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By linking news sites, Matt Drudge created an Internet success.


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 on WIOD.

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 operatives.

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,'' he said.

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 changed.''

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 on.

''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 its website.

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 service.

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 site.''

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.


''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 Eve 2000.''

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 link to?''

Originally published in The Miami Herald on September 1, 2003

Photo by Candace Barbot










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