Inside Story: Meet the bloggerati
Whether it's scorching political debate from award-winning writers or domestic trivia, all the world's a blog. Ed Caesar reports
Monday 20 March 2006
The Bloggers: Jessica Coen and Jesse Oxfeld
The figurehead site of Gawker Media, British expat Nick Denton's American blogging empire, Gawker is updated seemingly every other minute with some juicy titbit from Manhattan's media community. Primarily a gossip site, it's as happy to talk highfalutin ethics as the contents of Lindsay Lohan's brassiere. Gawker's current obsessions include the fabrications of A Million Little Pieces author James Frey, the corrections page of the New York Times, and the rehabilitation of Kate Moss. Meanwhile Gawker Stalker, their trademark celebrity-tracking map of New York, has significantly improved the lives of office-bound workers on both sides of the Atlantic.
The Bloggers: Cory Doctorow, Mark Frauenfelder, David Pescovitz, Xeni Jardin, John Battelle
Consistently one of the world's most visited blogs, Boing Boing is also the proud owner of two consecutive Bloggies, in 2004 and 2005, for the best blog on the web. Focusing on gadgets, gizmos and technological breakthroughs, Boing Boing is also happy to display salient news items and entertainment nuggets collected from around the internet. The site is defined as much by attitude as by content - it wants to share what it thinks is fresh and exciting with as many people as possible. The formula is working: more than 1.7 million unique readers show up on Boing Boing every day.
The Bloggers: Frank Warren
PostSecret has had a stellar 14 months. It began, on 1 January 2005, with these simple instructions: "You are invited to anonymously contribute your secrets to PostSecret. Each secret can be a regret, hope, funny experience, unseen kindness, fantasy, belief, fear, betrayal, erotic desire, feeling, confession, or childhood humiliation. Reveal anything - as long as it is true and you have never shared it with anyone before." By encouraging contributors to submit their secrets on a 4 x 6in postcard, PostSecret has turned into not only one of the biggest community art projects, but one of the biggest blogs of all time. It won the 2006 Bloggie for the world's best blog.
The Bloggers: Norman Mailer, Walter Cronkite, David Mamet, et al.
The Huffington Post is a blog like no other. For some, it is not even a blog. Blogs, traditionally, have been the product of anarchic nobodies, scribblers in the dark. The Huffington Post is anything but, as Jay Rosen, of pressthink.org, inveighed at its inception. "These aren't exactly people who lack voice or visibility in our culture," says Rosen. A year on, The Huffington Post now wields significant power inside Washington's beltway. Founded by Arianna Huffington, the socialite, politico, and one-time wife of Bernard Levin, it is essentially a discursive extension of Huffington's enormous address book. An agenda-shifting forum read by everyone who's anyone.
The Bloggers: Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
An incisive left-wing commentary from an ex-US serviceman, the Daily Kos (pronounced "prose") has become the foremost single political voice in the blogosphere. It is, by some standards - including, importantly, web traffic - the most popular blog currently operating (on many weeks it can reach 5 million viewers). Its strength is its depth: while Moulitsas and other key posters are able to write directly on to the front page, other posters are encouraged to use the diary pages to make their voice heard. This Kos community has also proved itself a significant fundraising force - in 2004, members raised over half a million dollars for Democratic candidates.
The Bloggers: Evan Blass
Engadget, the figurehead of the Weblogs Inc. empire, which Peter Rojas sold to AOL in 2005, is the pre-eminent gadget blog currently operating. Featuring news and bits from the gadget world, and a weekly podcast on the state of technology, Engadget, has also, as its name suggests, engaged its readers to be more participatory. To this end, the site organises local meetings for readers who can hear the latest information from a gadget guru in their area. Its success has been cemented by being an automatic RSS feed from Gmail, the increasingly ubiquitous e-mail provider. Definitely one for the geeks.
The Bloggers: Andrew Sullivan
Andrew Sullivan is an intriguing medley of paradoxes, and his blog, which is one of the most read and opinion-shifting Conservative political sites, reflects this. Born in Britain, Sullivan studied at Oxford and Harvard, before becoming editor of The New Republic. He is gay, and HIV-positive; he was pro-war, but has since reconsidered his position; he is fiercely Conservative, but sceptical of Bush; and he is a practising Roman Catholic. This package was sufficiently attractive for Time magazine to lure the Daily Dish on to its own website for a princely sum and a look at Sullivan's 1.8 million monthly viewers.
