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Expand chart
Data: Apptopia; Table: Axios Visuals

Conservatives are aggressively building their own apps, phones, cryptocurrencies and publishing houses in an attempt to circumvent what they see as an increasingly liberal internet and media ecosystem.

Why it matters: Many of these efforts couldn't exist without the backing of major corporate figures and billionaires who are eager to push back against things like "censorship" and "cancel culture."

  • It's still not clear whether demand will match supply.

Driving the news: Rumble, a conservative alternative to YouTube, agreed to go public at an implied $2.1 billion valuation via a SPAC merger.

  • The SPAC is sponsored by Cantor Fitzgerald, a financial services firm led by billionaire and Trump fundraiser Howard Lutnick.
  • "I'm excited to support Rumble and its ability to operate the neutral video platform," Lutnick said in a statement.

Donald Trump's new social media company, called Truth Social, also plans to go public via a SPAC and on Saturday said that it secured $1 billion in so-called PIPE financing.

  • The SPAC is currently trading at a market value of $1.6 billion, down from its $4.5 billion peak in late October. Truth Social has yet to name a CEO.

Gettr, a social app launched by ex-Trump aide Jason Miller, has not disclosed all of its investors, but Miller has acknowledged that one of the app's funders is the family foundation of Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui.

Aside from social networks, conservatives are pushing to create alternatives to other tech tools and communication platforms.

  • Book publishing: Trump allies recently launched a book publishing house called Winning Team Publishing, run by former Trump campaign aide Sergio Gor and Donald Trump Jr. The imprint will publish the ex-President's first book, a coffee table tome that's picture-focused.
  • Cloud storage: Trump's new social media company will be hosted online by RightForge, an internet infrastructure company that courts conservatives. As Axios' Margaret Harding McGill notes, relying on a conservative web hosting service could help Trump avoid the same issues Parler faced when Amazon pulled its web services following the Capitol siege.
  • Crypto: A new cryptocurrency called "Magacoin" has already caught the attention of high-profile conservatives, per The Guardian.
  • Phones: A young Bitcoin entrepreneur is developing a "Freedom phone," a device being marketed to conservatives.

Yes, but: While politicians seem eager to find new, unregulated avenues for political speech, data from Apptopia shows that consumers aren't sprinting toward new alternatives.

  • Conservatives flocked to a slew of alternative social networks during the election and in the weeks following Donald Trump's de-platforming amid the Capitol insurrection, but downloads have since slowed.

The bottom line: Conservative media has been a powerhouse for a long time, but this phase of its expansion isn't just about more or louder conservative voices — it's about building an entire conservative ecosystem.

Editor's note: This story was first published on Dec. 6.

Go deeper

Trump to elevate election deniers at Arizona rally

Donald Trump. Photo: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Former President Donald Trump announced guest speakers today for his Saturday rally in Arizona, and most of them share a common trait: they led efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Why this matters: Trump, who remains the most powerful figure in the Republican Party, is making his false claims about the 2020 election the centerpiece of the GOP platform.

Trump calls McConnell a "loser" before hanging up on NPR host

Photos: Saul Loeb, Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

Former President Trump abruptly cut short an interview with NPR on Tuesday after being pressed about his false, baseless claims of election fraud in 2020 and lambasting Republicans who have spoken out against them.

Why it matters: The interview once again highlights the extent to which Trump is willing to turn against members of his own party if they do not back his unsupported claims.

Jan 11, 2022 - Economy & Business

Media experts sound alarm on rise of paywalled content

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It’s a bull market for media companies targeting high-end readers, with Justin Smith and Ben Smith joining the likes of Puck, Air Mail, The Information, Axios, Punchbowl News, and others targeting influential, wealthy individuals with new digital publications.

Why it matters: "In this commercial environment, quality is being supported by paying audiences," said Rodney Benson, chair of NYU's Department of Media, Culture, and Communication. "Obviously, long-term, this is going to have tremendously negative civic effects."