Sunday marks the 15th anniversary of Matt Drudge’s speech to the National Press Club. At that speech, Drudge – at that point most famous for breaking the Lewinsky scandal under the nose of Newsweek – told the media, “The internet is going to save the news business.”
He was right. And he was largely right because he was the chief voice defining internet news. Drudge Report garners 900 million page views every month.
Drudge was born to be a news shaper. His childhood was replete with police scanners and talk radio, delivering newspapers and then reading them for buried ledes. “I noticed how their lead story was not really the lead story,” Drudge wrote in his 2000 book, Drudge Manifesto. “How the hottest news was buried on the inside pages and the best reporting was riding at the end of the copy when it should have been at the beginning. I’d rewrite my own headlines for an audience of one.”
Drudge broke into the news media by beating them to the internet. He understood the medium better than anyone else. He launched the Drudge Report after he bought his first computer from Radio Shack in 1994. He collected email addresses and scooped the newspapers by looking at the early editions from his gift shop job at CBS. “One reader turned into five. Then it turned into 100. Faster than you could say, ‘I never had sex with that woman,’ it was 1,000, 5,000, 100,000 people. The ensuing website practically launched itself,” Drudge wrote.
Drudge is now the most powerful news shaper in America. Talk radio uses him for show prep. His headlines define what the television networks report upon. And he can create nightmares for everyone from presidents to potentates. That’s what he does best. And that’s why we read him.