Traffic Down at News and Politics Websites

Americans are tuning out. Especially those on the right.

In his post “Right-wing websites are hemorrhaging traffic,” Kevin Drum compiles the chart below from data at something called TheRighting:

The numbers are a comparison with the same point in the 2020 cycle. The site also notes “Traffic tanked to most right wing websites for the sixth straight month. Only five right wing news websites posted gains in YOY unique visitors.

Drum rightly wonders, “Somehow Newsmax has bucked the trend. What is its secret?”

But my immediate reaction was: How does this compare to what’s happening on the left? Unfortunately, the site in question doesn’t really track that data, since its purpose is to spotlight right-wing media.

Still, they do provide this:

We’re definitely seeing a decrease in traffic across the board, with WaPo, NYT, and CNN ll showing declines. For that matter, Slate and The Daily Beast are also off considerably.

I don’t have the time to go through Comstat’s data (assuming it’s not paywalled) to do more detailed analysis but, from the sample provided, it looks to me like 1) traffic is down pretty much across the board in the news and political opinion space but 2) it is indeed down further on right-leaning sites.

As to Drum’s question, my instinctive answer—that Newsmax caters to the most hardcore righties—is reinforced by the fact that Daily Kos is the only one of the listed left-leaning sites that’s pretty much holding steady. Which makes sense to me. Americans overwhelmingly are dissatisfied with the two major party candidates, a rematch of the 2020 contest. They’re naturally not going to consume the news wth the same fervor as they did four years ago.

It also occurs to me that February 2020 was right at the outset of the COVID pandemic. That obviously gave folks more incentive to tune into the news.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. DK says:

    Drum rightly wonders, “Somehow Newsmax has bucked the trend. What is its secret?”

    Nowhere to go but up?

    In seriousness, the decline is due in part to the normalcy of Biden’s governance. It is not healthy for nation to have to be news-obsessed day to day, it’s exhausting. The daily insanity of Trump presidency — like waking up every day to unhinged tweets — required more hypervigilance.

    Unfortunately, it means fewer are aware of Biden’s successes.

  2. Chris says:

    @DK: It also shows that in order to gin up their readership, viewership, ratings, and profits that the news media has a tangible incentive to help drive chaos and disorder.

  3. Kathy says:

    How’s the effect of paywalls factored in?

  4. Sleeping Dog says:

    Cognitive dissonance finally becoming apparent? The RW websites have screamed the end as nigh and everything is terrible for years, but that isn’t consistent with most peoples lived experience. Add in that Joe is boringly normal, while a news story yesterday noted that Dems are far angrier and fearful of trump than R’s are of Biden.

  5. MarkedMan says:

    Because of COVID, February is a weird month to start. It would be much more interesting to see the December/December comparison

  6. Skookum says:

    This confirms my suspicion that most people have made up their minds about the state of affairs in our country, accepted that they have little agency to change things except to vote, and if the election were held today the results would be little different than a vote in November. Except, of course, for the inevitable October surprise.

  7. Gustopher says:

    Why do I have the sinking feeling that a lot of the declines on the right have just been people migrating to QAnon sites?

    Just something newer, more vile and not being tracked because normies don’t speak the language.

  8. Gavin says:

    Now that the impeachment of Biden drove into the Key Bridge, there’s nothing left for them to look forward to.
    The entire conservative raison d’etre is Owning The pInk-haird Libz, and they’re finally tired of all the losing.

  9. Andy says:

    As you note, it’s not just the right-wing media – it’s the media generally.

    There are many layoffs, and some places are going under. I don’t think this has anything to do with ideology but is a function of the economic model (or lack thereof) and growth toward small, more niche audiences.

  10. DK says:


    It would be much more interesting to see the December/December comparison

    Would also be interesting to see the numbers pre-Trump, to hypothesize whether this decline is a continued trend or more of a correction, like a regression to mean.

    Also, a lot of people are getting their infotainment from social media and newer sources now. Daily users at Elon’s Russian Troll Factory are way down lately, but political content is still prominent there — and thriving on Instagram, TikTok, Threads, Substack etc.

    People may not be checking the usual news and politics websites as often as when they were scared they’d wake up to Drama Queen Donnie tweeting them into nuclear war. But there’s still threats and events that warrant attention. I’d wager folks are tuning in more sporadically — and via more varied sources than traditional sites and legacy blogs.

    Biden gets that the people don’t want the president in their face everyday.

  11. DK says:


    if the election were held today the results would be little different than a vote in November

    It’s not a coincidence the race is tightening as the general election campaigns ramp up and people start tuning in a bit more. The panicking chattering class screeching about who’s winning/losing, making crystal ball predictions, and calling for Biden to drop out (for running a few points behind in polls months and months out?) should learn to cool their heels a bit.

    It’s okay for government to be invisible sometimes, and for news to be background noise. People who are not political junkies do not need our president and electeds on their screens and in their psyches daily in non-election years. In between cycles, semi-weekly or monthly is good enough.


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