Tyler Durden, played by Brad Pitt, was a main protagonist in the 1999 film Fight Club. ZeroHedge has adopted the character's likeness and used it as a pseudonym for much of its content.

ZeroHedge (Lean Right bias) is quietly one of the most-read conservative news sites, but it’s hardly considered a mainstream outlet.

Enjoying a readership well ahead of other conservative mainstays like The Daily Wire (Right bias), National Review (Right bias), Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias), and The Daily Caller (Right bias), the outlet has become considerably influential in a short amount of time, largely off the back of one key device — anonymity.

While millions worldwide read articles from ZeroHedge regularly, one thing isn’t clear: who’s writing them?

How Many People Read ZeroHedge?

According to SimilarWeb, in March 2024, ZeroHedge received 27.74 million website visits. The figure is much higher than what its peripherally mainstream peers like Semafor (Lean Left bias, 1.66M visits), UnHerd (Center bias, 2.88M), and National Review (Right bias, 5.14M) received during the same period.

ZeroHedge’s visits total, which was narrowly up from February marked the site far ahead of several prominent conservative outlets like The Daily Wire (Right bias, 15.99M) Washington Examiner (Lean Right bias, 7.23M), and The Daily Caller (Right bias, 7.25M).

For context, mainstream conservative heavyweights like Fox News (Right bias), The New York Post (Lean Right bias), Fox Business (Lean Right bias), and Breitbart (Right bias) received 269.4M, 160.8M, 45.82M, and 32.52M visits, respectively.

Other financially-themed news sites like MarketWatch (Center bias), Financial Times (Center bias), and The Economist (Lean Left bias) received 51.9M, 33.33M, and 13.52M visits, respectively.

The ZeroHedge Story

Launched in January 2009, ZeroHedge was conceived as a financial blog, a descriptor that holds mostly true today.

According to Wikipedia, the site’s readership “grew rapidly” later that year after publishing “a series of pieces accusing Goldman Sachs of using high-frequency trading to profit via the New York Stock Exchange.”

ZeroHedge also gained traction from its novel anonymous nature, which remains the outlet’s defining feature. Unless noted as republished from another publication, all features on the site are posted under the name Tyler Durden, which is, not so coincidentally, a fictional character played by Brad Pitt in the movie Fight Club.

While the site’s internal politics and publishing process remain shrouded in mystery, the cat was already partially out of the bag in August 2009 when The New York Post (Lean Right bias) reported on suspicions that Bulgarian-born, U.S.-based former investment banker Daniel Ivandjiiski was the founder of ZeroHedge, which it described as “controversial” in the article.

In 2016, Bloomberg (Lean Left bias) offered more clarity on who “Tyler Durden” was when writer Colin Lokey told the publication he joined ZeroHedge in 2015 and was one of three Tyler Durdens that included credit trader Tim Backshall and Ivandjiiski himself. Of the two, Lokey said to Bloomberg, “Two guys who live a lifestyle you only dream of are pretending to speak for you.”

Today, ZeroHedge is still known for its populist, libertarian tilt, and scrappy style of journalism that often blurs the line between news and opinion-based commentary, often within the same article.

Why is ZeroHedge anonymous?

ZeroHedge still conceals the names of its contributors under the Tyler Durden alias and considers this practice crucial to its identity.

On its “About” page [retrieved May 22, 2024], ZeroHedge states its mission as:

  • to widen the scope of financial, economic and political information available to the professional investing public.
  • to skeptically examine and, where necessary, attack the flaccid institution that financial journalism has become.
  • to liberate oppressed knowledge.
  • to provide analysis uninhibited by political constraint.
  • to facilitate information's unending quest for freedom.

It states its method to accomplish this as “pseudonymous speech responsibly used,” adding further context:

“anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. it thus exemplifies the purpose behind the bill of rights, and of the first amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation-- and their ideas from suppression-- at the hand of an intolerant society.”

Tyler Durden (Alamy via BBC News)

Who is Daniel Ivandjiiski?

Daniel Ivandjiiski, currently 45, was born in Sofia, Bulgaria in 1978 and moved to the United States around 1997 to study molecular biology at the University of Pennsylvania, which he graduated from in 2001.

According to Wikipedia, he passed his securities exams in November 2001 and spent much of the 2000s working at the investment banks Jefferies & Co., Imperial Capital, and Miller Buckfire.

He then went on to work for Wexford Capital, a hedge fund run by former Goldman Sachs traders. In September 2008, however, he was charged by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) for gaining $780 from an insider trade and subsequently barred from securities trading.

It was shortly after this that Ivandjiiski founded ZeroHedge.

Who owns ZeroHedge?

