There is no doubt that earned media, “free media” — basically any broad-reach, remotely credible media that doesn’t have an ad spend — is having an outsize role in the 2016 presidential election.

Especially when it comes to Donald Trump. Donald Trump is no stranger to the media spotlight, and has capitalized on free media with a bombastic, in-your-face, say-it-like-it-is message that appeals to a lot of angry, fed-up, and sometimes out-of-work Americans. Could the latter be why so many are able to show up at his rallies? (see The Geography of Trumpism).

But “the media” is getting a lot of flack for the rise in Trump’s popularity and success in the polls and primaries. This is chicken-or-the-egg stuff. Which came first, Trump’s popularity among voters (the “chicken”), or the media’s coverage of his popularity (the “egg”)?

recursionThe media as mirror metaphor also comes into play here. Is the media merely an unbiased, objective reflection of reality? Or does the media help create and shape that reality? It’s a self-perpetuating dynamic to be sure. Like looking into a mirror in front of a mirror and seeing your reflection go on and on and on in perpetuity.

Here at mediaQuant we DON’T have the answer to the million-dollar chicken-or-the-egg question, but we DO have the numbers behind the news, including the monetized value of each candidates’ monthly and 12-month trailing earned media. Check out recent articles in the New York TimesHuffington Post, and MONEY on Donald Trump’s nearly $2 billion dollar free media bonanza. Not even Beyonce’s got that beat.

To be sure, earned media is the most influential, vs. paid and owned media, in influencing customer (and voter) action. Now with mediaQuant, you can get all your numbers right here.