A numbers genius—not Nate Silver!—has pored over the 171,000-plus recorded updates of the Drudge Report since 2002 and put it all into chart form. Most stunning-yet-not-surprising statistic: two-year-old Politico ranks 16th among sites linked to by Drudge.

Kalev Leetaru, the coordinator of information technology and research at the University of Illinois' Cline Center for Democracy, went back through seven years' worth data from the Drudge Report Archives—which has been taking a digital snapshot of the Drudge Report each time it's been updated since 2002—and mined it for clues as to how the elusive Junior Vasquez fan controls our media diet.

One of the many interesting datapoints unearthed by Leetaru's analysis is a curious drop in the total number of updates to the Drudge Report in 2008—an election year that should have seen a huge increase in the amount of stories, and therefore updates, that Drudge was covering. As a possible explanation for the drop-off Leetaru cites our reporting in March about the departure of Drudge understudy Andrew Breitbart from his operation. Breitbart left the site in mid-2008, and Drudge evidently had trouble keeping up the pace.

Leetaru saw another counterintuitive drop-off in updates during the Iraq War in 2003, which he explains by citing the overwhelming coverage that Iraq got in the news outlets Drudge relies on for stories. As newspapers focused their resources on Iraq and stopped writing about animal attacks, weather, and robot sex, Drudge had less to work with:

As major global events displace the news coverage that an aggregator relies on, that aggregator is forced to reduce its update cycle to accommodate the reduction in stories to link to.

As expected, Breitbart.com has been the chief beneficiary of Drudge links, netting 14,923 (or 14.5% of all links) since 2002, largely because Breitbart himself was doing the linking. Nice gig! The top newspaper beneficiary was the Washington Post with 6,471, nearly twice as many as the New York Times. And even though it was in existence for only two of the six years that Leetaru studied, Politico ranked 16th in terms of total Drudge links, catching nearly 50 in January of 2008 alone.

Leetaru also did a word analysis of Drudge's headlines—an undertaking that, given Drudge's facility as a headline writer, could serve as a guidebook for newspaper editors looking to save the industry—but decided not to filter out filler words and articles, so we only get the astonishing news that "to" is the most commonly used word in a Drudge headline. But the weird thing is the "Bush" outranked "a." Leetaru only charted out the Top Ten words; we've asked him for the full rankings and will let you know if he gives them to us.

[Via Politico.]