Pajamas Media Plays Peek-a-Boo

Pajamas Media Plays Peek-a-Boo

BY Micah L. Sifry | Tuesday, October 18 2005

Pajamas Media, a new multi-author political blog venture that is due to go live in November, pulled back its peignoir a little yesterday, announcing an all-star slumber party of mostly right-leaning scribblers. Following in the slippers of the Huffington Post, this is the next big play by (mostly) political journalists and bloggers to aggregate their individual audiences into something of greater interest to advertisers. It will be fun to see if it succeeds, but it's hard to see how it will.

Some of the political blogosphere's most well-known names are involved, including Glenn Reynolds of Instapundit, screenwriter Roger Simon, The Volokh Conspiracy's Eugene Volokh, La Shawn Barber, Dean Esmay of Dean's World, and Little Green Footballs' Charles Johnson. So the site will be guaranteed of healthy flow of traffic, at least at first. Like the Huffington Post, some of PM's talented cast of writers are hardly likely to be seen in their PJs during working hours. They're professional journalists like Michael Barone of U.S. News and World Report, CNBC's Larry Kudlow, New York Post columnist John Podhoretz, and freelancers Claudia Rosett and Mark Steyn.

PM is also showcasing the online work of a handful of left-leaning journalists, including my friends from Nation days, David Corn and Marc Cooper, and Eric Umansky, who writes the Today's Papers column for Slate, and cut his teeth on a now-forgotten but vital little media-criticism mag called Lies of Our Times.

Is there a theme to this pudding? Hard to see it, other than a bunch of popular writers who, I guess, think there's an audience for another "one-stop-shopping" guide to the news of the day.

I like that the site is catholic enough to include some divergent voices, but a quick glance at its overall contributor list shows one obvious ideological tilt, one that won't make the hawks in Israel's Likud party or their neo-con friends here unhappy. No word on who exactly is bankrolling this new venture, but my guess is it's someone who wants more "pro-Israel" voices out there. One person's bias is another person's market opportunity, I guess.

A more interesting question is how PM--which is unfortunately going to change its charming name before the big launch--will blend all its voices into something larger. If the Huffington Post, another multi-author blog focused on politics, is any example, it won't be easy. HP's vast stable of bloggers (including yours truly) gives that site a never-ending stream of free content, but as best as I can tell, the sheer volume of fresh posts there has diluted everyone's voice except one, that of HP founder Arianna Huffington. (It helps that Arianna has a staff of a dozen or so who help push the latest news items onto the Drudge Report-like righthand side of her site.) She's the big fish in her own fishbowl, and there's no problem with that, but PM is seemingly taking a more collegial approach.

Co-founders Roger Simon and Charles Johnson have experienced firsthand how blog-driven distributed journalism has powered major stories like Rathergate and the investigation of the UN "Oil-for-Food" scandal, and they believe bloggers can "out-report the mainstream media on turf they had long controlled." They aren't saying much about how PM will do this, beyond promising "an online place where readers and thoughtful bloggers can come together to be informed, to explore issues of the day, and to have fun."

The thing is, readers and thoughtful bloggers already have an online place where they can come together to be informed, explore issues of the day and have fun. It's called the Internet. And with all kinds of tools like tags and RSS making it easier everyday for readers to keep track of what they want, and giant sites like Yahoo and Google starting to include blogs in their news feeds, it's hard to see how exactly PM will stand out. Especially if Simon and Johnson don't have a way of getting their writers to channel their energies around some common themes or devise an agreed-upon division of labor like an old-fashioned magazine with an editor.

The word is that PM's writers are going to be well-compensated, which is great. And it would be cool if the site succeeds as a new model for blogger-driven journalism. But my guess is, after an initial burst of attention, most of us will stick to reading them on their home sites.

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