Their cumulative audience far exceeds that of Fox News: In four years of Trump’s presidency, a handful of pro-Trump news sites have managed to retain or acquire massive readership. Not all of them were successful, however: Infowars, the site of conspiratorialist Alex Jones, now has only a fraction of its historic audience. Banned from most social networks since 2018 after claiming that the Parkland shooting (17 dead in an attack on a school) had never existed, the 40-year-old now publishes his videos on his own site, without benefiting from Facebook’s relay , YouTube or Twitter.
Other historic hard-right websites have been able to capitalize on the strength of social networks. Despite the many difficulties to which Breitbart News has been confronted since 2016 – including the boycott of its advertising network and the disgrace of Steve Bannon, its former editor-in-chief -, in 2020 he regained much of the audience he had lost. The site’s traffic had been divided by three between 2016 and 2019, but it made a spectacular rise in 2020 in audience rankings.
Breitbart News has largely leveraged the power of Facebook, where it has more than five million subscribers. At the end of 2019, it had been added by Facebook to its “news” section, a powerful audience engine where only a limited list of media chosen by the social network appears.
It is on Facebook, always, that a new generation of pro-Trump sites has been able to develop its audience. Young American hard-right star Ben Shapiro used 7.5 million subscribers to promote his site The Daily Wire, which follows an editorial line close to that of Breitbart News and mainly publishes factual articles titled for maximum virality. Its audience was estimated, in 2020, at nearly 30 million visits per month; his rival, The Daily Caller, founded by Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson, who has since left the station, has around 20 million monthly visits. Above all, the two sites generate, on Facebook, several tens of millions of comments, shares and “likes” per month, far beyond the figures of established media such as New York Times or CNN.
Other pro-Trump commentators have successfully opted for a “multi-channel” approach. Dan Bongino, a key figure for opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement, publishes podcasts, shows and articles on several sites and platforms, with a very good audience. This success can be attributed mainly to Facebook, where the messages published by this former police officer appear every week in the list of the most viral contents of the platform in the United States – without himself knowing why. Shareholder of the ultra-conservative social network Parler, Mr. Bongino is also the slayer of the “censorship” of the conservatives by the major social networks. And from his Facebook page, which has twice as many followers as Fox News star Tucker Carlson.