompanying the Truth Social preorders listing in Apple’s app store depict a social network that strongly resembles Twitter, right down to short messages and user handles preceded by “@” signs.

The same graphics also feature a user named Jack’s Beard, who in one image fumes when an employee pushes back on an order to delete a user and its posts, calling it “kinda an overreach.” The Jack’s Beard account uses the handle @jack, which is Jack Dorsey’s handle on the real Twitter; Dorsey’s long scraggly beard has also drawn attention during his congressional appearances over Zoom.

Truth Social’s terms of service, meanwhile, bar users from annoying any of the site’s employees and from statements that “disparage, tarnish, or otherwise harm, in our opinion, us and/or the Site.” It was not immediately clear who the “us” in that statement refers to.

A Trump-branded social media portal would arrive into a crowded space dominated by Big Tech-run portals like Facebook and Twitter. Still, everyday social media users tend to be on multiple platforms at once, so TMTG’s offering doesn’t have to necessarily peel users from other portals to thrive.

Trump’s new media bid could also compete for viewers on conservative networks such as OANN, Newsmax and Fox News, she said.

With Apple and Google cracking down on apps that violate the companies’ content guidelines, Trump’s social media app also “could provide a new venue for fake news and extremism,” Cirone said.

Shares of Digital World Acquisition soared $33.06, or 332%, to $43.02 in afternoon trading.