“Liberal activists want to destroy Breitbart, but we won’t be cowed,” the foundation’s president Tom Fitton said in an interview. “We advertise widely on the internet, and we’re proud of the relationship and the partnerships we have.”
Fitton said Judicial Watch had been advertising on Breitbart for years, but would not elaborate on the company’s strategy or where else it places ads. “I’m not talking about the details of our internal decision-making with the anti-Trump Washington Post,” he said.
Breitbart News, founded 10 years ago to be “unapologetically pro-freedom and pro-Israel,” catapulted to fame in the run-up to last year’s presidential election. The site has become a gathering ground for conservative supporters of President Trump. (Breitbart’s former chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, is now Trump’s chief strategist.) On Thursday, headlines on its homepage included “D.C. swamp goes crazy for James Comey hearing” and “58 scientific papers declare global warming a ‘myth.'”
Among the advertisers still on the site are Paper Moon Gentlemen’s Club, Big Viral Stories (an anti-Hillary Clinton magazine), Instant Background Checks, America’s Economic Expressway and Revolution Golf, according to MediaRadar.
More than 2,200 companies, including Audi, Harris Teeter, Ethan Allen and Lyft, have asked third-party vendors to pull advertising from the controversial site in recent months, according to Sleeping Giants, an anonymous activist group that is tracking online data. (Amazon.com, however, continues to place ads on the site. Jeffrey P. Bezos, the founder of Amazon, owns The Washington Post.)
Representatives from Breitbart did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
“This is a good example of how advertisers have been suddenly shoved into the polarized political landscape,” said David Carroll, a professor of media design at the New School in New York. “It’s a post-election reality the industry was not prepared for.”
MediaRadar estimates that the mix of brands willing to advertise on Breitbart has dwindled in recent months. During the first three months of the year, the site hosted 20 categories — including media and entertainment (accounting for 22 percent of total advertisers), retail (21 percent) and professional services (14 percent). By April, however, advertising had become “almost entirely conservative,” the firm said, offering examples such as TheRightToBear.com and American Patriot Daily.
“Breitbart’s advertising has collapsed,” said Todd Krizelman, co-founder and chief executive of MediaRadar. “Most political sites are making less money today than they did a year ago because of the election cycle. But they’re not down 90 percent, I can guarantee that.”
The number of visitors to Breitbart.com has also taken a hit, tumbling 53 percent since November, to about 10.8 million unique visitors in May, according to ComScore. (Web traffic to The Washington Post, meanwhile, is down about 24 percent in the same period.)
There are also signs that ads on Breitbart might not be as effective as they are on other sites. The “click-through rate” for ads on the site was about 0.15 percent in November, compared to 0.32 percent on the New York Times’ website and 0.35 percent on FoxNews.com, according to WordStream, a Boston-based online marketing firm.
“Ads on Breitbart.com have surprisingly low click-through rates, poor conversion rates, and cost far too much per click, compared to its peers on the Google Display Network,” Mark Irvine, a senior data scientist at the company, wrote in a blog post. “Ads on Breitbart.com may cost as much as they do on FoxNews.com or NYTimes.com, but the reach of Breitbart.com is a fraction of that of its peers.”
Breitbart staffers told Fox Business in February that the pullback in advertising has taken a toll on the site.
“People at the news outlet say that an effort is underway to make Breitbart more mainstream, by hiring reporters to cover news and devote less space to political commentary that has been its forte,” Fox Business reported. “People inside Breitbart say while the website may in fact be profitable, it is also suffering from a business standpoint with advertising dollars shrinking significantly.”
But it may be immaterial, said Jeff Jarvis, a journalism professor at the City University of New York.
“If Breitbart lost every single penny of advertising tomorrow, it probably wouldn’t matter,” Jarvis said, adding that the site is backed by billionaire Robert Mercer. “Quite the contrary: It would probably be a badge of honor.”