On Thursday, The Daily Beast, which does not determine the news cycle, tut-tutted the influence of the Drudge Report—which does.
If that characterization of Drudge’s power seems simplistic, consider that these were the top non-celebrity news stories of 2014 in the United States, according to Yahoo!: Ebola, the death of Robin Williams, the midterm elections, leaked Internet photos of Hollywood celebrities, the missing Malaysian airliner, Ferguson, Jodi Arias, the rise of ISIS, the NFL’s domestic violence problem, and Obamacare. Drudge Report can clearly be linked with the prominence of several of these stories.
Matt Drudge posts headlines long before the mainstream media have caught on and shines his traffic spotlight on stories he deems important. That, in turn, drives mainstream news coverage – or, in some cases, as with Obamacare, perhaps not. And that’s the point: the media need Drudge to point them in the right direction, apparently, but Drudge doesn’t need the media to make a story huge.
When it comes to Ebola, Drudge obviously generated worldwide interest in the disease, forcing the Obama administration to confront a problem it considered second-tier for months after Ebola outbreaks in Africa. Drudge’s attention to the midterms trumped the media’s almost complete lack of interest in the elections – and his decision to focus in on immigration drove debate across the country and led to massive Republican turnout. Drudge drove coverage of the missing Malaysian airliner – at least until CNN turned it into ratings gold, and began praying for weekly missing airliners. The media certainly focused on Ferguson, but it was Drudge who defined the prevailing narratives about the subject: the racial hoax perpetrated on the American people, the media’s malfeasance and desire for a conflagration, the President’s feckless intervention. President Obama and company pretended that the rise of ISIS meant virtually nothing – at least until Drudge highlighted the suffering of the Yazidis and the continuous threats of beheading. And when it comes to Obamacare, there is little question that Drudge directing traffic to sites covering the utterly media-ignored story of Jonathan Gruber made Gruber a national story.
Nonetheless, Drudge may be losing power, says The Daily Beast. The evidence? That Drudge has not chosen the nominees of the two parties. The Beast explains, “just as there is the so-called Money Primary, which involves the seeking out of the money people who can bankroll such a venture, there is the ‘The Drudge Primary’—the battle to curry favor with the Internet’s most notorious aggregator.” There is no doubt this is true. Many candidates wonder behind the scenes how to get Matt Drudge’s attention for various prospective campaign activities. But the Beast says that this is a waste of energy – that Drudge’s supposed preference for Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz, and Scott Walker will matter little come election time:
Some Republican operatives wonder if it will even much matter, if the era of Drudge has at last past. Today, when more and more people curate their own news through their social-media feeds and news sites spring up seemingly daily, the Drudge Report might look like a dinosaur.
To push that notion, the Beast trots out former Hillary Clinton campaign spokesperson Phil Singer. “One big difference between 2016 and 2008 is that there are so many new platforms curating that type of content,” Singer told the outlet. “He really came of age in the pre-Twitter, pre-Facebook era—he’s sort of like a landline.” The Daily Beast admits that Drudge is still “a rather large [dinosaur],” but limits his influence to “older, conservative voters who are likely to vote in primaries and donate to campaigns… he is still believed to be the bookmarked URL of choice for talk-radio producers and a large portion of the Beltway press.”
In other words, a huge chunk of those who vote, and a huge chunk of those who influence those who vote.
Matt Drudge hasn’t lost one bit of influence. It’s just that the media largely scorn those he influences, even as they cheat off his paper.
Ben Shapiro is Senior Editor-At-Large of Breitbart News and author of the new book, The People vs. Barack Obama: The Criminal Case Against The Obama Administration (Threshold Editions, June 10, 2014). He is also Editor-in-Chief of TruthRevolt.org. Follow Ben Shapiro on Twitter @benshapiro.