How to shake the nation in your boxers shorts

From the comfort of his Los Angeles home, Matt Drudge turns out an Internet bulletin that is required reading among politicians and in the media.

"I've got enough money to last me till the end of the century." When I quote him back to himself Matt Drudge, author of the home-made news bulletin on the Internet called the Drudge Report, [drudge@lainet.com] has a good laugh. As a habitual quoter of others, he considers himself fair game.

Drudge and I had just met on a corner at Hollywood and Vine, where California's media, showbiz and computer industries overlap, and my question for him was how long can he keep this up? Self-publishing, by e-mail and on the Web, a news bulletin that combines Hollywood gossip with Washington leaks, written in his own inimitable style (his open letter to Babe the celluloid pig is notable).

Drudge is what the Internet revolution was all about. Given the technology of free, instant and infinitely cc-able mail, every person could became a home-based news wire, cutting, pasting and rewriting their way to prominence quicker than any scissors-and-Xerox fanzine editor. So why is Matt Drudge the only one being fed leaks by both American political parties and being pursued by old media dinosaurs?

The cheerful 29-year-old, looking out of place on the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, Pierced Parts and Bedrolls in his striped shirt and horn-rimmed glasses, testifies to the simplicity of his operation. "I use a beat-up Packard Bell 486 desktop running Windows 3.1, with a 28.8 modem. And Netscape [Navigator] 1.1. I keep going back to earlier versions because they're easier to use." He also maintains a Drudge Report Web site, [http://www.lainet

.com/drudge] but prefers the text-only version that plops into 5,000 e-mail boxes (some of which then repost it for wider circulation) every other day or "when circumstances warrant".

The secret to snowballing prominence on-line clearly depends on making a few quantum leaps with the help of the old media. "Here I am, I write this thing out in my boxer shorts with my cat, as if I'm passing notes in high school, and the next thing I'm getting mentioned on Rush Limbaugh's radio show - that's 20 million listeners - and the New York Times are giving out my address too."

The son of a social worker and a lawyer, Drudge, from Washington DC, barely graduated from high school. He went to LA and got a job in the gift shop at CBS Television. He stuck at it for seven years, becoming manager of the $1m-a-year operation, and saved up enough money and contacts to be able to quit. Towards the end he realised there was a surplus of good gossip that never made it into print, and began leaking stories, usually about non-CBS business, from the wired computer that came with the job.

He left CBS and became the boxer shorts pointcaster in February 1995. In September 1995 he tried to charge $10 per annum per address, received 600 subscriptions, but decided against cutting off the freeloaders. After all, on the Internet, connectivity is power. "I'm not about the money, I'm more about the story and the angles and causing trouble."

We stop to browse the international newsstand on the corner. "My newspaper bill is only $2 a day. Everything else is free - I read 17 newspapers electronically every day. I stay up till 1am reading the next day's issues," he chirps. "The New York Post is the only one I want that isn't available online." Persistence seems to be his greatest asset. "There have been other newsletters that haven't made it. But they just don't keep it up. There's nothing worse than stale hip media news."

Information may or may not want to be free, but readers, he has found, don't mind being unpaid sources. Thanks to the inherent interactivity of the medium, Drudge Report recipients are much more likely to hit the reply button and send in a tip or a comment than, say, a radio listener is to call in or a reader to write a letter to the editor. He gets on average 300 e-mails a day, (1,000 is the record) but time pressure dictates that he cannot read them all.

As his sources have deepened, he has had some good scoops. "The Timothy Leary online suicide proposal, that came to me from either the man or someone very close to him, as if they said, 'Here, this kid's doing good stuff, let's toss him a bone'.

"And the story about Newt Gingrich being annoyed about being seated in the back of Air Force One after Yitzhak Rabin's funeral, that came from an e-mail from someone on Capitol Hill. Unidentified of course." It's not all .gov and .house though. The reply that Drudge is most proud of came from Marlon Brando. "I wrote about his movie Don Juan De Marco. I got an e-mail from him - and the address checked out, by the way - telling me to watch the weight jokes."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: PHP Developer - Midweight

    £40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: Junior Front End Developer

    £20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Recruitment Genius: Front End Developer - Midweight / Senior

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

    Day In a Page

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks