Will the Blogs Kill Old Media? One Blog Avatar Has Formally Wagered That by 2007, More Readers Will Get Their News from Blogs Than from the New York Times

Article excerpt

Byline: Steven Levy

A year ago, Glenn Reynolds hardly qualified as plankton on the punditry food chain. The 41-year-old law professor at the University of Tennessee would pen the occasional op-ed for the L.A. Times, but his name was unfamiliar to even the most fanatical news junkie. All that began to change on Aug. 5 of last year, when Reynolds acquired the software to create a "Weblog," or "blog." A blog is an easily updated Web site that works as an online daybook, consisting of links to interesting items on the Web, spur-of-the-moment observations and real-time reports on whatever captures the blogger's attention. Reynolds's original goal was to post witty observations on news events, but after September 11, he began providing links to fascinating articles and accounts of the crisis, and soon his site, called InstaPundit, drew thousands of readers--and kept growing. He now gets more than 70,000 page views a day (he figures this means 23,000 real people). Working at his two-year-old $400 computer, he posts dozens of items and links a day, and answers hundreds of e-mails. PR flacks call him to cadge coverage. And he's living a pundit's dream by being frequently cited--not just by fellow bloggers, but by media bigfeet. He's blogged his way into the game.

Some say the game itself has changed. InstaPundit is a pivotal site in what is known as the Blogosphere, a burgeoning samizdat of self-starters who attempt to provide in the aggregate an alternate media universe. The putative advantage is that this one is run not by editors paid by corporate giants, but unbespoken outsiders--impassioned lefties and righties, fine-print-reading wonks, indignant cranks and salt-'o-the-earth eyewitnesses to the "real" life that the self-absorbed media often miss. Hard-core bloggers, with a giddy fever not heard of since the Internet bubble popped, are even predicting that the Blogosphere is on a trajectory to eclipse the death-star-like dome of Big Media. One blog avatar, Dave Winer (who probably would be saying this even if he didn't run a company that sold blogging software), has formally wagered that by 2007, more readers will get news from blogs than from The New York Times. Taking him up on the bet is Martin Nisenholtz, head of the Times's digital operations.

My guess is that Nisenholtz wins. Blogs are a terrific addition to the media universe. But they pose no threat to the established order. …