Monday The New York Times paid homage to Matt Drudge. The Times is making the point I have made repeatedly in the past, where I have suggested that (for better or worse) Matt Drudge has more influence on American media than any other single media figure.
Here’s another wrinkle. According to the Times, 15 percent of the total traffic on washingtonpost.com is originally generated by Drudge. Think about it. Perhaps the Washington Post Co. should pay Drudge royalities equal to 15 percent of its advertising revenue.
My long-term focus on Drudge has been misunderstood by a number of Drudge critics, and a number of my critics. Some say I am jealous. Of course I am! Others say I fawn over Drudge. Of course I don’t. I have long been a critic of Drudge.
Here is why I have long focused on Drudge and am now joined by The New York Times:
Politics is a battle of ideas. Politics is about the narrative. I have been a very visible critic, at times, of major Democrats for lacking a narrative or the means to promote a narrative (several leading Democrats will read this piece as you do).
It is my long-stated view that Democrats after 2008 lost any semblance of a narrative. The major issue today is jobs, jobs, jobs, but where is the Democratic (or Republican) plan and narrative about jobs? And while the days of wide Tea Party appeal may soon be numbered, the Democrats let the Tea Party seize the national narrative after 2008.
Like it or not (I don’t), Matt Drudge has a narrative. When newspaper editors, cable producers and political operatives read Drudge (which they do obsessively; some admit it, others don’t; I do), it is Drudge who is defining the narrative more than any other single figure.
When Obama won in 2008, Democrats controlled the House and Senate and Democrats had huge fundraising power, why didn’t they promote a true competitor to Drudge? In this sense Democrats unilaterally disarmed, while Drudge has been firing the same weapons at them for more than a decade. Why haven’t Democratic leaders, Democratic financiers and Democratic-friendly media figures tried to create a true competitor to Drudge?
Think about it. Why don’t progressive financiers such as George Soros finance a real competitor to Drudge? They do support some worthwhile ventures, but usually those worthwhile ventures financed by liberals opine about why they don’t like Drudge and others in the media (e.g., Fox News) they disapprove of, but they don’t create alternate media power structures to compete with Drudge.
Why doesn’t the Washington Post board of directors (at least one of them will read this as you do) or major cable media (more than one cable exec will read this as you do) create their own news-focused Drudge competitor?
Therefore: As a purely professional observation, one has to respect what Drudge has done. As someone who has appeared in almost every conceivable media and at times informally advises senior Democrats I regret that despite my modest efforts neither major newspapers nor cable networks nor Democratic leaders nor Democratic financiers have even attempted to field a true competitor to Matt Drudge.
I believe this is regrettable but what is, is.
Politics in America is a battle of ideas.
Matt Drudge maintains a virtual monopoly for what he does. So The New York Times hails him. Investors in the Washington Post Co. profit by the advertising revenue he generates by driving traffic to the Post site. His critics are reduced to complaining.
Democrats, Republicans, newspaper editors and television producers read The Drudge Report as a near-religious ritual before they decide what we see on television or read in the papers — and that, my friends, is what great communicators do.