The Conservative Ghetto

I don’t mean to pick on this particular company, but it has come up now in five conversations over two days. I actually had only heard of it recently. It is called Midroll and owned by the EW Scripps Company.

Midroll is a company that leverages podcasts for advertising. If you hear a podcast and it advertises for Dollar Shave Club, Harry’s, Casper, Purple, Fracture, or one of hundreds of other advertisers, Midroll is one of the companies that connects the would be advertiser to the podcaster.

I only recently heard about them because I realized my own podcast is now getting a heck of a lot of listens a day. It’s five days a week and really a radio show repackaged as a podcast. I decided with the number of listeners a month I am getting it was probably time to look into monetization. Get on Google and Midroll comes up regularly.

I sent off an email and didn’t hear back. Sent one more and didn’t hear back. No harm. No foul. Then I didn’t think anything else of the matter. Last week, after being in the ER with the pulmonary embolism, I did not write about it here, but mentioned it on my show. I started getting emails from around the country from podcast listeners just making sure I was okay. It reminded me again that the listenership is growing and, having never heard from Midroll, reached out to several other groups to talk about monetization.

In the last two days, over five separate conversations, their name kept coming up as one of the growing number of tech companies that will have nothing to do with conservatives. Again, I don’t know that this is fair to them, but given the prominence of those I have talked with, the company has certainly left an impression as hostile to conservatives among a major set of conservatives in the media.

Each of those conversations then transitions just about the same way, making their way to Google. Each of the people I talked to had stories of YouTube revenue streams suddenly shut down. One person told me of a YouTuber with a massive subscriber base who is scared to mention his faith or talk about cultural issues lest his revenue disappear. Another laughed hard when I told him I had gotten an email from Google about monetizing the videos I have been posting. He said not to hold my breath. The number of stories I have heard about Google just suddenly demonetizing conservative content (and reasonable conservative content at that), or making it difficult to monetize, floored me.

Those conversations all connect to other conversations about Google where a growing and, frankly, alarming number of serious, credible conservatives in the media are absolutely convinced Google degrades conservative content and, most particularly, socially conservative content. One told me he expected that within a year Google will generate a “file not found” message if you put in anything about the Bible’s views on homosexuality or even search for John Piper, one of the most famous evangelical ministers in America today.

Asking around, this view used to be a fear of conservative activists who saw and still see how much of the media either mischaracterizes conservative views or just simply does not report them. It is now a growing fear somewhat privately expressed by prominent conservatives, congressional leaders, and others. It is no longer about Google either, but now I hear it about Facebook.

Facebook still seems to be more because no one knows what the hell they do with their algorithm every week that alters traffic one way or the other. The concerns about Google are far more palpable and then tie in to companies like Midroll and other tech companies. I use Mailchimp for my daily email and last night at dinner, discussing this topic, had a prominent conservative lawyer in Atlanta tell me he was surprised they actually will deliver my emails.

And here’s the thing. If Midroll does not want to work with conservatives, they have every right. It is their company. The advertisers have no problem advertising with conservatives, so others will spring up to capture the ad dollars and, in fact, are doing so. Given Google’s web dominance, it is concerning, but I remember Microsoft’s web dominance with Internet Explorer (cf. the anti-trust issue).

I have long doubted that there really was a movement, organized or not, to push conservative views into a ghetto on the internet where they cannot be found. But I increasingly suspect there is truth to it, particularly given the adamance of those I have talked to who have credibility on the subject and the adamancy of many on the left that they have a moral imperative to shut down conservatives.

All that said, conservatives should innovate, not complain. They only stay in the ghetto if they refuse to move. The internet is mobile. Frankly, one of the biggest impediments to conservatives these days is they suck at culture anyway. Christian themed movies tend to often be hot garbage — lines of dialogue with in your face altar calls that would make Jesus blush. Right wing investment and gatekeepers tend to have issues.

And then there are the corpses in the conservative movement who cling to derelict organizations doing the same thing every day relying on the same dying donor pool while actually having no impact.

Among culture warriors on the right, it is really easy these days to think of one’s self as a victim, but it is that very mindset that is stifling conservative competition and innovation. We need not adopt Saul Alinsky tactics — tactics dedicated to Satan — to compete. We just have to work hard. It still works. It sounds naive to increasingly cynical conservatives, but I already don’t use Google for search. I use DuckDuckGo. And I found a number of conservatives who together built their own podcasting advertising network pulling in the same advertisers the other guys get. And I found a conservative who has brought together other conservatives to do great TV and film projects, some of which you know, but you’d never know conservatives were in charge.

Yes, as the left decides all its causes are moral, it believes it has a moral right to shut down social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, Christians, and anyone else standing in their way. But that does not mean we have to stay in their ghetto nor does it mean we should whine and play victim. It means we should just do better, even if we have to rely on word of mouth to find quality. Quality is still possible. And a conservative community willing to spread the word helps.

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Erick Erickson

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