‘Fake News’ by the Numbers

We’ve heard a lot about unreliable sources of information from our mainstream media outlets in recent days and since the election results. The key term ‘fake news’ in particular has been heavily promoted in the past 48 hours.

There’s even been a call to action by President Obama that we must curb the spread of ‘fake news’ on our social media platforms like Facebook and others. This got me wondering what is meant by ‘fake news’ and are there really that many people tuned into it?

First, I looked at the Alexa rankings of traditional top liberal and conservative news sites over the past few years. For those of you who dont know, Alexa is a subsidiary of Amazon and offers web analytics tools for growth marketers and others; it is the source for reliable web rankings and gauging a sites popularity or authority online.

The Alexa rankings of liberal sites were as follows from 2009 to 2016:

Next I looked at the rankings of traditional conservative sites over the same time frame:

The trend in both cases showed that their rankings had climbed in a significant way over the past seven years. Not that surprising since we all know that everyone is getting the bulk of their news online. So then I looked at the list of some of these so-called ‘fake news’ sites wondering what their rankings would be:

This is where I was surprised. Each ‘fake news’ site had an Alexa rank that could have been listed alongside ANY of the traditional news outlets. For more context, Breitbart has a higher ranking than Time! And Infowars, with their over 10M monthly unique visitors, has a higher ranking than Nike.com!

Now knowing how each of these sites compared to traditional news outlets and how much traffic they all actually have, I wondered what societal good would come from censoring any of these sites? Clearly these are established authorities online and clearly they are fulfilling some market need that is not being fulfilled by traditional news outlets.

My views lean towards supporting our 1st amendment rights and allowing the market to dictate if these sites are socially useful or not. I’m curious what you think, make your views known in the comments below.