I should know. I spend the first part of every weekday morning surveying right-wing digital outlets for my website TheRighting, where I pluck the 12-15 juiciest headlines of the day.
Analyzing traffic trends and audience composition is often as important as dissecting the content coming from the right. It’s not just what right-wing websites are saying. Who are they talking to? And is this audience growing or shrinking?
So long, story short: the audience is huge and cuts across a wide swatch of America. These news consumers on the right can’t be dismissed as fringe elements with no ability to make an impact in elections (see November 2016, America).
So, what happened in the first half of 2018? What conservative websites did audiences flock to -- or flee? Here are eight surprising insights:
The biggest got bigger: Foxnews.com is the 8,000-pound gorilla of conservative websites. It records four to five times the number of audience visits compared to the next largest site, Breitbart. That’s a massive lead. And Fox News got bigger this year. It began 2018 with 303 million audience visits in January and ended in June with 346 million. Even more impressive: Its June audience visits exceeded those of The New York Times, which had 320 million audience visits.
The Daily Wire is wired for success: While audience visits to this three-year-old site remained steady throughout through the year, take a second to consider the astonishing strength of this relatively new conservative media brand. In less than 36 months, The Daily Wire has consistently become a top-five website – far exceeding well established news brands on the right like The National Review, The Weekly Standard and The Washington Times. And its founder and editor in chief Ben Shapiro has become a leading voice on the right (author, journalist, podcaster, web video presence, etc.). If you’re tracking the strength of right-wing media, keep an eye on this influential website.
Breitbart is down but not out: Cue the violin music: Breitbart is slumping. TheRighting’s analysis shows audience visits dropped for six of the past seven months. Citing Comscore numbers, Politico wrote in June that Breitbart’s traffic dropped for the seventh straight month. CNN threw more shade on Breitbart by posting a story in late July saying that the media’s fascination with Breitbart is fading. Ouch.
Breitbart is getting worse press than Steve Bannon’s barber. But don’t call the undertaker. There was nothing in the numbers for the first half of this year suggesting in any way that Breitbart will lose its ranking as the second-most-visited conservative website. It has about twice as many audience visits as The Daily Caller, the number-three-ranked conservative website.
TheBlaze is also down but not out: Downsized staff. Newsroom grumbling. Failed sale to a prospective buyer. Bad press. Yep, Glenn Beck’s trailblazing conservative website has had a rough 2018. But audience visits have basically held up this year (although down from 2017).
Infowars is also trending downward: First half audience visits to Infowars peaked in January at 21 million. Since then, traffic has tailed off. Guiding spirit and controversy magnet Alex Jones has been temporarily banned from Facebook. The notorious site ended the first half with “just” 16.96 million audience visits. It’s worth noting that Infowars consistently ranks as a top-10 conservative news website. What happens to the site in the second half of the year is an open question.
Fastest growing conservative website you’ve never heard of: The Western Journal. Audience visits have almost tripled since the beginning of the year and now stand at almost 15 million, which makes it a top-10 conservative website. The site places a lot of emphasis on Facebook traffic, and more than 80% of its social visits came from the social media giant.
Sinclair’s news website stuck in neutral: While there’s been considerable speculation about Sinclair mounting a challenge to Fox News in the TV game with another conservative-leaning news network, Sinclair’s efforts with its news website Circa seem stalled. Each month, Circa attracts a little more than one million audience visits. It’s not even a top-20 conservative website -- not impressive considering Circa’s corporate backing.
Millions love to visit a hate site: Traffic remains steady for the hate-spewing neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer. It generated more than two million audience visits for each of the last three months. Or, to put it another way, more than twice as many as the Sinclair-backed Circa. And some months this year, it came close to surpassing the audience visits to Sean Hannity’s website.
If there’s any saving grace in these numbers, it’s that audience visits from the United States accounted for only 40% of The Daily Stormer’s traffic, followed by Spain at 10% and then United Kingdom at 9%.