You Won’t Believe The Name Of The Latest Viral Conservative Website
“The Independent Journal Review.”
The IRJ has rocketed to prominence in only the last month or two, combining the vitriolic conservative rhetoric of The Blaze or RedState with the exaggerated clickbait titles of liberal competitor Upworthy. But as some are noting, IRJ isn’t a “review” or “journal” like other publications with long form reporting and studies. And with it’s hardcore rightwing perspectives and corporate ownership, it’s not “independent” in any sense of the word.
Editor-in-Chief Bert “Bubba” Atkinson Jr. appears to have been writing at IRJ in fits and starts since 2012, but the site really started garnering wider attention around the end of 2013. According to some measures, it is now more trafficked than established conservative sites like The Daily Caller and Breitbart.com. Atkinson and his small staff make no effort to hide their conservative opinions. But the site offers literally no information on the background of the company. An “About Us” page lists four staff members, only two of whom have bios on the site (one of which uses the word “conservative”).
Buzzfeed reports that the site is owned by conservative consulting and media company the Media Group of America. A press release from MGA offers more insight, confirming their ownership of IRJ, and outlining their conservative credentials in an extensive list of prominent advisors. But no mention of MGA is made on the IRJ site.
This could put IRJ in league with other sites that hide their backgrounds under a pretense of non-partisanship, including Michelle Malkin‘s Twitchy, and the Kremlin-backed RT.com.
Aside from the politics, IRJ deftly takes advantage of the latest media trend, the “curiosity gap.” Upworthy is generally credited with popularizing the idea article titles must grab the reader’s attention, but leave out enough important information to compel the reader to click through. (By contrast, an article title written to get the best results in a Google search usually contains all important keywords.) These teasing headlines (yes, like the one for this article) have made Upworthy a hit on social media, and the practice has spread to other sites.
The very successful method is not without its critics, who say it values style over substance.
In any event, Upworthy is certainly left-wing, but is upfront about its politics. An “About Us” page on the site says, “…we do have a point of view. We’re pro-gay-marriage, and we’re anti-child-poverty. We think the media is horrible to women, we think climate change is real, and we think the government has a lot to learn from the Internet about efficiency, disruption, and effectiveness.” And the site clearly notes partnerships with left-learning groups like the Gates Foundation and the AFL-CIO.
IRJ seems to have cornered the market on viral news at the other end of the political spectrum, but without the transparency.