Breitbart News denies readership drop, alt-right label

Breitbart News denies readership drop, alt-right label
© Breitbart.com

Breitbart News is pushing back on a Politico report that it experienced a steep decline in online traffic over the past six months, citing a "lack of fairness and balance" in the story and defending itself as a "conservative website" as opposed to being referred to as "an alt-right new site."

The Politico story published late Tuesday provided numbers via analytics service comScore showing Breitbart traffic declining by almost 50 percent since October, from 15 million unique visitors to 7.8 million in February.

The story also refers to Breitbart as "an alt-right news site," a label that Breitbart's new senior management rejects. Former executive chairman Stephen Bannon once referred to the site as "the platform for the alt-right" during  an interview with Mother Jones during the 2016 Republican National Convention.

"Breitbart is not a so-called alt-right website, but a conservative news website," a Breitbart spokesperson said in a statement to The Hill. "Our internal traffic numbers are inconsistent with the comScore reports, and we have noted significant variance between their methodology and our numbers in the past."

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Breitbart offered numbers that contrasted with comScore's reported drop from 15 million to 7.8 million unique views: "Amazon-owned Alexa [analytics] shows Breitbart.com as the 61st most-trafficked website in the United States, and an examination of their data for the last six months shows that traffic has been extremely consistent."

"Politico, by means of comparison, is currently ranked in 235th place. Given that every source quoted in the Politico story is a long and frequent critic of Breitbart, we’re disappointed but not surprised at the lack of fairness and balance offered to Politico’s readers," the statement concluded.

The Politico story included a quote from Ben Shapiro, 34, a former Breitbart editor critical of his former publication who has since gone on to be the founder and editor of The Daily Wire, an online outlet geared to appeal towards younger conservatives.

“They hitched their wagon to Trump, but more importantly, they hitched their wagon to Bannon,” Shapiro told Politico. “And when Bannon left, what was the character of the site going to be? That was always a serious question.”

Bannon was executive chairman of Breitbart before becoming Trump's campaign chief executive in August 2016, just months before the election.

The president named him chief strategist after defeating Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonRoger Stone fundraising off promise not to testify against Trump Rivaling chants of 'USA,' 'lock him up' greet Flynn after sentencing hearing The Hill's 12:30 Report — Flynn awaits sentencing | White House signals it wants to avoid shutdown MORE. Bannon served in that capacity for just seven months before parting ways with the White House to return to Breitbart in August 2018.

Bannon's second tenure as Breitbart's executive chairman was short-lived, lasting just five months before he stepped down after being publicly rebuked by Republican mega-donor Rebekah Mercer, a Trump supporter who also owns a major stake in Breitbart.

In response to Breitbart's statement, a Politico spokesperson told The Hill in an email that Breitbart "chose not to provide comment or other information" for the story and that the outlet was provided "plenty of time to respond."
 
"The story also references Alexa, which reflects a similar trend line for Breitbart — their worldwide ranking has dropped 33 spots in the last three months," the Politico spokesperson added. "[Media and politics reporter] Jason [Schwartz] initially reached out to Breitbart on Monday, giving them plenty of time to respond." 
 
"Jason specifically asked if they had internal numbers reflecting a different trend — they never provided any," the spokesperson said. "The reason Breitbart is not quoted in the story is because they repeatedly refused to provide comment, data, or facts that reflect an alternative view."

Former Breitbart employees and analysts told Politico that many former readers are likely finding a home at Fox News, which has recently expanded its digital operation and has attracted as many as 90 million unique visitors per month.

“A big part of Breitbart’s success was that there was a niche to be filled that Fox News was not able to fill at that point,” Rob Faris, research director at Harvard University’s Berkman Klein Center for Internet and Society, told Politico.

"The role, the importance of Breitbart is diminished," he added. “Fox News is the gorilla in the room.”

The reported decline in traffic comes amid a boycott of Breitbart's advertisers.

Todd Krizelman, CEO of MediaRadar, which helps web firms increase ad sales, told Politico that Breitbart is "very clearly" in trouble "from an advertising perspective."

-Updated 4:01 p.m.