November 29, 2021

A Compass for Conservative Politics

But in those pictures, instead of a short-order cook, the smiling proprietor standing next to Donald Trump, Sarah Palin and Haley Barbour is Christopher Ruddy, chief executive of the small but influential media company that has established itself as a potent force in conservative politics.

Newsmax, the magazine and Web site that Mr. Ruddy founded more than a decade ago, is the right-wing populist’s Time or Newsweek. With a paid circulation of 230,000, the magazine reaches more homes than The Weekly Standard or National Review, two of the higher brow pillars of American conservatism, by offering what Mr. Ruddy says is “news that Americans in the heartland would like to see.”

He and his editors mix cover pieces with articles like “The Jesus Question: Will He Ever Return” and “Heartland Warrior: Michele Bachmann’s Passionate Stand for American Values” alongside items about Ann Coulter’s decision to turn down “Dancing With the Stars.”

Among news sites that draw large conservative audiences, only FoxNews.com has more visitors, according to Nielsen, and Newsmax’s e-mail alerts go out daily to 3.2 million people.

“I think we’re part of the conversation,” Mr. Ruddy, 46, said in an interview, dropping the names of conservative stalwarts who have paid their respects to Newsmax. “That’s why Boehner — I met with him when he was down here.”

And: “Trump realized this,” Mr. Ruddy insisted. “He realized the power of Newsmax. We sort of gave him legitimacy.”

And: “Rush has mentioned Newsmax many times through the years. Many, many times over the years.”

Republicans have good reason to want to reach Newsmax’s audience. According to an outside survey of magazine readers, 55 percent of Newsmax readers have made political donations. The average donation amount was $2,930.

“Every major Republican committee has advertised at one point or another using our e-mails or Web sites,” he said as Fox News played at a low volume on a large flat-screen television a few feet away. “We’re really the 800-pound gorilla if you want to reach Republican donors in the country. We’ve got the list.”

Mr. Ruddy’s path to Republican power player is an unlikely one. He does not declare a party on his Florida voter registration. He has sharply criticized George W. Bush’s execution of the war in Iraq and praised Bill Clinton’s presidency, despite having helped sow some of the conspiracy theories around the suicide of Vince Foster, a former Clinton aide, with his 1997 book “The Strange Death of Vince Foster” (Simon Schuster/Free Press).

Mr. Clinton and Mr. Ruddy have since had a rapprochement, and Newsmax even put the former president on the cover in 2007 with the headline “He’s Back!”

An autographed copy hangs on the wall in Mr. Ruddy’s office with a note from Mr. Clinton that reads, “I hope this doesn’t destroy your circulation.”

“Chris is a masterful networker,” said Cable Neuhaus, Newsmax’s creative director. “He never stops talking to people on the phone or sending them notes. And over time that has paid dividends. He just keeps networking.”

Newsmax’s success — it brought in $52 million in revenue last year, up from $34 million the year before — in large part lies in the way Mr. Ruddy has leveraged his politically plugged-in, over-50 audience. Want to reach potential donors directly in their in-boxes? For around $30,000, political campaigns can rent Newsmax’s list, giving them in effect a direct conduit to a large swath of the Republican base. Newsmax will then send “special messages” from sponsors like Ms. Bachmann and Rand Paul that allow recipients to donate directly to a candidate’s campaign committee.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=8021873b2464cb961a941c72716727d9