5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

Summary: What makes The Drudge Report so overwhelmingly successful? And what lessons can other media take from those characteristics?

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TOPICS: Browser
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The New York Times yesterday ran an article entitled How Drudge Has Stayed on Top. If you can't read it because it's behind NYT's new and silly paywall, don't worry. I'll tell you all about it.

In breathless terms, The Times discusses how amazing it is that The Drudge Report has remained at the top of the media food chain (and, incidentally, is bigger online than the Times itself).

The Times cites (but, tellingly, does not link to) a Pew Research Center Project for Excellence in Journalism report stating that Drudge drives double the traffic as all of Facebook to the top news sites in the country.

This doesn't surprise me. I check Drudge before my first cup of coffee in the morning (or what, for me, passes as morning). I check The Drudge Report last, before I get ready for bed. I probably check it at least once an hour during the day.

I am not alone. 15 percent of all the traffic going to the Washington Post arrives there via Drudge. I can't tell you how many times I've talked to officials in DC and the discussion turns to what they read on Drudge. Not only is the site an information site, it's rapidly become the first-responder information site, far more so than, say, the cable news providers.

Many people claim the Drudge Report has conservative lean, but I would tend to somewhat disagree (although Drudge protege, Andrew Breitbart, is almost insanely conservative). My impression of the Drudge Report is that his editorial slant is for the juicy headline. He seems to have revolutionized media with is personal interpretation of that old saw, "if it bleeds, it leads".

So what makes The Drudge Report so overwhelmingly successful? And what lessons can other media take from those characteristics? What follows are five lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of us.

1. Make it blazingly fast

Although there have been a rare few times when the site took a little while to load, The Drudge Report is almost always a rocket-fast load. You're never making a time investment to check Drudge, so many news junkies like me feel confident that a single quick click will result in instant chewy, newsy goodness.

2. Make it instantly digestible

While we're on the topic of instant, it's possible to see what's happening the world over, in a single glance. That's why I find the site so valuable. At any time of the day (less so on weekends, sadly), I can feed my jones for "what's going on in the world" with a quick Drudge fix.

Of course, that doesn't mean I'm done quickly. While I can absorb all the headlines instantly, I can often get sucked in for an hour or more (especially during my morning reading), when I use The Drudge Report as a jumping off point for fascinating article after fascinating article.

3. Make it timelessly trustworthy

Did you ever go out to a restaurant that claims to be open until 9pm, but closed at 8:15 because it was a slow night? Didn't that almost immediately erode your trust in the restaurant? I'll bet it did. And I'll bet you thought twice before going back on another evening. The restaurant had lost your trust.

Web sites lose readers' trust as well. Every time a site redesigns, puts up a wall, adds a registration layer, moves things around, and otherwise gets in the way of the expected user experience, readers leave. Many sites never had a perfect formula to begin with, so they keep tinkering, hoping to find what works.

Somehow, Matt Drudge stumbled on the perfect formula early on. He has no registration feature. He doesn't try to trap readers on his page. He doesn't do regular redesigns and move things around.

Plus, he provides one other excellent, and completely predictable service. When there's something HUGE breaking, he puts an ugly flashing light graphic at the top of his page.

To me, that means I can take a quick glance and trust that if something's really, REALLY important, there would be a flashing light graphic and I'll know to pay more attention. If there's something important, but less world-shattering, he'll make the headline red. He always has, and we trust that he always will.

Because he hasn't changed that format for years and years, I (and all the rest of us) have learned to trust that Matt will tell us when we really need to pay attention.

4. Make it always informative

There is always something interesting on The Drudge Report. Always. No matter when you check the page, there's something to read. Some days, Drudge keeps his headlines on the important topics of the day. But on slow news days, Drudge knows we need our fix, so he'll dig up a bunch of interesting, but less major news items. No matter what, there's something there to read.

That leads me to the fifth lesson Matt Drudge can teach the rest of us...

5. Make it completely irresistible

Much noise has been made of Drudge's hyperbolic headlines, but you gotta give the guy this: they're often completely irresistible. Who can resist clicking "NYT: IMF Head Arrested in New York, Accused of Sexual Attack... Developing..." or "HUCKATEASE: WILL HE OR WON'T HE?" or even "DISNEY settles suit after woman claimed she was fondled by Donald Duck..."?

