Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Alex Jones’s Media Empire Is a Machine Built to Sell Snake-Oil Diet Supplements

When Alex Jones started broadcasting on the radio in the late 1990s, he followed the talk-radio playbook to a T. He built a large and devoted audience — in his case, of far-right conspiracy-theory believers — and began to sell radio advertising against them, and videos, books, and T-shirts to them. From there, he expanded: He established, began making and selling his own conspiracy-oriented documentary films, and then launched, a subscription-only streaming-video service that offered instant access to his films. By 2013, he had built a media empire: web, radio, subscription video, and DVD and T-shirt sales. At the time, Salon’s Alex Seitz-Wald estimated that Jones was pulling in as much as $10 million a year between subscriptions, web and radio advertising, and sales.

But sometime later that year, his business model changed completely. Since late 2013, Jones has been pushing a collection of dietary supplements designed to prey on the paranoias and insecurities of his listeners: Infowars Life Silver Bullet Colloidal Silver. Infowars Life Brain Force Plus. Infowars Life Super Male Vitality. Infowars Life Liver Shield. In a recent BuzzFeed profile of Jones, Charlie Warzel writes that the launch of Infowars dietary supplements “completely transformed” Infowars into a “media empire,” but this might even be underselling it — if not mischaracterizing the nature of Jones’s business. If you visit today, there is no “advertise with Infowars” link. Unlike other right-wing media empires, it does not appear to be supported by high-net-worth investors like Robert Mercer. Alex Jones is not trying to get you to subscribe to his video service anymore (though it still exists). In fact, he hasn’t even made a documentary film since 2012. And nearly every ad on his website sells just one thing: Infowars Life dietary supplements. An examination of his business seems to indicate that the vast majority of Infowars’ revenue comes from sales of these dietary supplements. Infowars isn’t a media empire — it’s a snake-oil empire. Let me explain.

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