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Saturday, May 27, 2017

Alt-right crater

by digby

Oh heck. It looks like having a dim-witted cretin win the election isn't as good for business as they thought it would be:

With its former chairman Steve Bannon as White House chief strategist and plans for an ambitious international expansion, Breitbart was supposed to be on its way to becoming a media behemoth in the Trump era, one with unparalleled access and a passionate audience. “While several publishers have enjoyed an uptick in traffic due to election coverage, we are proud to have built a massive and deeply-rooted community that will remain long after the election cycle fades,” Larry Solov, Breitbart’s C.E.O., predicted back in November.

Early on, Solov’s prediction seemed to be coming true. “Breitbart News is the #45th most trafficked website in the United States, according to rankings from Amazon’s analytics company, Alexa.com,” they wrote on January 9, 2017. “With over two billion pageviews generated in 2016 and 45 million unique monthly visitors, Breitbart News has now surpassed Fox News (#47), Huffington Post (#50), Washington Post (#53), and Buzzfeed (#64) in traffic.” A month later, the site had even greater cause to celebrate. “Breitbart News is now the 29th most trafficked site in the United States, surpassing PornHub and ESPN,” they crowed. In the article, its staffers bragged that their bonkers traffic reflected the site’s cementing a permanent place in American politics. “The numbers speak for themselves,” said Solov. (Many outlets, including The Hive, experienced traffic peaks around Trump’s inauguration.)

Just a few months later, the numbers have a different story to tell. As of May 26, 2017, according to Alexa.com—the same web-ranking analytics company that Breitbart drew its numbers from in January—Fox News is the 64th most-trafficked site in the country. Huffington Post is at 60. Buzzfeed is at 50. The Washington Post, on the strength of a series of eye-popping scoops, is at 41.

Breitbart is in 281st place.

Alexa global rankings of Breitbart measured against news sites they have compared themselves to. Trends reflect U.S. rankings.

Alexa global rankings of Breitbart measured against competing conservative news sites. Trends reflect U.S. rankings.

Measuring web traffic is an inexact art, but other web-analytics companies reflect a similar, unusually steep decline in Breitbart’s traffic. ComScore estimated that Breitbart had nearly 23 million unique visitors during the month of November 2016, but only drew 10.7 million in April 2017, a 53 percent drop. Last month, the site had fewer visitors than it did in April 2016, when 12.3 million people visited the site. In contrast, the four sites that Breitbart benchmarked itself against saw nowhere near that drop—and, in the case of both Fox News and Buzzfeed, saw small increases in traffic since the November election.

The Breitbart traffic graph in Alexa, the service that Breitbart cites when they celebrate their traffic goals, is oddly shaped, rocketing up to a high plateau where it remained over a period of months, then dropping back precipitously around April 30, Trump’s 100-day mark. In an email to The Hive, an Alexa customer representative suggested that the traffic anomalies could have been caused by Breitbart enabling, then disabling, Alexa’s certified-results feature, which temporarily created an apples-to-oranges comparison with sites that don’t enable the feature, like The Washington Post. (The dates the representative provided coincide perfectly with the dates that Breitbert’s traffic spiked, and then plummeted.)

Other conservative media sites have also experienced declines in traffic in recent months, but none as pronounced as Breitbart’s. According to Alexa data, National Review Online, Infowars.com, The Daily Caller, and Drudge Report all saw slumps in their rankings. Over the last week, as Trump was engulfed in the Comey scandal, Fox News’s viewership dropped to third place behind CNN and MSNBC for the first time in 17 years.

At the most basic level, Trump’s struggles are producing a passion gap among news consumers. “If you’re anti-Trump, there’s never been a better time to read news. It’s like Christmas every morning,” an editor at another conservative media outlet told me. “So every time you open the newspaper or open Twitter or turn on Facebook, you get to enjoy the fact that there are a lot of other people who don’t like Trump and there’s a lot of news stories that show Trump in a negative light. Whereas if you’re Breitbart, you’re scrambling to explain or defend or continue to back the guy that you backed throughout the election. And eventually, if your posture continues to just simply be reactive and trying to explain away things that are happening to or by the president, I think people slowly become sort of disheartened by politics.”


