Subscribers to Drudgereport.com since the late 1990’s will know far and wide how much Andrew Breitbart meant to Matt Drudge. The two, in tandem, had then set the precedent for how users consumed their news online. While most newspapers opted for paywalls and cluttered pages, Breitbart and Drudge believed a simplistic, ad-free experience was the necessities to disseminate the news.
Not only would they personally curate the headlines, but they would hand-pick articles free of the typical “liberal” media spin. That’s not say CNN would be completely barred, but their most offensive posts simply wouldn’t be worthy of a link. Being a headline aggregator didn’t limit the two from breaking news stories of their own. From Monica Lewinsky, to John Kerry’s VP pick of John Edwards, the two were steps ahead of cable news network and provided a refreshing gateway to an honest reality.
These days, those old subscribers will barely recognize the Breitbart of yesteryear, nor will they see the Drudgereport.com living up to its editorial standards set forth decades ago. Tongue-and-cheek headlines mixed with suggestive images; highly editorialized headlines tailored into specific messages. Ads cluttering the pages show unabashedly who their sponsors are.
Nothing is more evident of this change than the latest #DumpKellogs boycott from Breitbart:
Kellogg Co. announced on Tuesday its decision to pull ads from conservative media giant Breitbart.com because its 45,000,000 monthly conservative readers are not “aligned with our values as a company.” In response, Breitbart News, one of the world’s top news publishers, has launched a #DumpKelloggs petition and called for a boycott of the ubiquitous food manufacturer.
It’s odd seeing a self-proclaimed “media giant” asking its own followers to lash out against a business. Let alone this was a site Andrew Breitbart had built from the ground up. Andrew, more than anyone else, knew the influence advertisers tried to bring to news organizations. His efforts were to squash such influence against his own website.
So the question is, what changed? The answer lies within the website itself.
Breitbart.com – The Old Days
Taking a step into the Wayback Machine shows us that Breitbart.com was simple. Sure, most websites were simple back in 2005, but Andrew Breitbart focused on a clean, white canvas to display various headlines in the news. As you can see, there was a strong lack of advertisements. As Drudge readers can attest, Matt’s primary reason for linking to Breitbart was due to its lack of influence from advertisers.
Breitbart.com – Post-Obama Victory (2008)
Mere days after John McCain conceded the election to then President-elect Barrack Obama, we see business as usual. No blatant cries of the world falling apart. Noticeable additions include video posts and accessible RSS feeds for various types of news provider. Categories appeared at the topic ranging from Technology, Politics to World News. As the site moved to providing it’s own video content, advertising still remained absent.
Breitbart.com – Election Year (February 2012)
Fast forward four years later, we’re in the thick of Republican and Democrat primaries. The website has undergone another facelift. Surprisingly, no noticable advertisements are seen.
Perhaps the most significant addition are the links at he very top of the page: “BREITBART.TV”, “BIGHOLLYWOOD”, and “BIGGOVERNMENT”. These links were added two years prior during the rise of the Tea Party protests. Breitbart, a self-proclaimed conservative, took to heart the message of these protests. Instead of dominating his website, he gave them their own special section.
Breitbart.com – Andrew Breitbart’s Death (March 1st, 2012)
March 1st, Andrew Breitbart died during a morning walk. The site continued to to operate as normal, but honorably featured news and videos of people paying their respect. Before long, the tone would be set that would question the circumstances of his death, but more importantly: to profit off it.
Breitbart.com – Days Later
And with a drop of a hat, Breitbart.com completely changed to the modern design we see today. Gone are the topic categories that every other new site uses (and Breitbart begs to take them serious); replaced by large, menacing versions of the BIGHOLLYWOOD, BIGGOVERNMENT text. The comforting, neutral, and white background was replaced with a dark, questionable background image that clearly bared a photo of President Obama. Stephen Bannon, friend of Breitbart, had taken over.
No more linked headlines, no more gatekeeper. Breitbart.com would become it’s own “source”. Bannon proclaimed he would release the damning tapes of Obama’s college years (but to this day, he has yet to make good on that promise).
Gone was the trust of Andrew, leading you to the news that he deemed worthy. Ushered in was a new era—a view of the darker side of a different movement. When old followers speak of Breitbart.com being a conspiracy theory website, this is Exhibit A on why.
Breitbart.com – Today
It wasn’t long until advertisements began littering the site. Unashamed, they even peddle their own wears, most noticeable a garment titled “Iconic T-Shirt” for a cool $19.95. The influence that Andrew feared had finally taken hold of his site, and not by his own ambition.
Ask anyone 4-years ago that this would be where the site would be today, they would scoff. But no one could have seen this coming. It’s been a slow build. Taking a trusted audience and grooming them into a movement takes time. Bannon knew this, and using Andrew Breitbart as a martyr was the foundation he needed. Everyone of Breitbart’s followers became consumed… even the dear friend Matt Drudge.
Don’t support Breitbart? Buy some Kellogs!
The above ad is Amazon Affiliate links to help fund the website.
In other words, Breitbart.com followed the exact same business and design arc as every other popular online media site in the country, over the exact same period of time. Wow. Shocking.