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Sam news to Lewinsky gossip: Drudge Report and Twitter dog whistles reign

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If you first learned that Michael Sam had broken the gays in sports barrier after viewing a photo of "the Sam kiss" on the banner of the Drudge Report or through 140 characters or less on Twitter, Wesley Pruden of the Washington Times extends his welcome to a news world of hype, hysteria and dog whistles. In an online world where all news, from salacious political tidbits to elections, is gossip, it's a level field in which liberals have lost their dominance, posits Pruden, on Monday, May 12, 2014.

Twitter and the Drudge Report are well suited to the average attention span of online readers offers Pruden. Online users are so geared to instant gratification that the only way news can survive, he thinks, is if it becomes gossip. An upside is that gossipy news "extends the narrative." A downside, observed Pruden, may be "more reporters than sources, more writers than readers."

Regarding a recent Tina Brown column, in which she cast stones at the Drudge Report and Fox News for what he calls successfully "fishing in deep shallows," of the recent news that Monica Lewinsky had broken her silence and was speaking out on Vanity Fair, Pruden had only sneers. Summing up, Pruden wrote, "Miss Brown and her like-minded liberal and left colleagues are despondent not that the media is banging out of control, but that it got out of their control. The conservatives get to shout now as loud as the liberals."

The "Sam kiss" hit the Drudge Report banner after noon on Sunday, May 11, 2014, with the headline, "NFL Kiss Fear." Just after midnight, on Tuesday, May 12, 2014, an image of Donald Sterling replaced the Sam photo. The image didn't disappear, however, it gradually moved down the Drudge page.

The image is visible on the Drudge Report today, nearing a 36 hour run on the Drudge page. That is comparable to the run of the Monica Lewinsky storyboard which lasted from the morning of Tuesday, May 6, 2014 to the afternoon of Thursday, August 8, 2014.

Though gossip news may reign online, it may or may not pay as well in viewership. On May 5, 2014, Drudge Report Quantcast shows the site with a 46 percent boost in page views. That was a day of rapid changes in the Drudge Report banner, ranging from "Odessa Jews prepare for emergency evacuation," to "Supreme Court: Pray," The Drudge Report banner announced, "Rare earthquake warning issued," featuring an article about earthquakes in Oklahoma late in the evening.

The last banner had some staying power and it held until nearly noon on Tuesday, when it was replaced with the shocker, "Lewinsky: Hillary blames the woman!" Quantcast shows it's difficult to tell if the Lewinsky story gave the Drudge Report a lasting boost.

Though Quantcast showed a two percent increase in page views over the day before, a change from a total of 23,684,926 to 24,056,176 in page views for that first day of Lewinsky exposure, the banner was shared with three other stories that day. By the next day, though the Lewinsky story was promoted singularly on the banner for 24 hours, the total page views had dropped two percent to 23, 542, 300 page views.

Data on Quantcast indicates the Sam banner bumped up Drudge Report's page view stats substantially. Drudge was down on May 11, 2014, from the Lewinsky highs to a mere 15,884,447 page views. Quantcast shows a 40 percent boost on the day the Sam banner broke, to 22, 170,124.

Stats be damned, according to Pruden, it doesn't matter if the Drudge Report blows the dog whistle or if Twitter blows it, any whistle is all it takes to bring readers running. In fact, Pruden suggests, Sam is a perfect example of stretching the narrative for self-promotion as far as it will stretch. All you need do is "purse your lips and blow," wait for the hits to roll in; and may the loudest whistle win.

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