Industry Views

Monday Memo: Calculating Taylor Swift

By Holland Cooke

imNow that every single thing is a political argument, the angry social media conversation about Taylor Swift is unsurprising. And with the Super Bowl looming, the decibel level amps-up.

So, kudos to SiriusXM and CNN host Michael Smerconish. I’ve previously cited him here as technique worth emulating when it comes to:

– Polling the audience on an ongoing basis (a sponsored feature on smart radio stations)
– Leveraging social media to give audience ownership of the show; and
– Genuine curiosity. His centrist approach earns him scorn from both sides in this Cold Civil War we’re living through. I can relate. When I managed WTOP, Washington, the quickest way to make the phone explode was to announce a crowd estimate for an abortion rally. Both sides jammed the lines to damn the number.

This preposterous Swift kerfuffle had been all heat until Smerconish shed light on it this past weekend. Noting rumors shared by FOX News that she would photobomb the Super Bowl with a Joe Biden endorsement, his poll question was “Could Taylor Swift determine the outcome of the presidential election?”


Just now, you answered that question in your own mind. But – for our purposes – the more useful approach is to consider information Smerconish curated unfiltered by personal politics:

– Swift has 279 million Instagram followers
– She has (so far) sold 4.35 million pricey tickets for The Eras Tour. Its “record-shattering revenue” (so far) is $1 billion+
– $200 million (so far) in tour merchandise. Her gray $45 T-shirt is now sold-out in all but 3XL and 4XL.
– 26 billion+ Spotify streams in 2023.
– SSRS polling: 59% of USA adults identify as Swift fans, 63% of women; and her fans are evenly divided 50/50 between Democrat or Dem-leaning and Republican or GOP-leaning.
– On her urging, several hundred thousand Americans younger than 25 have registered to vote.

Add it all up? “Taylor knows your social media interactions, where you saw her on tour, how much merch’ you’ve bought from her website, she knows the size of your T-shirt, the number of downloads you’ve made. We’re embarking on an election cycle which will be (a) the most expensive in history, and (b) will see much of the money spent on ‘micro-targeting,’ the use of online data to tailor – pun intended – advertising messages to individuals based on the identification of recipients’ personal vulnerabilities and interests. In order to target effectively, data is essential. And Taylor’s got lots and lots of it, and on a demographic that is exactly what the Biden team needs the most: disproportionally female, young, and passionate. With truly the touch of a button Taylor Swift is uniquely situated to use the data at her disposal to impact the presidential race.”

Leave it to your nerdy consultant to ask: Are WE using OUR listener data to OUR benefit?

Bigger-picture issues:

– Privacy: We have all volunteered LOTS of information about ourselves. Look what pops up in your email and your social media.
– Vulnerability of the Electoral vote process: The last two Republican presidents took office after losing the popular vote. Taylor Swift is my coastal Rhode Island neighbor, and if she votes here, neither of us matter. Our state has four electoral votes. Just 40 thousand-some popular votes in three key states gave Biden his 2020 win.
– Tone: The measurable appeal of Swift’s sunny disposition vs. “I am your retribution.”

Good for us. News/talk radio is in the suspense business. “What JUST happened??? What happens NEXT???” So, we should wish Nikki Haley well.

Inquisitive Smerconish sounds like dispassionate Mr. Spock: “What [Swift detractors on the right] should be worried about is her data.”

Holland Cooke ( is a consultant working at the intersection of broadcasting and the Internet. He is the author of “Close Like Crazy: Local Direct Leads, Pitches & Specs That Earned the Benjamins” and “Confidential: Negotiation Checklist for Weekend Talk Radio.” Follow HC on Twitter @HollandCooke and connect on LinkedIn.