My point is that while you could accuse Drudge of editorializing in headlines like "FAIL 'N' BAIL: US Middle East peace envoy to resign...", the fact is they are like catnip to us news hounds.

Add up those five elements, instant access, quick to digest, trustworthy, informative, and juicy, and you've got the formula for a site that came from nowhere and now sends everyone everywhere -- and we love it.

Topic: Browser

About

David Gewirtz, Distinguished Lecturer at CBS Interactive, is an author, U.S. policy advisor, and computer scientist. He is featured in the History Channel special The President's Book of Secrets and is a member of the National Press Club.

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42 comments
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  • I hope ZDnet pays close attention to #3

    I don't care about the registration, but ZDnet probably peaked about 3 overhauls ago and has gotten progressively worse with each one. A shame, because there is a lot of good talkback that supplements the main articles here, but it's harder than ever to sift through the trolls and find the good stuff.
    Michael Kelly
    • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

      @Michael Kelly

      Amen
      Joe Dufflebag
      • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

        @Joe Dufflebag Once thought of as a hothouse flower of the Lewinsky scandal, the Drudge Report is now more powerful in driving news than the half-billion folks on Facebook. (According to the study, Facebook accounted for 3.3 percent of the referrals to news sites, less than half as many as generated by The <a style="text-decoration: none; color: #333333;" href="http://www.drudgereportarchive.com/">Drudge</a> Report.)
        kstarksdev
  • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

    You forgot one thing. Tell the TRUTH. Maybe that's the most important thing missing from MOST News feeds these days. Drudge will go after stories that most of the media won't because they aren't afraid to tell the truth about things regardless of how the establishment deems it. Drudge wasn't afraid to print that 911 was an inside job, he wasn't afraid to print the fact that Osama has been dead since 2002. Tell us all, when was the last time any of you guys at ZDNet has the guts to run anything of these truths THAT MATTER? That is WHY ZDNet is dieing off. You want to be back at the top of the NEWS cycles, start running/linking to stuff from sites like www.infowars.com as Drudge has been doing. Start putting out some NEWS that matters and stop trying to please all the lemmings and trolls.
    netquestz
    • Hate to break the news to you (pun?:))

      @netquestz

      Drudge tells nothing.

      Drudge only links to other pages. Some of those pages are highly questionable.

      This way Drudge can 'report' something without actually writing any content and thus not be held responsible for anything 'reported'.
      rmhesche
      • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

        @rmhesche Whatever. There goes the trolls splitting hairs again. The info gets to the reader doesn't it? The reader gets exposed to the content correct? So what is your point other then to be a troll and to make statements about "questionable" sources. Exactly what sources aren't "questionable" these dayz? Maybe you'd like to state that all spew from the White House is pure truth and contain nothing questionable EVER right? Questionable is a matter of personal opinion in this context and everyone has an a*****, even you. Go back to FUX NEWS or MSNBC or one of the other talking head mind bending spew sites. You aren't ready for grown up content just yet.
        netquestz
    • Loosen your tinfoil hat a bit

      @netquestz
      It's interfering with your ability for information analysis.
      use_what_works_4_U
      • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

        @macadam Tin foil Hat? Whom exactly is the one with the issues here. Is this your answer to anything you don't agree with/understand or otherwise wish to demonize in one manner or another? Your response is typical of the masses of lemmings and its what you run to when you have nothing of any value to contribute. You learned that phrase from the very media this article is addressing. You are a perfect example of what the mainstream media has done to the masses and why Drudge is growing. So please, keep up with the Tin Foil Hat comments. You have no idea how much it demonstrates whats wrong with the system and how utterly un-informed you personally are to your own world. Got anymore media learned buzz words you can call me? Zionist? Birther? Truther? Tea-Bagger? Got anymore mindless words you can throw out? Tin Foil Hat has always had to do with aliens and UFO's. None of that in this posting. So, what else would you like to twist in the name of establishment media?
        netquestz
    • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

      @netquestz
      Amen to the importance of telling the truth, but Drudge didn't tell us 911 was an inside job or that Osama has been dead since 2002. What Drudge does is tell us that other people are saying these things and give us the chance to read it for ourselves. It's reporting, as opposed to conjecturing.
      No one special
    • RE: That is WHY ZDNet is dieing (sic) off.

