EVER HEAR of pigdog.org? Neither have I.
But, according to some experts, pigdog by now should be one of the hottest destinations on the Internet.
Why isn’t it? And why have so many genuinely hot Web sites been ignored by Big Media? To ask these questions is to probe one of the darkest secrets of Internet reportage.
The secret is that conservatives rule the Net.
Today’s hottest sites include The Drudge Report, NewsMax.com, WorldNetDaily.com, FreeRepublic.com, Townhall.com, Lucianne.com, JewishWorldReview.com (and yes, I’ll be self-serving enough to mention FrontPageMagazine.com, the webzine that I edit).
These are the sites that spoke out against the Clintons, when speaking out meant IRS audits, Larry Flynt background checks, White-House-orchestrated law suits and hired sleuths from Investigative Group International (IGI) poking through your garbage.
The business pages are silent on the success of the conservative Internet. They never tire of lamenting the travails of Salon.com, Slate.com and other left-leaning news and commentary sites. But while the lefties bleed cash, conservative news sites are flourishing.
How do you spin a story like that if you’re a left-of-center reporter? Well, that’s where pigdog.org comes in.
"Web zine publishers… have been afflicted by the same malaise that has decimated the ranks of other dot-coms. That is, they don't make money… " declares Gerry Blackwell in the July 5, 2001 Toronto Star. "The future of e-zines may be in ratbag ventures such as Pigdog Journal (pigdog.org)…"
A quick peek at a recent edition of pigdog.org reveals a first-hand account of a visit to a strip club; a defense of the drug Ecstasy; an article accusing U.S. troops of torturing al-Qaeda prisoners; and a photo of a kinkily-clad double leg amputee with the caption, "Would you, like, fetish with that?"
Needless to say, the real story of the New Media lies elsewhere. It lies with a powerful new class of Internet news moguls who have bootstrapped their way to the top, with small staffs, hard work, little capital and virtually no publicity.
They are the future of Web news. They are the Secret Masters of the Internet.
Take Joseph Farah, founder and editor of WorldNetDaily.com. He rejects the "conservative" label. Too tame.
"George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were not conservatives," he notes. "They found themselves at a point where they believed revolutionary action was necessary to regain their freedom, and I believe that’s where we are today."
Farah’s radical message resonates with millions in grassroots America. With 2.5 million unique visitors per month, WorldNetDaily falls short of Salon’s 3.8 million visitors (as of July 2001).
But unlike Salon, WorldNetDaily.com makes money.
"We broke even in 2001," says Farah, who notes that last year’s expenditures of $3.5 million approximately matched revenues. By contrast, Salon.com has lost money for six years straight. It was nearly $74 million in the hole by September 2001.
Eighty percent of WorldNetDaily’s 2001 revenues came from online sales of books and other products such as the 25,000 copies of Bill O’Reilly’s The No-Spin Zone sold during the Christmas rush. The rest came from ad sales and other sources.
Another "secret master" you’re not likely to see featured on the cover of Wired magazine is Jim Robinson a tough-minded Vietnam vet whose 25-year battle with muscular dystrophy has failed to keep him down.
Robinson’s conservative message board, FreeRepublic.com, gets an estimated 200,000 - 300,000 unique visitors per month, and subsists entirely on donations from members or "Freepers," as they call themselves. FreeRepublic.com raised over $250,000 in 2001.
The King Midas of the conservative Net is undoubtedly Christopher Ruddy. His NewsMax.com generated more than $6 million in estimated 2001 revenues. Ruddy claims a readership approximately double that of WorldNetDaily.com.
As for the "dot-com bust," Ruddy shrugs it off. "We have grown during the bust," he says.
So has David Horowitz’s FrontPageMagazine.com.
As editor of Ramparts the preeminent radical magazine of the ‘60s and ‘70s Horowitz published books and op-ed pieces virtually at will, enjoying privileged access to tony New York publishers and major newspapers.
But when Horowitz turned conservative, Big Media shut their doors to him. He took to the Internet. Since 2000, FrontPage’s web traffic rose more than 400 percent, to an average 350,000 unique visitors per month. Revenues skyrocketed nearly 2000 percent during the same period.
The business press may wring its hands over the "dot-com bust," but the Secret Masters of the Internet are showing the way to the future a future in which pigdog.org and its ilk seem highly unlikely to be doing much moving and shaking.