The Bloggers: Mark Lisanti, Seth Abramovitch
Gawker's evil twin, and another outpost of Nick Denton's blog empire, Defamer is a poisonous LA gossip site. Denton discovered Defamer's editor, Mark Lisanti, after his minions at Gawker had linked to Lisanti's personal site. Its mission statement is to bring readers the real entertainment stories - behind the PR spin - from the world's entertainment capital, a function it has successfully been performing since May 2004. Defamer currently draws about 440,000 page views a day, which, given its in-depth coverage of Colin Farrell's home video collection and the mounting inanity of Paris Hilton, is hardly surprising.
The Bloggers: David Lat, Alex Pareene
Billed as "politics for people with dirty minds" - that'll be everyone, then - Wonkette is a blog written by Washington insiders for Washington insiders. Another scion of the Denton dynasty, Wonkette does not shy from scoring political points from wherever they are currently available. It has caught the attention of journalists on the New York Times, who have described it enticingly as "gossipy, raunchy, potty-mouthed". More importantly, Wonkette can be deliciously, hilariously childish. See, for example, their coverage of Condoleeza Rice's exercise regime - Condicise! - and Laura Bush's follow-up, Laurobics!
The Bloggers: Glenn Reynolds
Written and collated by Glenn Reynolds, a Law professor at the University of Tennessee, Instapundit is currently sitting at number two on Technorati's list of top 100 blogs. Billing itself as a leftist opinion site, Instapundit is carefully viewed by those in power and by those seeking it, and one would struggle to find a blog which thinks deeper about being an American citizen at this time. And for Reynolds, the medium is also the message - his latest book, An Army of Davids, concerns how new technologies like blogging "empower ordinary people to beat big media, big government, and other goliaths".
The Bloggers: Zoe McCarthy
The eye-catchingly titled, Belgian-based My Boyfriend is a Twat has won Best European Blog at the Bloggies for the past two years, which is quite an achievement for a site which describes itself as "mainly rants about my household". Part of a growing group of successful narrative bloggers, who attract frequent hits in the same way a soap opera keeps viewers hooked, McCarthy details her life with her boyfriend Qarsan, "aka the Twat", Coralie, "a 16-year-old stroppy little cow", her twin sister Tatiana, and little Todd, the 12-year-old runt of the litter. It all adds up to a slice-of-life gem: not quite The Osbournes, but not far off.
The Bloggers: Demos staff and friends
In Demos, the independent brain-house dubbed "the think-tank for everyday democracy", you can't move for clever wonks. Little surprise then, that The Greenhouse, a stand-alone blog on which Demos members and associates can spread and receive ideas, is full to bursting with readable blue-sky content. The think-tank calls The Greenhouse its "outboard brain", and, unlike other think-tank sites, it's not just dry policy-spiel. Although the site does display the content of papers written by staffers in order to receive feedback, the Demotics are just as keen to post whenever a fresh idea piques them, be it technological, social or sporting.
The Bloggers: Anonymous
An eastern blog by an ex-pat Brit, who was, until recently, living in Germany with her husband, Tokyo Girl's "Blog about nothing" has the feel of a Radio 4 play. Dramatis personae are listed at the top of the blog, and include Tokyo Girl, "the star of the show", her German husband, and a cast of Swedish, Scottish and Japanese co-stars who drift in and out of Tokyo Girl's life. The strange charm of Tokyo Girl's daily narrative won the drama the Best Eastern Blog for 2006, and her devotees are multiplying by the hour.
The Bloggers: Iain Dale
Iain Dale describes himself as "43, right-of-centre political commentator, author, publisher, bookseller, radio presenter, TV pundit, blogger, former Conservative candidate, Essex boy, Tunbridge Wells resident, Jack Russell owner, former lobbyist, German speaker, West Ham season-ticket holder, Audi lover, golfer, iPod addict".
This eclectic character CV makes for a fun, politically oriented blog that's as happy to tackle the inconsistencies of the Blair government as it is the recklessness of a Marlon Harewood tackle. Dale's also no stranger to a podcast, making him something of a favourite among fellow iPod addicts.
The Bloggers: David T
Harry, of Harry's Place, is no more. He stopped blogging late last year. But his spirit lives on. Harry's Place continues to pursue its leftist agenda through writers such as the enigmatic David T. Harry's Place may have only 9, 000 users a day, but it has succeeded where many other British blogs have failed: it has actually achieved something. It was Harry's Place that unveiled the fact that The Guardian was employing Dilpazier Aslam, a member of the radical Islamic group Hizb'ut Tahrir. Aslam resigned soon after. Now, with liberal journalists like Nick Cohen championing the site, Harry's Place continues to catch the eyes and ears of those who matter.
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