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Expand chart
Data: NewsWhip; Chart: Will Chase/Axios

Web traffic, social engagement and TV ratings for conservative outlets are booming in response to the ongoing crisis in Afghanistan.

Why it matters: “I haven't seen this much sustained coverage from the right on a single topic since the early days of the pandemic in March and April of 2020, and those months produced huge traffic numbers for conservative media outlets,” said Howard Polskin, an expert on conservative media.

By the numbers: Traffic to 20 of the top conservative news websites was up 4.2% the week of Aug. 10, when Afghanistan began to dominate the news cycle, according to data from SimilarWeb.

  • Conservative news sites had been declining for months following the Capitol siege.
  • Conservative sites saw higher traffic jumps over the last two weeks than mainstream media websites, like USA Today or Reuters.

TV ratings for Fox News have been soaring. The network beat all three broadcast networks in ratings last week for the first time since last September, per the AP.

On social media, stories about Afghanistan from a set of six conservative media outlets are getting more than twice as much engagement as stories about inflation — the previous topic they were hammering President Biden over — according to data from NewsWhip.

  • Top-performing stories included accounts of chaos and desperation in Kabul, as well as calls for Biden to resign from former President Trump, and for impeachment, from one of the Navy SEALs who killed Osama bin Laden.

Be smart: After initially focusing heavily on the Biden administration’s diplomatic failures and miscalculations, the narrative on the right is shifting to focus more on whether the U.S. should be hosting Afghanistan refugees.

  • "For the right-wing press, this is a galvanizing event that has completely dominated coverage on most conservative news websites," Polskin said.

Yes, but: Conservative media are walking a line — coming down on Biden for how he has carried out the withdrawal, while not criticizing the decision itself, which was supported and brokered with the Taliban  by Trump.

Go deeper

Oct 21, 2021 - Technology

Facebook is a news media magnet

Expand chart
Data: Signal AI; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

New data finds that Facebook has been mentioned in more online stories in the U.S. in the past year than all of its major tech competitors combined.

Why it matters: Press scrutiny of Facebook has become so intense and negative that the tech giant is reportedly planning to rename itself as soon as next week to signal that it's more than just a social media company.

Texas House probes school library books dealing with race and sexuality

Photo: Brittany Murray/MediaNews Group/Long Beach Press-Telegram via Getty Images

Texas state Rep. Matt Krause (R), chair of the Texas House Committee on General Investigating, announced Wednesday that he's initiating a probe into schools' library books, according to a letter sent to the state's education agency and other superintendents.

Why it matters: The probe focuses on books that discuss race, sexuality, or "make students feel discomfort, guilt, anguish, or any other form of psychological distress because of their race or sex," Krause wrote in the letter.

5 hours ago - World

Iran agrees to resume Vienna nuclear talks in November

Ali Bagheri (R) with Enrique Mora in Tehran on Oct. 14. Photo: Iranian Foreign Ministry handout via Getty

Iran's new chief nuclear negotiator said following a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday that Iran would resume negotiations in Vienna before the end of November, with the exact date to be set next week.

Why it matters: The Vienna talks have been frozen since Iran's new hardline president, Ebrahim Raisi, was elected in June. This is the most direct commitment from Raisi's government to return to the negotiating table.