Conspiracy Inc. — How Alex Jones Makes His Millions_Featured_, Conspiracies Saturday, May 4th, 2013
Conspiracy theories can be big business. Here’s how the multi-platform entrepreneur makes his millions
It’s good to be Alex Jones. Matt Drudge, the conservative Web entrepreneur and news aggregator, proved prophetic when he predicted that 2013 would be “the year of Alex Jones.” The longtime conspiracy broadcaster is finally breaking into the mainstream consciousness after a buzzy interview with Piers Morgan and his Boston bombing conspiracy, and traffic to his websites has never been higher. The conspiracy business is booming.
And make no mistake, it is a business. That’s not to say that Jones isn’t a believer — there are easier ways to make money — but Jones has built a multi-platform new media empire in his Austin, Texas, Free Speech Systems LLC that reaches millions of believers and promises advertisers that it will “direct lucrative buyers to you from our daily audience of active enthusiasts.” And all told, Jones is very likely raking in millions.
Jones didn’t invent the business model, but he may have perfected it. He comes from a long line of what historian Robert Goldberg calls “conspiracy entrepreneurs” that stretches back through at least the early Red Scare, and up through the John Birch Society, the JFK assassination and the Roswell incident to the Jones school of the New World Order. But while others merely got by on the sale of their books and tapes and lectures to a niche audience, Jones has industrialized conspiracy for a mass audience.
Jones’ company broadcasts around the clock from his state-of-the art, 7,600-square-foot radio and TV studio that employs 15 people and cleared $1.5 million in revenue in 2009, according to a Texas Monthly profile. But a lot has changed since then. In 2011, he launched the Infowars Nightly News TV program to anchor his new subscriber TV network, which has expanded its lineup as traffic to his websites and general visibility has exploded, meaning his revenue is probably much bigger than it was just four years ago.
How big? We consulted half a dozen experts in online, radio and video marketing to ask them to make educated guesses based on publicly available information — and while the numbers are educated estimates, they suggest that rather than crazy, Jones may be crazy like a fox. What’s clear is that he’s savvy and moved adroitly to capitalize on a market that he helped create, impressing every one of our experts with his strategy of developing a loyal cadre of fans who are probably responsible for the bulk of his income. So follow along as we try to put price tags on the disparate colonies of the Alex Jones empire.
Jones has a a lot of revenue streams, from T-shirt sales to lectures, but let’s start with the websites. Eric Covino, the president and founder of Creative Signals, a digital marketing, SEO and online P.R. agency, took a look at the numbers for Jones’ Infowars.com from an industry tool called SemRush and came up with a revenue estimate for Salon. “I don’t think it’s double-digit millions but I would guesstimate that it’s somewhere between 3-6 million per year based on the traffic numbers and the brand loyalty,” he said.