Traffic has long been the definitive measure of the strength of the movement Breitbart championed. “The growing traffic numbers was a huge focus for Bannon and the Breitbart senior management, as it would be for any online platform,” Kurt Bardella, Breitbart’s former spokesman, who left the company in March of 2016, told me in an e-mail. “They saw the growth as validation that their perspective and strategy was paying off. More than that, I think Steve saw it as a big F.U. to the establishment/MSM. In some ways, I think their rapid growth fueled their desire to try and take Breitbart global and expand.”

Trump’s election, however, changed the trajectory and raised journalistic questions the site had never had to ponder. “There’s two types of bias in news,” said a former Breitbart staffer. “There’s bias in news as to how you cover a particular story. And then there’s selection bias as in which stories do you cover. And I think that Breitbart has both of those.” The former staffer pointed to the site’s current homepage, just a few hours after the C.B.O. score for the House’s second attempt at repealing Obamacare was released. The biggest headline on the site was “Associated Press Cracks, Issues Correction Undermining Hit Piece From Leftist Activist Hired to Sneak into Kellyanne Event.” “This is not news anyone wants to read right now, come on,” he said. “That’s not even in English.” (A story about the C.B.O. score was buried in the bottom right-hand corner.)

Another factor could be an apparent decline in the number of times Breitbart stories receive a link from Matt Drudge—a single link on the Drudge Report homepage can fuel an entire month’s worth of web traffic. Andrew Breitbart, a former Drudge employee, essentially built his organization on the back of the Drudge Report; Bannon continued the close relationship after Breitbart’s death. (“Bannon used to go around bragging that he ran Drudge [and that] he could get a Drudge link anytime he wanted,” said the former Breitbarter.) Many see the current editor, Alex Marlow, as having a more difficult time now that Bannon has gone. Says the former staffer, “Alex’s main strategy was to get Drudge links,” while Bannon was there. “When that’s your training, it’s hard to get away from that.” (Drudge did not return a request for comment.)


Their international expansion, too, seems to be slipping past the benchmarks they set for themselves. Reuters reported that Bannon hoped to open Breitbart bureaus in France and Germany in time for their elections with the aim of electing right-wing, anti-immigrant politicians. The model had worked wonders in the U.K., where Breitbart London had opened in 2013 and became a political powerhouse for Brexit. But Breitbart France failed to materialize in time for the presidential election, where a centrist candidate decisively beat Marine Le Pen, the nationalist politician favored by the website. Breitbart Germany does not exist yet, but there is still plenty of time until their September elections.

But for now, the simplest explanation may be that Breitbart’s traffic struggles reflect the struggles of the man they backed during the election, now mired in the difficulties of governance and scandal. “When you tie yourself to a candidate you shouldn’t be surprised,” said the former staffer. “If the candidate has trouble, you’re going to have trouble. And if your goal is to provide cover for that candidate and the news is about that candidate, it’s going to be difficult to cover the news in a way that’s interesting.”

The numbers, indeed, speak for themselves.

Live by the Trump, die by the Trump.

Right wing media is in a crisis. They've never needed the leadership of a guy like Roger Ailes more. But he's gone, Limbaugh is tired and Hannity has become Trump's geisha. The newer group of wingnuts, Ingraham, Levin etc are stuck in their old conservative movement groove and really don't know how to deal with Trump any better than anyone else. He is destroying the machine they've built.

But that doesn't mean there isn't a powerful right wing media anymore. It's just that it's being run by foreign entities using modern social media tactics. These old fashioned dinosaurs are no longer relevant. They are being devoured by a virus they helped create and a wingnut host that will believe anything.