ZeroHedge is owned by ABC Media Ltd., a company established in Bulgaria and managed by Krassimir Ivandjiiski, Daniel’s father.

Since 1994, Krassimir has operated the Bulgarian political news website, Strogo Sekretno.

In 1973, during Bulgaria’s socialist era in which it maintained close ties with the Soviet Union, Krassimir worked at the Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Trade. 

In 1974, he became a member of the International Organization of Journalists. The New Republic (Left bias) reported this in 2020, noting that the CIA previously labeled the organization “an instrumentality of Soviet propaganda.”

Why ZeroHedge operates under ABC Media Ltd. in Bulgaria doesn’t appear to have been addressed by either of the Ivandjiiskis, but a 2020 blog post from Krassimir lends some insight into the connection between ZeroHedge and ABC. (Reportedly, Krassimir previously stated the only reason ZeroHedge is connected to his name is because ‘they even did not have $30 for the initial registration,” but AllSides was not able to locate the original comment.)

Strogo Sekretno is reportedly not published by ABC Media Ltd., but by a separate company named Primex-7 Ltd. that is also owned by Krassimir.

Media Appraisals of ZeroHedge

Since its inception, ZeroHedge has been a hot-button item in the media.

It quickly gained a reputation for being conspiratorial, a mood which Justin Fox, writing for Time Magazine (Lean Left bias) in October 2009 described as reflective of Wall Street traders at the time. 

Fox also referenced a New York Magazine (Left bias) article written by Joe Hagan a week prior that suggested Ivandjiiski’s bearish, conspiratorial outlook is why ZeroHedge became so popular so quickly.

“[A]s his posts got more detailed, a theme began to emerge: Wall Street was a vast conspiracy. Nothing could be trusted. All markets were corrupt. The darker his vision the more popular he became,” Hagan wrote of Ivandjiiski and ZeroHedge.

Per Wikipedia, ZeroHedge received early praise from journalist Matt Taibbi (Center bias) — who at the time was an editor for Rolling Stone (Left bias) — for accurately assessing corruption in the banking industry in his 2010 New York Times bestseller on the 2008 financial crisis, Griftopia.

Taibbi, according to the aforementioned New York Magazine article, also said he believed ZeroHedge was responsible for the New York Stock Exchange’s decision to change how it released weekly trading data: “Pretty clearly this guy has so pissed off Goldman Sachs they managed to get that rule change about how the data got released, and that’s almost certainly because of Zero Hedge.”

In 2011, Time Magazine ranked ZeroHedge ninth in its 25 Best Financial Blogs. ZeroHedge also received nods from The New York Times (Lean Left bias) and Bloomberg for being relevant despite its controversial nature.

Controversies and Criticisms Surrounding ZeroHedge

In more recent years, mainstream sentiments have shifted towards being critical of ZeroHedge, and the outlet has been involved in several controversies.

In 2018, the American nonprofit global policy think tank RAND Corporation published a study titled “Russian Social Media Influence: Understanding Russian Propaganda in Eastern Europe” in which it labeled ZeroHedge a “useful idiot” for the Kremlin, concluding that its posts “frequently echo the Kremlin line.”

RAND also included a graphic that showed the “insular and circular nature of Zero Hedge’s referrer network.”

ZeroHedge Referrer Network (RAND Corporation, 2018)

In March 2019, Facebook temporarily blocked users from sharing ZeroHedge links on the platform, though it reversed the ban three days later, citing a “mistake” with its spam-filtering system.

In February 2020, Twitter banned ZeroHedge after it published an article that linked a Chinese scientist to the COVID-19 outbreak, listing personal information like the phone number and email of the scientist. Several prominent Center and Left-rated sources condemned ZeroHedge for spreading a “conspiracy” and “misinformation” with this feature. 

Per CBS News (Lean Left bias), Twitter said it banned ZeroHedge’s Twitter account for “violating the Twitter rules.” In June 2020, however, Twitter lifted the ban, citing “an error in (its) enforcement action in this case.” The social media company gave no further detail on the matter.

In June 2020, Google banned ZeroHedge from its ad platform Google Ads for derogatory comments on the site that violated Google’s content policy, but lifted the ban in July 2020 when ZeroHedge’s management began moderating comments.

Also in June 2020, PayPal deplatformed ZeroHedge.

In July 2020, following a community discussion by its users, Wikipedia banned ZeroHedge from being used as a source.

In February 2022, anonymous U.S. intelligence officials told The Associated Press (Lean Left bias) that ZeroHedge was “amplifying Kremlin propaganda” (In AP’s paraphrased terms) by publishing articles written by “Moscow-controlled media.”

