linking news sites, Matt Drudge created an Internet success.
BY RICHARD PACHTER
Matt Drudge, Internet personality, is
a self-styled seeker of the truth, specifically of hidden and obscured
truths. If there's a Drudge brand he'd like to convey, it's of the
relentless, rumpled, ever-vigilant newsman -- always connected and
plugged into his network of operatives.
The truth is a bit less dramatic.
From his Miami Beach condo, Drudge monitors
television news channels and websites on three computers set up
in his home office. Using WindowsXP and other off-the-shelf software,
he updates his website, Drudgereport.com
, several times a day.
Contributors to traditional print and
broadcast media sometimes derisively refer to Drudge, who gained
national notoriety for his postings during the Bill Clinton/Monica
Lewinsky affair, as a gossip monger -- or worse. But Drudge, 36,
has turned Drudgereport.com into quite a tidy enterprise.
By his own estimate, the former convenience-store
clerk makes about $1.2 million a year, including revenue from his
nationally syndicated Sunday night radio show, which airs locally
His Internet site is mainly a portal,
an index of news stories that appear on newspaper and wire-service
websites. He writes catchy headlines for his top links, augmented
by his own stories based on tips from his virtual network of Internet
informants -- many employed by mainstream print and broadcast outlets.
Much of his information during the Clinton
impeachment investigation came from leaks from journalists and political
So what does that make Drudge?
''I'm a newsman and not a journalist,''
he said in a recent interview, ''nor a cyber this or that.''
Since his site is primarily composed
of links to stories on other sites and is a Web log, commonly called
a blog, how about a blogger?
''Nope. Sounds too much like booger,''
Drudge describes his own politics as
libertarian (with a small L), though his part as a catalyst in what
some called ''the vast right-wing conspiracy'' that precipitated
the impeachment hearings brought him a dedicated right-of-center
following, which he continues to cultivate.
Contrary to popular perception, his
is not a solo act; his longtime friend and associate Andrew Breitbart,
a Californian, monitors and updates the site when Drudge himself
is asleep or away.
But not always: During a recent interview
with The Herald, Drudge admitted that Breitbart was ''vacationing
in Mexico and I'm sitting here with you, so the site is not being
Still, his reputation for being all
knowing is such that many radio hosts check The Drudge Report before
starting their air shifts, just to make sure they know what's going
''Once I was listening to Michael Savage's
[syndicated radio] show and he opened by reading from The Drudge
Report on the air, story by story -- in order -- without once mentioning
that he was looking at my site,'' Drudge said with obvious amusement.
As a business, The Drudge Report's revenues
are derived solely from advertising, which is sold by Intermarkets,
an Oakton, Va. agency that also sells Internet ads for The Chicago
Sun-Times, The Village Voice, NewsMax, Human Events and others on
According to the rates posted on www.intermarkets.net,
advertisers are charged $3 per thousand impressions for banner ads,
or $4,400 a day (discounted to $29,000 a week). The banner ads are
rotated, so visitors may see one for AT&T Wireless, The New York
Times or another client each time they visit the site.
On a typical day in August, Drudge's
site had nearly 6.5 million visitors, and it had 163 million in
the preceding 31 days. The Internet traffic site Alexa.com ranked
Drudgereport.com 215th in current Web traffic.
After Intermarkets takes its commission,
the ad revenue is almost pure profit for Drudge, who says he shares
a percentage of his profits with Breitbart. The overhead is minimal:
$4,000 a month for Web-server costs plus about $20 a month for Internet
And that's about it, according to Drudge,
since he works from his home.
He's not a big spender, though he says
he likes to travel to Europe -- ''Lots of high-speed Internet access
there'' -- and has allowed himself one other indulgence: a Corvette.
Although he might be able to pull in
more income by selling special reports, subscriptions and assorted
Drudge paraphernalia, he said he wasn't interested.
''I'm probably the worst marketer out
there,'' he said. ''I just don't care. I put my energy into the
What's now a moneymaking operation began
as a hobby. Drudge, who grew up in Maryland and moved to Hollywood
in California, held a number of retail jobs. His last before his
evolution into Drudge Inc. was at the CBS-TV gift shop.
In 1994, he began posting on Internet
Usenet sites, based, in part, on information acquired while exploring
the CBS executive offices. The content of those reports was remarkably
similar to the current ones: show biz, politics and the weather,
with punchy prose and an antiestablishment tone. He also posted
his offerings on an early version of his website, attracting hits
from all over the place.
Meanwhile, he collected thousands of
e-mail addresses from executives and power brokers. His postings
were generally welcome and helped establish the Drudge name early
in the life of the Internet as a go-to site for breaking news.
Wired, a futurist business magazine,
began running Drudge's reports on its website, paying him $3,000
a month for the privilege. That lasted about a year. America Online
called next. It enlisted him as a content provider, paying the same
monthly $3,000 fee as Wired but giving him a much larger audience.
The investigation of former President
Clinton that began as a probe of the Whitewater real estate deal
in Arkansas and culminated in impeachment brought new attention
to Drudge and his site.
He also began a weekly Sunday night
radio show, first on the ABC Network, then on Premier, a division
of radio giant Clear Channel.
'A LISTENER'S DELIGHT'
''The radio show is a news/talk programmer's
dream,'' WIOD program director Peter Bolger said. ''And judging
by the show's ratings, it's a listener's delight as well.''
Drudge also fills in frequently for
Tampa's Todd Schnitt, whose show also airs on WIOD.
''He has such a positive energy,'' Bolger
said. ''We always look forward to him coming to the WIOD studios.''
Drudge also did a weekly TV show for
Fox, but it ended after a year. Though still based in California
at that time, he said Fox insisted that the show originate from
its New York studios. He acquiesced but booked frequent layovers
in South Florida and relocated here ''in time to celebrate New Year's
He avoids most investments and banks
his money, he said, because he doesn't know how long his site --
and his reign -- will last.
''What happens if everyone charges for
content?'' he asked. ''It's already started. Who will be left to
published in The Miami Herald on September 1, 2003
by Candace Barbot