Several months following the 2008 presidential election, most politics websites have experienced an expected downturn in monthly visitors. Most attribute the slower traffic to the inevitable short-term loss of interest in politics following such a major election. However, despite this reality, there is a bright spot for those of us on the right.
It seems that while visitors drop off they don't do so equally across the web. According to Simon Owens, the left is falling much harder and faster than their conservative counterparts:
My recent political blog traffic studies found that web traffic is down all across the board for all political blogs, but left-of-center sites have on average taken a much steeper hit (a 58% drop compared to the right's 36% fall).
And as they point out, many center-right web sites are weathering this traffic storm quite well. In fact Red State is seeing more visitors than they have in comparable times:
Erick Erickson, an editor at the popular conservative diary site RedState, confirmed that at least anecdotally traffic seemed to be stronger lately. He said that in the last off-election year, 2007, the site's March unique visitors were significantly lower than they are now -- and speculated that this was likely because of the Obama presidency.
"I joked a lot during the campaign that Barack Obama would be bad for America but good for RedState," Erickson told me. "It very much is the case that it's a lot easier to fight against power, and when you control the White House and Congress it's hard to wage a war against your own side."
Erickson makes a very good point here as to the cause of the relatively healthy conservative web traffic. You see, it is most always the alternative media of those out of power which garners the most attention because those in power have a platform from which to deliver their message. Thus, after hearing what the party in power has to say, more people will search out those espousing the opposing viewpoint not those echoing what they've already been told.
But liberal blogger, Chris Bowers, doesn't think this is a sufficient enough explanation for whats going on:
But Chris Bowers, one of the co-founders of Open Left and a former editor for MyDD, had a different take on why conservative blogs seem to be seeing a smaller decline in post-election traffic.
"The best guess I would have is that it's not a sign of greater conservative energy," he said. "I would suggest there are many people on the progressive side who feel that the mission has been accomplished and they're just not going to watch the news as much anymore. That honestly would be my best guess."
Despite his glaring disregard for the obvious and undeniable energy now flowing on the right, Bowers does make a valid point. The left just isn't as concerned with internet activism as they were before they took back Congress and the White House. In reality, this relatively strong performance by conservative websites can be attributed to several causes.
The newfound energy in a conservative movement which, after suffering staggering losses, is now more determined and focused than it has been in a long time, the diminished sense of priority that the left now feels for internet activism, and the average person searching for the opinion of the opposition. Yet this isn't a time to celebrate the possibility of a coming conservative renaissance. On the contrary, these three factors are almost guaranteed to be short lived and the online conservative community will be judged by its own merits.
The only way conservatives can take advantage of the current opportunity before them is by incorporating the same three things which make any website or blog successful. Those three things are, of course, fresh ideas, quality writing, and passion. Without a steady supply of those three things we will get nowhere.
And, in case you're interested, here are some figures on just how popular the biggest conservative sites are. We're at #19 and #18 in case you're wondering. I'll be interested to see how the new Fox Nation site fares once they start measuring its traffic.