Sounds logical, right? Just one thing: Traffic to leading right-wing websites often exceeds visits to more traditional mainstream news and information sites. I know because for the past year, I’ve been tracking audience visits to conservative websites for TheRighting, which follows and studies right-wing media.
When I first began analyzing conservative websites, not only was I knocked back on my heels by the sheer daily editorial output coming from the right, I was also astonished by the size of the audiences for the sites I studied.
I don’t want to diminish the power of cable’s Fox News or right-wing talk radio, but the vast breadth of right-wing websites combined with their ability to attract large audiences -- with many attracting anywhere from 10 to 70 million audience visits a month -- make them impossible to ignore when considering their influence over a large part of the voting population.
Furthermore, the philosophy of some of our political leaders on the right — including our Tweeter-in-Chief — are often constructed from the opinions and conclusions of the articles posted on these websites.
Need proof? Trump’s claim that Google was purposely burying conservative news outlets favoring his administration in its search results was based on a controversial Aug. 25 article on the right-wing website PJ Media.
PJ Media regularly lands on the list of TheRighting’s top 20 conservative websites of the month, averaging roughly 12 million to 14 million audience visits a month. Not enough to be a top five conservative website, but it certainly holds its own.
PJ Media generated about the same number of audience visits in July as that feisty upstart Fortune, which has been around like forever. Be sure to send the publisher a birthday card next year in celebration of the magazine’s 90th birthday.
This is just one small example demonstrating that right-wing websites often have bigger digital footprints than mainstream news brands founded decades ago.
There are at least a dozen conservative websites generating more than 10 million audience visits a month, including Breitbart, The Daily Caller, Infowars, The Daily Wire, TheBlaze, Townhall and PJ Media.
For the sake of argument, let’s for the moment focus on two of the more controversial conservative sites: Breitbart and Infowars.
Breitbart has ranked as the number-two conservative website in terms of audience visits (to Fox News — more on that later) for so long that we might have to start calling it Pepsi. Or Pence. Its grip on second place has not even been remotely challenged.
Furthermore, Breitbart generates more monthly audience visits than many well-known news and information sites. Take Politico, for instance. Breitbart topped Politico’s audience visits in July by seven million visits.
How about The New Yorker? Does anyone need a reminder about the magazine’s highly publicized role in exposing the sexual predations of movie producer Harvey Weinstein, which turned investigative reporter Ronan Farrow into a national publishing brand?
Breitbart generates about double the monthly audience visits of The New Yorker. In fact, audience visits to Breitbart exceed some of the most renowned media outlets in the country.
While the much-maligned Infowars attracts only about a third of Breitbart’s audience visits, Infowars leaves many blue-chip media brands in the digital dust.
In July, Infowars generated two million more visits than Today.com. Newspaper websites from major metropolitan dailies like The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Newsday all lag behind Infowars by at least a few million monthly visits.
I’ve created the chart below to help illustrate my points (right-wing sites are capped and boldfaced). Granted, the choices I’ve made are somewhat random. Plenty of mainstream news and information sites draw more visits than Breitbart like CNN, CBS News, and even Rotten Tomatoes. But of all the U.S. websites — and that includes the likes of Google, Facebook, Craigslist and Walmart — Breitbart ranked 170 for the month of July. That is some serious reach.
If there’s a bias against conservative websites, it hasn’t stopped the onslaught of publishers from launching new digital media outlets for right-wing audiences. This has happened relatively quietly over the last 15 years (I’ve compiled an A-Z guide on my website) and they clearly outnumber the number of overtly liberal news websites like Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo. Plus, let’s not forget the websites from prominent right-wing personalities like Sarah Palin, Pat Buchanan and Bill O’Reilly that feature commentary and original reporting. Few liberal leaders have gone this route.
And in case you’re wondering about Foxnews.com, in July it recorded 357 million audience visits, making it the most visited conservative website of the month. Was traffic to Foxnews.com diminished by so-called suppression of search results or censoring of conservative opinion? Could it have pulled even larger audiences if a liberal finger wasn’t allegedly on the scale? Who knows?
But one thing is certain: Foxnews.com’s July audience visits surpassed both The Washington Post (188 million) and The New York Times (325 million), proving that millions of people were able to find the conservative voice they were looking for.
If there’s a bias against conservative news from tech giants conspiring in the dark, it hasn’t affected the ability of right-wing websites to draw huge audiences month after month. In fact, it’s readily apparent that conservative websites are flourishing in the light of day, right under our noses.
*July 2018 audience visits
THE DAILY CALLER
The New Yorker
The New York Daily News
THE DAILY WIRE
New York Magazine
The Boston Globe
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Talking Points Memo