Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series of columns by WND founder Joseph Farah as the pioneering, trailblazing, independent, alternative online news site celebrates its 20th year in business Thursday, May 4.
Starting the first independent, alternative online news service in 1997 was a bit more challenging than one might think.
It wasn’t so much covering the world’s top news on a daily basis with a small staff that presented the obstacle. I had learned how to do that running major-market daily newspapers during my 20 years in the business.
Ironically, the biggest problem was technical. Though the dawn of the Internet made it possible to level the playing field in terms of access and distribution, there was no easy way to process the content – even text – in the early years. It would be another six years before content management system WordPress was launched. That meant hand-coding every page in html.
That task fell to someone who had to learn the tech language from scratch – my very patient (not to mention adorable) wife, Elizabeth.
It was, to put it mildly, a bit frustrating. I would edit all the copy for each day’s edition, find all the supplemental links, write all the headlines, find all the images and hand it all over to her. She would often spend the entire night coding each page – often to find that one misplaced of omitted character spoiled the entire effort.
Eventually, the technical people we needed found us. They were usually fans of what we were doing in far-flung locations and happy to work remotely. Still, there were few shortcuts until online publishing started to become a big deal in 2003.
None of this hindered the rapid growth of our audience. They didn’t know what we went through to deliver WorldNetDaily.com’s content to them.
In the first 30 days after launch, we were astonished to find 10,000 unique visitors were coming daily. That may not seem like many by today’s standards. But, back in 1997, there were only a couple million people actually using the World Wide Web regularly.
So we were certain, at that point, this was going to a Big Thing.
Within a year, 10,000 became 1 million.
Within a couple years, WorldNetDaily.com became the No. 1 most popular website in the world, according to a now-defunct European online polling service. It remained in that position until the service went belly up. Of course, it didn’t mean more people visited WorldNetDaily than any other website, but those who did were passionate about it – passionate enough to express their opinion on a third-party polling site that measured people’s favorite music, movies, books and websites.
There have been lots of “firsts” over 20 years for WND:
- In 2002, it became the first online news source to be accredited to cover the Congress of the United States by the Senate Press Gallery. It took two years of applications, countless excuses, appeals of denials based on misinformation and bias by the establishment press guardians, and threats of personal lawsuits against the decision-makers. But it was a breakthrough that opened to door to other alternative, online media outlets.
- In 2002, it became the first online news source to become a book publisher and in in 2008 became the first to acquire a book publishing company to expand its offerings. For 16 years, WND Books has had the highest percentage of New York Times best-sellers of any book publisher in the world.
- It was the first online news source to spin off into national syndication homegrown columnists such as David Limbaugh, Chuck Norris and Bill O’Reilly.
- It was the first online news service to incorporate an e-commerce operation, now known as the WND Superstore.
- It was the first online news service to incorporate a nationally syndicated radio program into its offerings.
- It was the first online news service to begin producing and distributing documentary movies.
- It was the first online news service to create a companion magazine, now called Whistleblower, and a second, completely digital weekly magazine, WND Weekly.
I could go on and on, but you get the point.
What’s ahead? The sky’s the limit. With the Big Media in journalistic and ratings freefall, WND is always prepared for innovation and new challenges.
Media wishing to interview Joseph Farah, please contact email@example.com.
The rise of the 1st alternative online news site