This past Tuesday, I posted an item on a recent effort launched by the conservative bloggers at The Next Right seeking to challenge WorldNetDaily, an influential clearinghouse of right-wing paranoia that has recently brought the world the latest, greatest bleats from the fringe, "birtherism." Today, over at The Washington Independent, Dave Weigel undertook a quantitative analysis of WorldNetDaily's reach and power. Based upon his findings, if you want to diminish their influence, it's likely to be a long, hard slog. One might derive a lot of hearty laughs from the effort to prove that Obama was born in Kenya, but Weigel warns: "WorldNetDaily's Web traffic, revenue, and influence is no joke."
The driving force beyond the site's financial success is its traffic. [WND ad operations manager James R.] Whelan tells potential advertisers that the site reaches "6 million unique viewers every month." That number is difficult to confirm with public information, but it's not far off. According to siteanalytics.compete.com, WorldNetDaily had more than 1.9 million visitors in July, the month when the "birther" story peaked. That was the slowest month for the site in more than a year. In June, a more average month, it drew in more than 3.9 million visitors. For comparison, that month Free Republic had around 3.2 million visitors, The Washington Times had roughly 2.9 million, Townhall.com had 2.5 million, HotAir.com had 2.4 million, National Review had roughly 2.2 million, Human Events had 1.4 million, LewRockwell.com had 1.1 million, CNSNews.com had around 532,000, and The American Spectator had around 358,000. Among conservative news sites, only Fox News, with roughly 50 million monthly visitors, and Newsmax, with around 6.2 million in June, regularly beats out WND.
By means of comparison, a site like David Frum's New Majority -- which, like The Next Right, is a sensible, next-wave conservative website looking to move the Republican Party out of the shadow of its vocal fringe -- is getting a tiny amount of traffic: 42,000 visitors this past month (Weigel notes that Frum's outfit fares slightly better by Google's count). Plus, there's a critical advantage that WorldNetDaily enjoys: a permanent link on the narrative-driving juggernaut The Drudge Report. Weigel says that "Drudge accounts for 13 percent of [WorldNetDaily's] traffic."
Beyond the website's traffic success, Weigel cites a statistic that suggests WorldNetDaily's power as a potential mobilizer: "It has a mailing list of more than 355,000 e-mail addresses, which has been built up through tools like daily polls on the site." That's a significant asset when it comes to organizing. If WorldNetDaily's online influence gets their toxic ideas into the mouths of politicians, it's direct contact with readers that puts bodies inside health care town halls voicing the same.
For Jon Henke, who's spearheaded the effort at The Next Right to get "respectable organizations" on the right to stop supporting WorldNetDaily through ad revenue, it's the site's ability to mobilize footsoldiers that presents the unaccounted-for portion of the challenge to diminish their operation, and, in so doing, quell the fringe that Henke rightly finds embarrassing. WorldNetDaily is not just projecting influence online -- their influence is propagating on the street, peer-to-peer, and in the face of politicians. I don't know what sort of traffic Henke is doing over at The Next Right, but if it's in the neighborhood of Frum's site, any challenge to WorldNetDaily's primacy will require a strategy for robust audience growth and a way of organizing their readers to project their political and governing philosophies off the page, and into the world.
PREVIOUSLY, on the HUFFINGTON POST
WorldNetDaily Faces An Organized Challenge From The Right