There has been a major consolidation in the conservative media — one that will likely mean a more cohesive voice and better funding for already well funded sites. Talking Points Memo:
Last week, with two high-profile acquisitions, a conservative media company catapulted itself from successful but largely below-the-radar company to a player with a portfolio that could make it the next news empire on the right.
Salem Communications, which got its start in the 1980s in talk radio, formally announced its purchase of Twitchy, the conservative social media tracker founded and run by Michelle Malkin. It also reportedly finalized a deal to acquire Red State, best known for the punditry of its editor-in-chief Erick Erickson, and several affiliated properties in January. Both moves were first reported by BuzzFeed.
Note that these sites were founded and helped along by Internet political personalities who developed a following, which helped build a brand. Add to that a big dash of a strong ideological and partisan position in posts. I’ve watched Malkin for years as she transitioned from a newspaper editorial writer to a controversial author, then a highly accomplished blogger who built a huge conservative following — who then founded Hot Air. Malkin is often dissed by those who disagree with her, but a lot of what she accomplished was by her productivity as a writer and her amazing zeal as a comprehensive blogger on her original site. It was only logical that the next step in these ideological megasites would be to be swallowed up by a big corporation, which will further increase their reach, expand their platforms and accentuate their already-considerable influence among conservatives:
The acquisitions marry RedState — inextricably linked to its editor-in-chief, who has said, among other things, that female breadwinners are antithetical to nature — and Twitchy, which trolls Twitter for viral fodder like #MeninistTwitter, with Salem and its vast radio empire that includes the official radio program of the United States Concealed Carry Association.
In the insular world of conservative media, those are a pair of mammoth additions in less than a week. And in the eyes of Salem’s competitors, it could spark an arms race of acquisitions. The kind of media ownership consolidation that some on the right decry in the mainstream media seems to be now seeping into their world as well. Small scrappy start-ups are suddenly being swallowed up by more established corporations with a lot of money to spend.
“I think there’s going to be a natural consolidation in our industry,” Stephen Bannon, executive chairman at Breitbart.com, the conservative news site founded by the late Andrew Breitbart, told TPM. “What you’re seeing in legacy media, you’re going to start seeing the same thing happen in conservative media, where you cut overhead out and keep the content and try to drive unique page views and all that. It just makes sense.”
The powers that be behind Salem Communications are religious conservative standard-bearers. Stuart Epperson, chairman of the board, and Edward Atsinger, the CEO, have both been members of the secretive Council for National Policy, a group that hosted George W. Bush as he launched his bid for president and was called “the genuine leaders of the Republican Party” in a 2005 New York Times profile.
There are of course some drawbacks when sites are gobbled up, but the pluses in many cases outweigh the drawbacks. And — in case you haven’t noticed — blogging is far different than it was 10 years ago as blogs were relatively new, popping up all over, and thriving. Many blogs are now inactive and the blogs that aren’t hooked up to big corporations just do it their own way.
(TMV has no corporate backers or foundations funding it, not even centrists, independent or moderate groups. It is 100 percent independent. We run an occasional fundraiser, which will start in January, and set a modest fundraising goal — which in any year has NEVER been met. But as an independent site, it’s part of the path we’ve chosen — and in January we’ll start asking and hoping again. Not having funding does mean major constraints and holds up some plans such as a redesign, more features and time spent on putting on content.)
On the left, the biggest powerhouses are The Daily Beast and The Huffington Post, which is increasingly growing in its international reach. But the left is at one disadvantage: liberal talk has fizzled and is now almost as hard to find as the “real” killer of Nicole who O.J. Simpson said he’d find one day (all he needed to do was to look in the mirror).
The implications of this kind of consolidation will extend far beyond media ownership. It’s also about influence, clout, and the impact this will have as American continues forward in a hyperpartisan, ideological 21st century.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.