Drudge influence may remain, but numbers show his audience waxes and wanes

Among the findings of last week’s Pew report on what drives traffic to — and from — news websites, David Carr today highlights the continuing influence of the Drudge Report.

As Carr noted, Nielsen numbers cited by the Project for Excellence in Journalism show the Drudge Report driving more traffic to news websites than Facebook. (Some have disputed these numbers.)

I wondered: How has Drudge’s audience changed over the years? Is it really steady, or has it declined or grown since he gained prominence during Bill Clinton’s presidency when he famously featured early news of what would become the Monica Lewinsky scandal?

Tracking by comScore was only available from 2007 on, however it paints an interesting picture of Drudge’s audience, which grows during the heat of campaigns and elections and diminishes other times (continued below image).

The annual average number of unique U.S. visitors to Drudge’s site grew between 2007 and 2010 and began to decline this year.

Year Uniques (000)
2008 1,706
2009 1,801
2010 1,856
2011 1,640

September through November of 2008 were peak months (during the last presidential election), as were July and August of 2009 and November 2009-March 2010 (before, during and after the last midterm elections). The lower average for this year may reflect seasonal differences and campaign cycles; previous January-April averages were below the annual average in 2008 and 2009, but above the annual average in 2010.

For additional perspective, Drudge’s 1,612,000 unique visitors for April leaves him off the list of top 25 news sites. Drudge Report would place around 40th in the list of top news sites, well below FoxNews.com with its 24,020,000 uniques and below TheBlaze.com, with its 2,034,000 uniques.
> Washington Post disputes study touting Drudge’s influence

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  • http://twitter.com/carson_smith Carson Smith

    That’s a good point, loyalty is really the key differentiator. Would be interesting to compare Drudge to just the homepages of other major news sites. I think the data discrepancy may actually have something to do with the high repeat visits on Drudge. It’s very difficult to count true unique users. Quantcast’s direct measurement method (or any tag-based analytics solution) counts unique computers, not a unique people. Because Drudge’s users visit so often, and probably on multiple computers, they may get counted multiple times. By contrast, comScore has a panel of actual people so there should be no duplication. But that has its own issues. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. Because Drudge’s users visit so often, and probably on multiple computers, they may get counted multiple times. By contrast, comScore has a panel of actual people so there should be no duplication. But that has its own issues. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle. 

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

     Thanks, Larry. I had not seen that.

  • http://www.poynter.org Poynter

    Carson, Thanks for commenting. I’d expect there to be some variation between Quantcast and comScore, but I would have thought the relative positions of each would remain consistent, so I’m surprised Quantcast would have the Blaze so far below Drudge, while comScore has the reverse, unless comScore panels undersample their respective readers.

    One really interesting aspect to this, pointed out to me by Megan McCarthy at Mediagazer, is that Drudge is attracting and driving all this traffic with what is essentially a single page, whereas other sites have multiple pages to draw people in and then send them back out. That huge volume of direct traffic says a lot about the loyalty of his readers, especially when paired with the Quantcast metric that says 49% of visits to his site are from “addicts.”

  • Anonymous

    Comscore is not an accurate source by any measure. http://weblog.blogads.com/2010/01/25/comscore-con-score/

  • Anonymous

    Comscore is not an accurate source by any measure. http://weblog.blogads.com/2010/01/25/comscore-con-score/

  • http://twitter.com/carson_smith Carson Smith

    According to Quantcast, TheBlaze.com (2.9 M monthly uniques, 68 M page views) is much smaller than Drudge (15 M monthly uniques, 800 M page views). https://www.quantcast.com/drudgereport.com vs. https://www.quantcast.com/TheBlaze.com. Both comScore’s panel and Quantcast’s direct tagging have respective limitations in methodology, but I am more likely to buy the Quantcast #s in this case since both sites are directly measured with their analytics code.. Both comScore’s panel and Quantcast’s direct tagging have respective limitations in methodology, but I am more likely to buy the Quantcast #s in this case since both sites are directly measured with their analytics code.