Like a shot through the heart of the establishment, Matt Drudge changed the world on January 17, 1998, when he let anyone with a pulse know that Newsweek magazine had and then killed a story about a White House intern having sex with the president.
Let’s just stipulate at the outset that the Drudge Report is a Goliath in the news aggregator industry. As he scooped Newsweek on their own exclusive, he invented the product and has dominated the online aggregator market for twenty years since. Aggregators are digital pages that have curated other websites and provide links for their readers. You can think of it as a 21st-century newsstand. The stand itself doesn’t write the newspapers – it barks headlines to sell them. Thus, everything you see on a site like Drudge is a derivative link to hundreds of news, entertainment, and political sites — as well as just about everything in between.
Of course, there are a million things you can put on your newsstand, but the Drudge Report has long been associated with the conservative political movement. His selection – his curation of stories, and their headlines, and the juxtaposition of them – has made him known, since his rise to prominence, as a conservative news aggregator. The man himself embraced the label “I am a conservative.” “If you go down the list of what makes up a conservative, I’m there almost all the way.” This is where things get a bit sticky for Mr. Drudge, his website and the conservatives who read it.
Lies, Damn Lies, and Statistics
Just like baseball, everything is measured, calculated and number-crunched down to the last jot and tittle in the digital publishing industry. This includes things like the number of hits a specific article gets, and from where that traffic came, the average time a person stays on the site, the demographics of the audience, the popular pages – it is a veritable sea of numbers and algorithms. Thus, it makes sense that the digital publishing industry has its own Sabermetrics (a baseball term describing the collection and summarization of data from in-game activity to answer specific questions).
The Market Intelligence Blog is a prime example of Digital Publishing Sabermetrics. Although these numbers come from a 2015 study, the following graph serves as an excellent visual supporting the proposition that using Drudge as your primary aggregator is not really very conservative after all.
The Drudge Report is Numero Uno for referring traffic primarily to the rogue’s gallery of narrative-driven left-wing media outlets like CNN, the New York Times, and The Washington Post. As a conservative who’s now well versed in the power and money that traffic gives these outlets, one must ask; What’s up with that? Why is such a robust website on the right driving so much traffic to the left? Don’t these legacy properties who perform palace guard functions for the establishment already have enough influence and power to get there on their own? Do conservatives need to be giving them a helping hand?
Now one can argue that Drudge is merely putting up what’s out from the largest outlets, attempting to balance perspectives, much like Real Clear Politics. RCP, for instance, curates’ articles from the left and right so the average reader can find out what’s going on in both political camps. But for some 20 years now Drudge has been seen as a beacon of light for the conservative community.
But there is a difference between information gathering or in other words,
Sleeping with The Enemy
It’s essential to have good intel on the opposing side in any battle. Information on your opponent is one thing, but giving them frequent license to broadcast and propagandize is another story altogether. This is where some conservatives are beginning to jump off the Drudge platform. They believe their General is getting soft and careless with his power — allowing the other side to have such latitude that they begin to infiltrate and take over our own territory. When the rank and file begin to wonder about the allegiance of their leader they start leaving – in droves.
While the numbers don’t appear to be eroding from Drudge just yet — a segment of his audience is moving and shooting. Take for instance two new conservative aggregators on the field. One – TheLibertyDaily.com bills itself as “The Conservative Alternative to the Drudge Report.” Their home page is almost a carbon copy of the Drudge stripped look, and they pulled in over 700K hits in December (a slow month) and approximately 1.3M in October. Not too shabby.
Then there’s Whatfinger.com – another Conservative aggregator with numbers that are climbing rapidly. SimilarWeb shows their numbers at 1.63M in the traditionally slow month of December while back in August they were pulling in about 400K hits. That’s a pretty fast-paced build in the Sabermetrics of digital publishing. Whatfinger.com differs from TheLibertyDaily.com in that they use their own unique formatting to present their curated headlines for a more streamlined effect.
What both of these up and coming sites have in common is a faithful, loyal following of Conservatives. From time to time each site will point out fake news from the left, but they aren’t promoting those stories. And therein lies the difference. These David’s – TLD and Whatfinger – are out there ready to take on Goliath and in many ways are already doing a damn good job of it. And as anyone who has read this most celebrated of Biblical stories knows, bigger doesn’t always mean better nor does it indicate who will ultimately win the battle. Or perhaps put in a modern context, the Drudge Report has lost its shine.
(Hat tip to Scott D. Cosenza, Esq. for his excellent research.)