How Drudge drives more traffic to news sites than Facebook

It’s surprising to many that Matt Drudge’s site, DrudgeReport.com, drives more traffic to news sites than any other web property besides Google. That’s right, even with the growth of Twitter and Facebook, his simple site still drives more than they do to major news sites, and as a result, he helps set the news agenda. How has he done it? It’s an interesting lesson in new media.

“With no video, no search optimization, no slide shows, and a design that is right out of mid-’90s manual on HTML, The Drudge Report provides 7 percent of the inbound referrals to the top news sites in the country,” The New York Times’ David Carr reports. “…in the last 14 years, there have been no big redesigns, no big rollout of new features and no staffing up to provide original content. The initial site, designed to load quickly in the age of dial-up modems, remains relatively untouched.”

Three things in particular stand out about Matt Drudge’s success:

  1. Focus on his core mission and audience. “He does not rig search optimization, he does not care about the next big Web innovation, he just has the best nose for news there is,” says Andrew Breitbart. “He gives people everything, every single thing, they want to know in a single stop.”
  2. Simplicity. “The genius of Drudge is the simplicity of the layout,” said Matt Labash, a writer for The Weekly Standard. “Everyone else who tries to knock him off complicates that. There’s no tabs. There’s no jumps. There’s hardly any clutter, even if he now runs more headlines than he used to. He’s secure enough in the formula that he’s never changed it.”
  3. Editorial judgement. He is “the best wire editor on the planet. He can look into a huge stream of news, find the hot story and put an irresistible headline on it,” says Gabriel Snyder, who has done Web news for Gawker, Newsweek and now The Atlantic.

According to the latest report from Pew’s Project for Excellence in Journalism, “While Facebook never drove more than 8% of traffic to any one site [during the study], for instance, Drudgereport.com provided more than 30% of traffic to mailonline.co.uk (the British newspaper site the Daily Mail), 19% of the traffic to the NYPost.com, 15% to Washingtonpost.com and 11% to Boston.com and FoxNews.com. In other words, the Drudge Report’s influence cuts across both traditional organizations such as ABC News to more tabloid style outlets such as the New York Post. What’s more, Drudge Report drove more links than Facebook or Twitter on all the sites to which it drove traffic.

Here is a chart from that report: