November 30, 2005 4:00 AM PST
Breitbart.com has Drudge to thank for its success
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Drudge readily acknowledges that he's sending traffic to Breitbart partly because of their friendship.
"I want to help him out," Drudge said in a phone interview with CNET News.com about his former employee. "He has always wanted to do this. This is his idea and hopefully he can make a living from it."
Breitbart is a former researcher for Arianna Huffington, the former Republican congressman's ex-wife who is now a Democratic gubernatorial candidate in California. After Drudge hired him as a paid assistant, Breitbart made a name for himself as a skilled news gatherer and witty critic of left-leaning politicians and celebrities. Drudge too is considered sympathetic to the Republican party.
Breitbart surprised many fans of the Drudge Report when he agreed to help launch Huffington's Web site, which many considered to be the left's version of the Drudge Report. Nonetheless, working for the Huffington Post did not damage Breitbart's relationship with Drudge.
"I have a very good relationship with Matt," Breitbart said. "I still have daily contact with him. He is, I think, one of the Internet's top success stories."
Breitbart, who is married to the daughter of actor Orson Bean, grew up in Los Angeles. He cut his teeth in the online news business at cable channel E Entertainment Television. He worked for the company's online magazine before going to work for Huffington. He introduced himself to Drudge after reading the Drudge Report in 1995.
"In the e-mail I said, 'Are you 50 people? A hundred people? Is there a building?'" Breitbart recalled, noting that Drudge was at that time writing, editing and maintaining his site by himself. "I thought what he was doing was by far the coolest thing on the Internet. And I still do."
The two men began an e-mail correspondence and discovered that they both lived in Los Angeles and shared a passion for Web-based news. The more obscure the site the better.
It was Drudge who taught Breitbart how to run a profitable online news outlet: Do it all yourself. Breitbart works sometimes with Seth Jacobson, whom he calls a limited partner. Mostly, it's Breitbart operating the site from his Los Angeles home.
Drudge says the other reason he links to Breitbart's site is because it provides a valuable service. Almost every Internet news site offers the same wire copy as Breitbart, but many other news sites take too long to download, Drudge said.
"For the wire stories, I've always looked for places with low graphics, without a lot of spinning Java tops on them," Drudge said, referring to the programming language that powers many animated banner ads that can sometimes slow the process of downloading a Web page. "When I send my readers someplace, I want it to be convenient for them to get there."
Barry Parr, an analyst for Jupiter Research, wonders if Drudge likely grew tired of shipping readers from his site to media outlets he may disagree with politically.
That an executive at a major publication fears Drudge and that Drudge is able to create a popular news site just by posting a few links is testament to his power, and the growing influence of Web-based news. Information has become a commodity and Breitbart.com illustrates how easy it is for blogs and small Web operations to compete with major news organizations, Parr said.
"There is no reason that Drudge shouldn't send traffic to people he likes rather than people he doesn't," Parr said. "He probably likes this guy Breitbart better than some of the people from the perceived left-leaning newspapers."
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