- The Washington Times - Monday, December 23, 2019

Another Drudge Report rival plans to make its debut next month from a locale not known as a hotbed of conservative political thought: Silicon Valley.

The tech-savvy organizers are testing the waters with a cheeky social-media lead-up called Free Matt Drudge, built on the premise that “the only way the Drudge Report would have gone so far left is if he was being held hostage in some progressive’s basement.”

“For this reason, we demand his immediate release without condition,” said the signature petition.

It’s satirical, of course, but the anonymous team of Silicon Valley conservatives is serious about launching a news aggregator, planned for mid-January, which comes as the Drudge Report loses traffic amid pushback from the right over the aggregation kingpin’s lurch to the left.

“We’ve leaned so hard on Matt Drudge for so long that we’ve just kind of taken it for granted that he would always be there as a high-quality product that would really identify the core issues that are affecting the country and bring them front and center to a wide audience,” a founder told The Washington Times on condition of anonymity.

“We’ve learned over the last three years that we can’t take that for granted,” he said. “That’s why it’s so important for media entrepreneurs to get out there and start being proactive.”

While the Drudge Report has ruled the news-aggregation roost for more than 20 years, the website saw a 25% drop in pageviews from November-December 2018 to 2019, according to data from the market-intelligence firm Quantcast.

Meanwhile, upstart Drudge competitors such as Citizen Free Press, Whatfinger, Liberty Daily, Rantingly, NewsAmmo and Gab Trends have all seen their traffic increase, according to SimilarWeb.

Three weeks ago, Fox commentator Dan Bongino launched the Bongino Report, but the Silicon Valley team isn’t worried about competitors, opting to view them as allies.

“My philosophy and the philosophy we have in the valley is we encourage everybody to enable 1,000 flowers to bloom. And the ones that gain traction, let’s all get behind and support,” the co-founder said.

The plan for the site, which has yet to be named, is to link to news content from all sides while offering a center-right perspective, using the founders’ technological and start-up know-how to support emerging journalists and original reporting.

“What makes the Drudge Report interesting and compelling is he provides his perspective on the news, and he’s always linked to sources across the political spectrum,” said the founder. “What’s changed is that he now has adopted the progressive perspective of politics and the national narrative, and that’s why so many viewers are disenchanted.”

Speculation is rife over possible reasons for the apparent Drudge pivot — Has he sold the website? Is he anti-Trump? — but so far Mr. Drudge isn’t talking.

The creator of the Citizen Free Press, which notched 15 million pageviews in the previous 30 days, offered a word of warning: Staying on top of the news cycle in the internet age is a never-ending job.

“Everyone thinks replacing or emulating Matt Drudge is easy. Trust me, it’s not,” said CFP’s anonymous founder, who goes by “Citizen Kane.” “Be prepared to work 365 days per year, including holidays and weekends. Once you start your site, you will never get a day off. Ever. Welcome to Conservative News Thunderdome — not everyone survives the ordeal.”

How a cadre of conservatives managed to survive in notoriously left-tilting Silicon Valley is probably a story in itself. While some tech-hub progressives are open-minded, “unfortunately, the reality is that most of the folks in Silicon Valley are less than tolerant of dissenting viewpoints,” said a Free Matt Drudge founder.

That’s one reason the organizers are protecting their identities.

In Silicon Valley, he said, “if you are a conservative, you either keep your mouth shut, or you have to leave.”

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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