Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg might be Time’s reigning Person of the Year, but when it comes to influencing the distribution of online news, he’s still no match for Matt Drudge.
Facebook is closing in on 700 million users, but according to a new study by the Pew Research center, the Drudge Report sends more than twice as much traffic to the nation’s top news sites. According to the report:
- Overall, Drudge accounts for 7 percent of all traffic sent to news sites. That’s more than Facebook (3 percent) and Twitter (1 percent) combined.
- “Drudge Report drove more links than Facebook or Twitter on all the sites to which it drove traffic” (emphasis added). In other words, for every single news site Drudge was ranked as a traffic source, it maintained its lead over the social networking sites.
- Drudge drives traffic to sites across the ideological spectrum. Fox News (11 percent), Washington Post (15 percent), ABC News (11 percent), USA Today (8 percent), and Boston Globe (11 percent) all receive significant portions of their traffic from Drudge.
- Only Google tops the Drudge Report as a traffic source.
PBS created an infographic contrasting Drudge with Facebook and Twitter. A caption on the graphic puts it all into perspective: “Five of the top 21 news sites receive more than 10 percent of their audience from the Drudge Report.”
It’s time to give Drudge his due
Forget the wisdom of the crowd. When it comes to online news, Matt Drudge is the one friend that news outlets really need to have.
Given how news outlets have struggled to adapt to the rise of the web, this should make Matt Drudge a hero. He’s sending outrageous amounts of traffic to traditional news outlets, giving them a chance to monetize their professionally generated content. But if you mention Matt Drudge in the tech world, the best you can hope for is a smirk.
Drudge is seldom lauded in Silicon Valley as a web innovator — much less an amazing entrepreneur — which is a shame. Maybe it’s because the design of his website has changed little in 14 years. He’s not on the cusp of the latest web technology to deliver content. Plus, he is politically conservative, which is at odds with the Silicon Valley area’s liberal ethos.
It’s time to give Matt Drudge his due as an Internet pioneer. Before blogging and the rise of the citizen journalist, there was the Drudge Report. In 1998, he was the first to break news linking Bill Clinton to Monica Lewinsky, a scandal that would later lead to impeachment charges being approved in the House of Representatives for only the second time in our republic’s history. That might have been the rocket that took Drudge to the top, but it’s been his own hard work and journalistic instincts that have kept him there for well over a decade.
Drudge’s game-changing design, data-driven approach
Matt Drudge used the web to change the way media works. He showed us that the Walter Cronkites of the news world — curators working at massive conglomerates — shouldn’t have a stranglehold on information. In that sense, he paved the way for subsequent online content entrepreneurs like Arianna Huffington, Mike Arrington, and Om Malik.
He also set a paradigm for web design that still stands to this day. Critics who call his site ugly miss the point. It’s easy to navigate, doesn’t hide important information under sub-sections, and has a minimalist approach to layout. It’s also data-driven. Visit the Drudge Report several times in a day and you’ll see how he tweaks headlines and moves articles around to get the optimal configuration.
Will the Drudge Report’s importance to online news compared to Facebook and other social networks diminish over time? Of course. Social networking is becoming too big a part of our lives to think otherwise. But that’s missing the point. Matt Drudge is an Internet pioneer who’s been at the top of his game since the early days of the web, and he’s disrupted an entire industry in the process.
Eric M. Jackson is the CEO/co-founder of CapLinked, an online platform for private companies, investors, and their advisors to network, manage a capital raise or asset sale, and exchange updates. He previously ran the marketing team at PayPal and is the author of The PayPal Wars.