Editor’s note: This is the second part of a series of columns by WND founder Joseph Farah as the pioneering, independent, alternative news site celebrates its 25th year in business 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 obstacles. 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 or 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.
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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 be a Big Thing.
Within a year, 10,000 became 1 million. Then it became multimillions a day.
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 the 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 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.
We did it! We were successful. We did really good journalism. And we were the biggest, baddest, conservative and avowedly Christian online news publication in the world. We were at our pinnacle until 2016 – and over the next three years, we nearly became … extinct.
What happened? And why is it still possible that it’s not going to work out? Do I blame Joe Biden for all he’s done to America in the last year and a half?
You’ll have to read the incredible other half of the story tomorrow.
In the meantime, if you have a heart for WND, I would ask one favor.
Because we’re embarking on a campaign in throughout May and June, I would ask you to click over to the HELP WND button below. If you are curious about us, or maybe new to us, there are several ways, large and small, that you can help.
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