All hail Matt Drudge -

All hail Matt Drudge

A shocking new study shows nothing brings readers to news sites as consistently as the Drudge Report


For fifteen years, Matt Drudge has been the most hated man in the newspaper business. His was the proto-aggregator, the web’s original sin, the first major news site to offer no original news content.  Beyond the rare, one-paragraph (or one-sentence) “exclusive,” all Drudge serves is an ugly page a day of links to other people’s stuff, artlessly assembled on a high contrast digital broadsheet, reduced to shrill tabloid headlines bellowing at you in ALL CAPS.  Drudge normalized aggregation and now everybody and your uncle is doing it. Especially your uncle, now that Facebook and Twitter have supercharged news sharing through services that make Drudge look like yesterday’s news.

Except he isn’t. A shocking Pew Research Center study tracked the web sites of the New York Times, CNN, Fox News and 22 other top news sites to find out how people get to them.  The top “referer” from which traffic originates? Drudge. Drudge beats Google. Drudge beats Facebook. Drudge beats Twitter—by a lot. “Legacy” news folks detest Drudge—just look at the Associated Press story on the Pew study, picked up in hundreds of newspapers, which buried the lede on Drudge’s surprising dominance to focus instead on Facebook’s lesser influence. But as much as journalists hate Drudge, it is clear they need him.  They may consider his aggregation to be a kind of theft or plagiarism, but even so, they can’t afford to have him stop stealing from them. Each time he does, he sends a torrent of readers their way.

Why has the Drudge Report maintained and prospered? It has ignored every innovation that has hit the web since 1996. It isn’t social—it doesn’t know who you are, who your friends are, what you buy or what you like. It isn’t part of the “realtime web”—viral hits and memes don’t register on this news ticker. It couldn’t be further from a “content-farm,” those virtual sweatshops where thousands of cheap, poorly-edited articles are pumped out weekly to fill “holes” in the web, where information that people are searching for doesn’t already exist.

Drudge doesn’t care what you’re interested in. He’ll tell you what’s important. His news sense is impeccable, and his thermometer for the national mood is accurate to the decimal. He shuffles every day through a triple-deck of other people’s news to arrive at a sparse collection of the most relevant items, which he re-titles and organizes into an explosive one-page haiku of elegant bombast. He is a genius aggregator.

We used to call people like him front-page editors.


All hail Matt Drudge

  1. Actually we used to call it yellow journalism.  He’s a log cabin Repub who sensationalizes the news, and never corrects his mistakes.

    He made his name with the ‘blue dress’, which is why he’s never changed his format. There’s no need to with a tab. 

    • If he aggregates, how does HE make mistakes? I’ve never been to Drudge, but I will check it out after reading this article.  

      • By linking to dubious sites with bizarre stories that turn out not to be true. 

        Bat boy for example, does not actually exist.

  2. VISITS TO DRUDGE 05/12/11
    29,762,490 IN PAST 24 HOURS
    881,629,361 IN PAST 31 DAYS
    9,628,826,115 IN PAST YEAR 

    Drudge is pretty much the only place I turn to for American/world news. As a one stop shop there is simply nothing better than this.

    • May I suggest the Huffington Post. 

      • You know, to cleanse your palette, with something bland. And slightly annoying. 

  3. Drudge understands the value of continuity – people get used to something. How it works. They’re comfortable with it.

    How is the new comment system working out, by the way? 

    • Great!  It’s pretty much stopped commenting, which looks like what they are aiming for.  I’m sure most macleans writers were getting well tired of having anonymous nobodies dissing their work.  Too bad, really.  

      • In February, the Gawker sites unleashed their major redesign, and it was a complete and unfettered disaster from a technical/functional viewpoint. I went from posting regularly there — meaning dozens of comments daily, sometimes — to posting maybe once every two weeks these days. The main problem was that they’d built an exceptionally strong commenter platform, and then threw it out the window for seemingly no reason but hubris.

        The replacement system they provided was utterly broken — this was deliberate in some cases, since the Gawker boss wasn’t shy about his distaste for the commentariat, but other aspects were broken simply due to incompetent implementation and painfully inadequate pre-release testing. Then to add insult to injury, they blamed the commenters for not getting the New Way. Most of the good commenters left in droves after three of four weeks passed and it was clear Gawker Media had minimal interest in fixing what they’d broken: not just the sites, but one of the strongest and smartest commenter communities on the internet.

        I don’t think that kind of hubris is in play here. I believe Maclean’s is actually trying to improve their comment section, not just adding some glitter in hopes of selling out for a Web-2.0-bubble cashgrab a la Huffington Post, the way Gawker seemed to be doing. That being said, it’s harder to comment here now, harder to follow the people I liked to follow, and overall just harder to have fun spending an hour or two a day going through the stories and comments. Too many clicks, too much back-and-forth, etc.

        When a provided service works well and has a certain ease of use, it’s best to avoid swapping it out for a system that offers less functionality and is harder to use. (And it’s easy for me to say that now, but even six months ago viewing Intense Debate pages on my computer would freeze or crash my browser any time there were more than 100 or so comments showing at one time, so it’s not like I’m romanticizing the old system.)

        Overall, I’m not leaving Macleans, but I’m definitely fading into the background. Maybe I’ll get used to it in the long run.

        • You are waaayyyy more chatty without your hat on! 

          •  Heh. :)

  4.  They may consider his aggregation to be a kind of theft or plagiarism, but even so, they can’t afford to have him stop stealing from them. Each time he does, he sends a torrent of readers their way.

    The 2nd sentence disproves the erroneous consideration in the first.

  5. If a link is theft then everyones a criminal. 

    P.S. Please remove the link to my site on this comment – your stealing my work now Macleans! 

  6. First stop every day on my work PC, my laptop, or my home computer is Small Dead Animals.  Next stop is Drudge.  Both sites have allowed me to have a fair amount of insight into public issues long before they become “mainstream”.  Visitors to those two sites will already have a heads-up, for example, on the coming battles between Canadian public sector unions and various governments including the fed. as they look to get a handle on payroll and pension costs.
    Drudge’s format is excellent as it allows you quick access to dozens of news articles covering a variety of topics.  National Newswatch in Canada does a fairly good job as well.  Both are excellent at helping the discerning reader find and effectively bypass the left-leaning bias in mainstream journalism.

    • Right after you said ‘Small Dead Animals’, any hope of appearing ‘discerning’ was lost. 

      • So sayeth one so misguided as to believe that government employees pay taxes, or that skilled trades don’t provide the ability to earn substantial incomes.

        • Anyone who believes govt employees don’t pay taxes or that someone in a trade makes as much as a professional is too far gone to understand reality anyway. 

          • I don’t know, Em.  My reality is that having barely escaped high school, there’s a solid chance I’ll pull in better than double the average Canadian family income this year.
            Plus you can digest this-
            In our city of 90,000, our city government receives more in federal transfers than the cumulative total of income and property taxes paid out by city employees (and far, far less than the cumulative income taxes paid by the private sector citizens).  It also receives more in provincial transfers than what those 1500 employees cumulatively  pay in provincial income taxes.  Please explain to us in what universe and in what mathematical wonderland it is that these people are somehow tax payers.  They are tax spenders.
            It don’t compute, baby.

          • The ‘average’ Canadian income is very low, being dragged down as it is by all the low-wage earners on the bottom….so earning ‘double’ that isn’t even close to what a professional makes. 

            Low wage earners would be those who don’t understand the tax system…that would be you.

            As to computing…GIGO