Drudge No More?

It’s the end of the world as we know it.

Drudge Report, #TeamKJ, #KevinJackson
Image courtesy: Axios

1995 launched the Space Shuttle Discovery and the iconic Drudge report.

The Drudge Report, the quintessential conservative news aggregate that redefined news reporting at dawn of the 21st century, appears to have switched sides.

The once media ‘go-to’ juggernaut for the most up-to-date scoop on what was happening in politics, current events, and pop-culture has mysteriously thrown in the towel.  This 180-degree reversal on not just what, but how, he has presented the news.  To the ire of millions of one-time fans.

Drudge had a real influence on politics.  Political pundits Mark Halperin and John Harris opined in their 2006 book The Way To Win:

“Drudge’s coverage affects the media’s political coverage.”

“The phones start ringing whenever Drudge breaks a story.”

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Thus, calling him…

“The Walter Cronkite of his era.”

Drudge’s information was both so fast and spot-on, that the mainstream news media often found itself playing catch-up.  In 2018 saw some of Drudge’s highest numbers:

SimilarWeb’s latest Media Publications ranking, which covers the first six months of 2018, shows Matt Drudge’s right-wing news aggregation website flopped places with the New York Times for #6 for top US media publications online.

The rankings are based on a total of traffic, page views and unique views, according to SimilarWeb, though a video accompanying the rankings noted that the Times website had 249.3 million visits compared to 144.3 million visits for Drudge.

Doing An ‘Anakin Skywalker’.

It became obvious last year when Rush Limbaugh made his remarks regarding the Drudge Report during his radio show:

I was perusing the Drudge page over the top of the hour break.

Man, the Drudge page. Depending on the time you look at it, I mean, it makes it look like this country’s finished, we’re done, it’s over. You may as well forget about it and just enjoy your life.

Others began to take notice as well.  Buzzfeed News unveiled:

Drudge has quietly flipped the switch on perhaps the biggest change he’s ever made: He’s ditched his longtime advertising partner for a new representative, in the process revealing new details about his business and attracting scrutiny of how his site operates.

The reclusive publisher does not disclose revenue figures, but estimates put the site’s annual haul well into the realm of millions of dollars per year. Pathmatics, a marketing intelligence platform, estimates that over the past 12 months the site generated more than $30 million in ad revenue. Another estimate from the Global Disinformation Index, to be published in a report next month, pegs revenue at $9 million per year.

In a surprising turn, Drudge Report removed ads between the end of May and mid-July, according to Danny Rogers, a cofounder of the Global Disinformation Index, a project that’s analyzing domains to generate “risk ratings of the world’s media sites.” After noticing an absence of ads on Drudge around May 31, “we didn’t see any ads on Drudge until about July 12,” Rogers told BuzzFeed News.

During that period, Drudge cast off his advertising representative of close to 20 years, Intermarkets, in favor of a new and unknown company, Granite Cubed. It has no record in the digital ad industry, was only registered as a company in March of this year, and lists no staff or owners on its websites. Yet it just landed one of the biggest websites in the US.

Corporate records show that Granite Cubed is owned by Margaret Otto. She and her husband, Adrian, have a business association with the Drudge family that goes back years. The couple acquired Refdesk, a reference website founded by Bob Drudge, Matt’s father, in 2017. They also operated a company that began hosting the Drudge Report in 1999 and later added Breitbart as a customer.

Margaret Otto declined to discuss her company’s plans for Drudge Report or Refdesk, which she said is also represented by Granite. She wouldn’t say if she represents other websites or answer other questions, such as whether Matt or Bob Drudge were shareholders in Granite.

Follow the Money

The change in advertisers also brought a change in a new persona that was noticed all the way to the White House.  An unrepentant Drudge told the Columbia Journalism Review:

Drudge went “all in on Trump during the [2016] election.”

“That was three years ago,” the founder of the aggregate website responded. Norman noted that Drudge’s “response seemed rather telling, a clear distancing from the president.”

Trump has noticed Drudge’s apparent shift, according to a report in the Daily Beast published last November. Trump asked, “What’s going on with Drudge?” according to a person familiar with his private remarks. Trump also asked Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and a top administration official, to contact him to repair the relationship, but it’s unclear if Kushner did.

However, CNN is singing the praises of the rift amongst conservatives:

It’s unclear what precisely caused the shift in the Drudge Report’s coverage. A person close to Drudge himself told CNN in October 2019 that he had grown exasperated with the President.

Regardless, the negative coverage has apparently miffed Trump, who openly criticized Drudge.

Trump retweeted an attack from a far-right blogger who argued Drudge’s coverage of the coronavirus has been misleading and sensationalistic. “I gave up on Drudge (a really nice guy) long ago, as have many others,” Trump commented. “People are dropping like flies!”

$old Out

Drudge report, #TeamKJ, #KevinJackson
Image courtesy: Buzzfeed

Drudge long surrendered the day-to-day running of his news site to columnist Charlie Hurt and never-Trumper Daniel Halper.  This could explain the sudden hard-turn in the site’s reporting.

Yet a new question has recently arisen, “Does Matt Drudge still own his website?”

The answer is seemingly:  NO!

Buzzfeed News dug further:

Since November, the links on the Drudge Report have sent roughly 8 million pageviews to the site, according to data from analytics service SimilarWeb. This has likely earned significant revenue for its owner, who has taken steps to hide their identity. The success of dnyuz.com is yet another example of how Google, which provides the ads that make the site’s money, allows webpages that copy content from real publishers to reap ad dollars. At the same time, the news industry is hemorrhaging jobs and revenue.

A post on May 24 on the scammer-tracking site hucksters.net identified the site’s owner as Hayk Karapetyan, a web developer living in Armenia. BuzzFeed News came to the same conclusion based on domain registration records, Domain Name System data, and dnyuz.com’s use of the same Google AdSense ID number as other sites currently or previously owned by Karapetyan.

Drudge report, #TeamKJ, #KevinJackson
Image courtesy: Reddit

The Drudge Report began linking to dnyuz.com as early as November 2019, according to data from SEMRush, a search analytics tool. The links have been a consistent presence on the site since. Neither Karapetyan nor Matt Drudge responded to requests for comment.

Et In Fide Veritatis

At a time when America’s cities are burning, trust in our elected political and news media institutions across the board is at record lows.  Drudge served as a modern day version of the Norse God Heimdall, the all-seeing/all-hearing cyber-watchman who kept both in line and fairly honest in their behaviors.

Now it appears he has walked off his job, and who will fill his place?

DRudge report, TeamKJ, #KevinJackson
Image courtesy: YouTube

 

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