ZeroHedge denied the claims, saying it aims to “publish a wide spectrum of views that cover both sides of a given story,” and that it “has never worked, collaborated or cooperated with Russia, nor are there any links to spy agencies.”

The featured image of Hettena's New Republic article. (Getty, courtesy of 20th Century Fox)

The Seth Hettena vs. ZeroHedge Saga

In December 2019, American journalist Seth Hettena — currently of Rolling Stone and previously of The Associated Press — published an independent blog post on his website (at the time named “trump-russia.com”) that was deeply critical of ZeroHedge. 

He accused it of following “the pro-Russia script,” spreading “anti-Semitic garbage,” and pursuing “an audience comprised of racists, anti-Semites, extreme right-wingers, and conspiracy wingnuts” for profit. Hettena also investigated ZeroHedge’s ownership, and included a profile on Krassimir Ivandjiiski, implying that he was likely a spy for the KGB at one point in his life.

Later that month, Krassimir filed a criminal complaint against Hettena in Bulgaria, citing defamation and violation of European Union privacy laws as reasons. He and Hettena both wrote about the filing on their respective sites, with their accounts agreeing that Krassimir first asked Hettena to take his original article down, but Hettena declined.

Ivandjiiski also addressed the accusation that he may be a former Soviet spy, writing, “As regards my qualification as an ‘official from the Soviet era’, Hettena probably does not know that there are 200 million people living in Europe in the post-Soviet era and at least 50 million of them are former ministry officials.”

The incident led to a much longer March 2020 feature from Hettena published in The New Republic titled “Is Zero Hedge a Russian Trojan Horse?” 

In it, Hettena employed a similarly critical and disparaging tone in regards to ZeroHedge and its readers, but also included new reporting from several sources that gave more context to the backstory of ZeroHedge.

Hettena said that he discovered “zerohedge.com” was first registered in Lichtenstein and Switzerland in 2009 before Bulgaria in 2011, implying this may have been done with “financial secrecy” in mind.

As for the idea that ZeroHedge could be a “Russian Trojan Horse” Hettena framed Bulgaria as a Russian proxy within the EU, and even went as far as to cite several anonymous sources with connections to the Bulgarian government who believed ZeroHedge had ties to either Bulgarian intelligence or the Kremlin.

Hettena also included an account from a former ZeroHedge employee who seemed to believe the reason ABC Media remained headquartered in Bulgaria was for financial secrecy, ultimately downplaying the thought that it could have been done to aid the intelligence efforts of the Kremlin.

Of his thesis — that ZeroHedge may be a Russian agent — Hettena concluded:

“It may very well be true, as Zero Hedge claims, that it has never been in contact with anyone from Russia, the U.S., or any government. At the same time, it may also be true that Zero Hedge is, for all intents and purposes, a Russian disinformation operation. In the bizarre world of conspiracies and disinformation, both things can be true at once. The warped incentives of the internet drive sites like Zero Hedge to publish pro-Kremlin content without any help from Vladimir Putin. If conspiracies and pro-Russia propaganda keep the audience clicking on the ads that festoon Zero Hedge, then that’s what they get.”

Hettena shared in the parting lines of his New Republic op-ed that the “district prosecutor in Bulgaria declined to press charges against (him), finding insufficient evidence that (he) had committed a crime.”

AllSides Analysis of ZeroHedge

A simple review of previous reporting reveals Daniel Ivandjiiski is indeed the driving force behind the site, but it’s not entirely clear who exactly all of today’s “Tyler Durdens” are, or how many of them there are — meaning the ZeroHedge is in fact still anonymous by nature.

While it’s had its share of controversies in the past and is not necessarily a mainstream outlet, it appears to be one of, if not the biggest American news media website that continuously challenges mainstream narratives and presents “outside” viewpoints.

On top of its anonymity, one feature that sets ZeroHedge apart from many of its conservative peers is its great attention to international stories, which as AllSides has pointed out before are usually far less covered by sources on the right than their left or center peers.

Its bias is undoubtedly on the right, however, it appears to skew much more libertarian or populist than traditional or neo-conservative. 

ZeroHedge is a prime example of how media bias can involve more nuance than the traditional AllSides five-point L-C-R spectrum accounts for, something we have openly addressed in the past, and further demonstrates why it’s important to consume a balanced newsfeed to avoid getting caught in filter bubbles and see the whole picture.

Andy Gorel is a News Editor and Bias Analyst at AllSides. He has a Center bias.

This article was reviewed by Henry Brechter, AllSides Editor-in-Chief (Center bias), Julie Mastrine, Director of Marketing and Media Bias Ratings (Lean Right bias), and Joseph Ratliff, Content Designer and News Editor (Lean Left bias).