Don’t doubt the influence of Matt Drudge. According to Quantcast, the Drudge Report sees a steady stream of more than 2 million unique visitors daily. For publishers, the distribution power of the Drudge Report — just like other content streams such as Facebook and Twitter — is hard to write off as trivial. Those 2 million daily visitors are sent around the Web via the news links that Drudge feels are most worthy of their attention. Get a top link on the Drudge Report, and your site will have a steady stream of thousands of eyeballs.
So we wondered: What is Matt Drudge directing his massive following to read about? To mine the Drudge Report is to take a snapshot of what’s trending in conservative media. National Journal’s product manager and all-around techno-wizard J. Argyl Plath wrote script to pull all the headlines from DrudgeReportArchives.com for the year (for this list, it’s Jan. 1, 2014, to Dec. 15) and then ranked the popularity of the terms in those headlines.
The results pretty much trend with the biggest stories of the year, although they do appear weighted toward conservative flashpoints — immigration, Obamacare, military issues. In the chart below, we compile the top terms of the year.
Some caveats: We had to filter out prepositions and filler words; we also filtered out nonspecific terms such as “video.” We combined similar terms such as “GOP” and “Republicans.” Also, because the script separated out individual words, we searched for first or last names that (most likely) refer to one person. Hillary, we can assume, is Hillary Clinton. Michelle is most likely the first lady (Bachmann spells it with one “l”). And Rand is a rarer name than Paul.
You can sort through the complete list of Drudge terms here. Potential activities include creating decorative Drudge word clouds and searching for coded messages about the apocalypse. Drudge deployed a 20,830-word vocabulary this year, so there’s hours’ worth of fun to be had.
Of the 2016 GOP presidential contenders, “Christie” got the most mentions (although many of those concerned the Port Authority scandal). “Rand” beats out “Cruz” by just a few mentions, with “Perry” trailing not much further behind.
Drudge split his attention somewhat evenly between “Dems” and “Democrats” (325) and “GOP” and “Republicans” (405). “Reid” (79) has more mentions than “McConnell” (17).
Our analysis also revealed the top sites Drudge pulls from. They are the following.
The power of the Drudge Report is not just distribution. Drudge can influence how his readers think about the news. Headlines on the Drudge Report are often different than the headlines on the actual story. So, “Sony Cancels Theatrical Release for ‘The Interview’ on Christmas” on the Hollywood Reporter becomes “SURRENDER: SONY PULLS ‘INTERVIEW.’ “
The difference isn’t trivial. The first is a statement, the second is an accusation. A recent study found that a skewed headline diminishes readers’ ability to remember details in the story. The first impressions a story makes matters. And when Drudge owns the first impressions, in some way, he owns the news.