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Why Conservative Media Is Losing to the Left

Right-wing media needs a more sophisticated way of thinking about audiences.

In recent years, the number of conservative news outlets has rapidly increased, alongside the influence of these companies. A number of the most successful personalities on social media work for conservative outlets. Conservative publishers have flourished on Facebook, prompting liberals to accuse the company of giving right-wingers “special treatment.”

Lacking the institutional credibility and resources of the mainstream, conservatives over the past decade have turned to the democratizing nature of social media. That’s how they were able to reach huge audiences who felt talked down to by egghead liberals at The New York Times and Washington Post.

And yet, for all that success, and for all the good conservative media has done in building itself up as a legit alternative to the mainstream press, the right is still losing.

Zooming out on the media

Let’s face it - the mainstream media is liberal.

We took 67 top news media outlets rated center, lean left/right, and left/right by All Sides, an organization dedicated to monitoring media bias, pulled their social media audience sizes, and compared the various groups.

Understanding that social media audience is a decent but not perfect signal of reach, the results are still overwhelming — the right is losing to the left in media.

Meanwhile, trust in media is historically low. Audiences are exhausted by their excessive bias, breathless coverage of often meaningless narratives, and their never-ending quest to gain approval amongst their peers.

The way we look at it, there isn’t more demand for liberal media, there’s just more and better supply of it.

But why does the right fail to respond?

1. So much right-leaning content is personality-driven and/or designed to maximize profits. Dozens of right-wing sites have popped up over the last decade chasing ad revenue. Some do it better than others, but the mission isn’t to deliver information, it’s to monetize audience.

2. Way too much of what goes on in conservative media world can easily be dismissed as extreme, bigoted, hysterical or unserious. You know the headlines about how someone “DESTROYS” or “EVISCERATES” something, and it’s really just a tweet. Or when Benny Johnson says we should make the Black National Anthem illegal.

Sure, this stuff is everywhere across the political spectrum and in other areas like sports, but right-wing media over-indexes in it.

3. Lastly, the emphasis in conservative media is on editorializing, as opposed to simply conveying information, or reporting. More simply, there is less showing and more telling.

Hot take content is easier and less expensive to produce than actual reporting, so a wave of conservative personalities often saying the very same things have flooded the market.

That’s fine, and you may even agree with what they say, but that means that right-wing media has, with few exceptions, basically ceded being the source of information and reporting to liberals — it is almost wholly reactive to the mainstream media it detests for information.

Right-wing media needs more news and information, and less desperate clickbait. It needs more products that enhance people’s lives, and less cheap “Patriot Subscription” identity based sales pitches.

Right-wing media needs a more sophisticated way of thinking about the audience.