      @netquestz

      This site has gone down hill ever since CBS Interactive bought it.
      fatman65535
    • Where the heck do you get your &quot;news&quot;?

      You talk about getting to the truth, yet, you quote nothing but lies and conspiracy theories. <br><br>9/11 as an inside job is nothing but a mindless conspiracy theory, So, how do you ascribe any kind of truth to that nonsense?<br><br>Osama being dead since 2002? Okay, give any real and credible sources for that garbage. You're probably one of the worst purveyors of nonsense I've encountered in ZDNet, and then you're going to accuse others of what you seem to be very experienced at?<br><br>Drudge is an indirect source, and the site will give you access to the truth and to the lies and to everything in between. Hopefully the reader is smart enough to distinguish between facts and lies and spin. It amazes me that you even know how to spell truth, but it's real meaning is something that's beyond your capabilities.
      adornoe
      • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

        @adornoe@...

        Dear UsefulIdiot Comrade,

        I must congratulate you on your reply. We must keep the truthers in check or they may expose us. I would be in error if I did not point out your failures as well. Remember that all ?required? words and terms must be used at least once in each reply to any site. In your next post remember to include all of these once, preferably many times since repetition is most effective.

        Tea bagger (hot list word; use as frequently as possible)
        Conspiracy theory wacko (or) nut job (an oldie but a goody)
        Denier or Climate Denier (we still have not given up on the climate change angle so be sure to use this often)
        Birther


        Have a nice day and Hail Centralism!
        Comrade Smith
        Sector 7 Chief
        BlueCollarCritic
      • BlueCollarCritic: Is that you again, &quot;ahh so&quot;, aka: Search & Destroy?

        But, as always, being an idiot isn't going to win you the argument.

        Try arguing the points and you might actually contribute something of value. Acting like an idiot is no contribution at all.
        adornoe
    • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

      @netquestz

      Sadly, I don't think TRUTH was left out unintentionally.

      I'd like to belie that Gewirtz is at least honest even if biased but leaving out the most important point, that DRUDGE reports not based on what the government or big money tells him to but based on what?s really going on in the world and he doesn?t let pro-collectivism fools (like some posters here) discourage him from referencing sites like PrisonPlanet & InfoWars simply because the lame stream media and the yuppies want to pretend they don?t exist and deny that these websites have far more visitors and traffic then even the best of the mainstream sites could ever hope for.
      BlueCollarCritic
  • Been a while since I've been to Drudges page,

    A links page,<br><br>Links to sometimes questionable sources (apnews.MYWAY.com, a subdomain of an ISP. You consider this trustworthy?)<br><br>At least one link is to a 'reported attack site'.<br><br>No registration feature ... whats there to register for?<br><br>I'll give you that Drudge has kept it simple, <I>which I can appreciate</I>. When dancing bears and spinning stars started I felt the impending "brain "sex"", then came the major media presentations and 'movies', what the web has become ... so yes, I can appreciate simplicity. At least with NoScript and AdBlock enabled.<br><br>But I went looking for the mention of Senator Ensign, not one word about him.<br><br>Seems to me that someone is living in an illusion of being informed.
    rmhesche
    • Message has been deleted.

      netquestz
      • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

        @netquestz
        Chill out. If you want to say something constructive, I'll read it. This drivel you go on about makes me want to hate Drudge, not like it.
        gwartnet
  • Drudge report

    We have tightly controlled firewalls and multiple layers of security and have had to on two occasions disable our users ability to get to drudge report as the main page was trying to push us a viruses. Good sight and I agree but they need to do a better job of protecting the people using the site.
    ricksterd6
    • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

      @ricksterd6 It happens. We had to do the same thing a few months back with a Century21 website, it happens.

      But whenever you have a site that getting so much traffic you're bound to have this type of activity. Someone probably felt it was "Tin Foil Hat" material and attack the site to "teach those stupid fools" a lesson type of thing. When you are over the target you catch the flack.
      netquestz
      • RE: 5 lessons Matt Drudge can teach the rest of the media world

        @netquestz Nah.

        It was someone who figured that anyone who actually believes what Drudge throws out wouldn't be able to figure out how to defend themselves against an online attack.
        fairportfan