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Drudge Does Right.

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If you ask anyone knowledgable in the areas of punditry or news about Matt Drudge, you are sure to get divisive responses. The Drudge Report, originally created in 1996 as a weekly email dispatch, has grown to become one of the most highly accessed sites on the web, now driving more traffic than Facebook and Twitter combined. What Drudge has accomplished is impressive, cultivating a news empire from limited staff and a majority of other people’s content. Whether you disagree with his politics- Drudge arguably has as many detractors as Andrew Breitbart (a former colleague of Drudge’s) did- it’s hard not to respect what he has turned his little patch of internet into.

The content of The Drudge Report is almost entirely winnowed from other sources. The bulk of the page consists of hyperlinks to articles from legitimate news sources, oftentimes with Drudge providing his own (partisan) headline. One story in particular will be headlined atop the page with a large, prominent photograph. Other stories dispersed throughout will have photographs, too, but none that large. If there is a breaking story, Drudge will highlight it with his trademark animated gif of a squad car top light. Below the articles is a list of reputable news agency sources. Besides that is a list of pundits (from Ann Coulter to Paul Krugman). Occasionally, Drudge will break a story (as was the case during the Monica Lewinsky scandal), and do a short write up on that, but these are few and far between.

Drudge has no system of commenting.There is no “Drudge Community” of regular posters. There are no message boards.  In fact, he has no problem whatsoever sending visitors away from the site, and does so actively. There is a small text box towards the bottom of the site for purposes of sending scoops, but that’s it. There is no communication between Matt and his visitors. But these people still actively comment on the stories linked to, and often times drive up the traffic to those stories single-handedly. Users are sent away from TDR only to come back to be sent away all over again. It’s a winning formula.

The aesthetics of TDR have not changed since the page was first debuted. Widely criticized for its mundane look of black text (Courier for stories, Arial for headlines) set against a plain white page. There is no diversity of color, save for the photos, and there is no tabbed browsing system. Every link on drudge is available from the main page, which is separated into 3 columns of varying length.

In a strange, counterintuitive way this look serves to help Drudge. There is nothing distracting here. No developer is flexing their muscles here by alteration of color or size. Everything is easy on the eyes. It’s simple and constant. There is no divulging from the format. Unlike the New York Times’ site, Drudge doesn’t exhibit the slightest change in layout. It would be easy to write this off as a symptom of the site’s elderly core demographic, but it’s really a pleasure to look at after a while. It’s actually quite like a newspaper or maybe the fabled Apple product: it just works.

There are sparse ads on the site, always un-intrusive but presumably very well payed for. None of them detract from the news, and they never appear to be actual stories. There’s nothing dubious going on. With Drudge, everything is out in the open and readers like it that way. And why wouldn’t they? There’s no flashy slideshows to click through, nor any annoying expanding flash-based advertisements.

There is no way one can be confused by the navigation of TDR. There isn’t any navigating to do. One simply clicks the links or doesn’t. It’s an incredibly difficult thing to muck up. Drudge has built a brand out of this bare-bones design. It works because it can be run, if need be, by a single man. There is almost a modernist element to it all, the efficiency and ease of usability. The Drudge Report is like an underappreciated work of art.

To censure Drudge for his format seems to miss the larger picture that it’s lead him to resounding success. Currently, TDR is listed by Alexa as the 79th most visited site in the United States, beating out both the pages of the Wall Street Journal and USA today. It garners 82 million page views a month. Drudge is not just a web site, but a brand. It’s a powerhouse, able to motivate its user base to take action no matter which side of the aisle you’re on.

The mark of a truly remarkable product is one that creates divisiveness. The masses either love or hate things, often with no in between. Drudge has done something that works very well, and I feel that it has to be respected.





Written by kolchak

April 17, 2012 at 9:24 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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