Meet the most engaging conservative outlet of the Trump era (Hint: it's not Breitbart)

Breitbart has received the lion's share of attention on conservative media outlets since November, due to its association with top Trump aide Steve Bannon, but another right-leaning website is getting more love from its readers on social media.

Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson (Image via Wikimedia Commons, By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0,
Daily Caller founder Tucker Carlson (Image via Wikimedia Commons, By Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0,

WASHINGTON: While Breitbart received an outsized portion of exposure in the weeks after the 2016 presidential election thanks to former chief Steve Bannon’s appointment as White House chief strategist, another conservative site has seen a bigger "Trump bump" on social media: The Daily Caller.

Founded by pundit Tucker Carlson, the Caller has a Facebook following of 4 million, but its average U.S. follower engages with content at higher rates than those of mainstream outlets with substantially larger audiences, according to research from Edelman Intelligence  

The outlet swept every engagement category on Facebook measured by Edelman Intelligence, besting other conservative, mainstream, and left-leaning outlets. Over a 30-day period, the average Caller follower commented on an average of 31, liked 39, and shared 17 posts. National Review and InfoWars led in the categories of ads clicked over 30 days (45) and average lifetime page likes (9), respectively.

The average U.S. Facebook follower of The New York Times, which has 25 million followers on the platform, commented on posts 17 times, liked them 32 times, and shared four times over the course of 30 days.

Overall, conservative media outlets have smaller followings on social media than their mainstream counterparts but higher levels of engagement, according to Edelman.

Audiences on conservative outlets, whether established ones such as Fox News Channel or radical sites such as InfoWars, are much more likely to engage with content, and to share, like, and comment on it, according to the firm.

"It’s really powerful," said Kari Butcher, EVP of Edelman Intelligence in Washington, DC, and the lead on the research. "It’s showing while mainstream, or more left-leaning, media have large social footprints, conservative outlets have a more committed, engaged audience. Perhaps they know their audiences better [regarding] the type of content they consume and engage with."

Conservative outlets have a "strong resonance" among older Twitter users with high incomes, the study found, painting a stark contrast with left-leaning media. In broad strokes, liberal readers are usually younger and more diverse. Conservative readers are more likely to be men with higher income levels, according to the report.

Conservatives are also more likely to be married (93%) than liberals (78%) and more likely to be parents (39%) than liberals (20%). The average conservative social media follower is 39 years old; the average liberal is 28. The average conservative makes $63,000 a year, while the average liberal makes $47,000, and 89% of conservatives live in the U.S., while only 61% of liberals are U.S. residents.

However, liberal social media followers are more diverse than their conservative counterparts. Only 6% of conservatives are black, Asian, or Hispanic, compared with 12% of liberals. Nearly two-thirds of conservatives are male, compared with a 50-50 gender split among liberals. 

Edelman Intelligence’s study, the Post-Trump Media Landscape, cited different sources to reach its conclusions, including Pew Research Center, Demographics Pro, and Facebook Audience Insights.

What the new media landscape means for clients
Breitbart’s war with Kellogg’s last year is a case study about the perils facing brands in this new media landscape, the study found. The site’s engaged audience on Facebook amplified its editorial reach and precipitated the #DumpKelloggs hashtag on social media.

Awareness of Kellogg’s, an Edelman client, was boosted by Breitbart, with web searches of the brand peaking alongside calls to boycott the company by the website. That was followed by an increase in interest about its products and stock price, the study found.  

"I think this means there’s a real sea change in what it means to be an activist," Butcher said. "It’s no longer a purely progressive territory. That activism is strong both sides of the ideological spectrum."

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