News & Politics

Pajamas Media, Rightblogger Meal Ticket, Pulls the Plug


Pajamas Media, a consortium of mostly rightbloggers, was founded in 2005. Its “eventual goal,” reported National Review at the time, was “to replace the established media sources with a network of what [co-founders Charles Johnson and Roger L. Simon] call ‘citizen-journalists.'” They felt good about their chances; after all, said Simon, referring to Johnson, “You’re sitting four feet away from the guy who ended Dan Rather’s career.” (If you don’t remember who Dan Rather is, you can read the Wikipedia entry.)

Pajamas Media has retained a hard-on for the “MSM,” its fans’ preferred acronym for professional media outlets. In November Pajamas correspondent Kenneth Anderson told readers what was wrong with the online operations of the hated MSM flagship, the New York Times. Anderson said the Times facilitated “online cocooning of its smugly elite audience by ‘journalists’ whose task is not to spend time digging out new, expensive, and quite possibly important facts, but instead to create, care, stroke, tend, and feed little online forums where they interact with readers and create little communities of the like-minded.”

Anderson did not seem to realize that his description far more accurately applies to Pajamas Media. While the Times continues to share actual news with its online readers, Pajamas mostly eschews this — except for adventures like the fanciful “reporting” of Joe the Plumber in Israel — in favor of citizen opinion journalism via a number of affiliated blogs, who were cut in for a piece of the revenues via the Pajamas network.

Maybe “revenues” isn’t the right word, as rumor had it that most of the money was still coming from investors. Nonetheless Pajamas personnel continued to portray themselves as the future, and MSM journalism as a fading relic. One correspondent traced the MSM’s decline to Monica Lewinsky, leaving America “convinced they sold their soul to a devil with a blue dress on.” Others gallantly offered to replace the MSM in foreign reporting: “PJM reaches millions of people and they sent a video camera to me in Afghanistan.”

But as with all things, eventually money talked and bullshit walked. Last week Simon told Pajamas affiliates that “we have decided to wind down the Pajamas Media Blogger and advertising network effective March 31, 2009,” and thereafter they would be free to hustle up ads as best they could.

The responses have been instructive and hilarious.

Protein Wisdom’s Jeff Goldstein, who reproduced the Simon communique, was bitter. “What this means is that as of April 1, I am officially out of work,” he said. “So save going to a pay model, this site will likely have to shut down. Small price to pay for helping PJM pick up an audience and credibility during its ‘formative years.'”

(The Blog Herald linked this revelation, saying “some blogs shutting down by the first of April,” perhaps unaware that Goldstein has quit the blogosphere before.)

Commenters advised Goldstein not to despair. What about fellow defenestree Ace of Spades — might not Goldstein join forces with him? “I dropped a note in Ace’s comments letting him know we should join forces,” said Goldstein. “He ignored it. For a guy who looks like George Lucas after a bout of osteoporosis, he sure is a snob.” (Later Goldstein said he was kidding.)

For his part, Ace of Spades lamented the loss of a guaranteed income. “One could figure out one’s quarterly payment just by eyeballing one’s Sitemeter,” he said. “BlogAds paid okay, but there are always those patches where no one really wants to buy ads, making income kind of unpredictable.”

That raises a question: if affiliates were paid based on traffic — which is very unlikely these days — why would it be harder to make steady money via a service like Blogads? Surely the large market for amateur rightwing opinion would draw dollars no matter who was doing the ad-buying. Pajamas’ Simon explained in a response to some of the flak he’d been receiving:

Actually that part of our business has been losing money from the beginning, so the people getting their quarterly checks from PJM were getting a form of stipend from us in the hopes that advertisers would start to cotton to blogs and we could possibly make a profit. Didn’t happen. No wonder those people are kicking and screaming now that they are off the dole. [What’s their beef? I thought most of them were free marketeer libertarians or something.-ed. Go figure.]

For a moment, there was stunned silence across the internet. You mean they weren’t making a fortune off bloggers yelling about Obama?

Then Goldstein’s comrade Dan Collins Goldstein* angrily rejoined, “you never once told us that the blog network you kept insisting was the next great thing ‘has been losing money from the beginning’ — at least, not to our faces, and certainly not in any way that would suggest that you were carrying us like welfare recipients.” If he had, we may assume, Protein Wisdom would have rejected the money its founder now says the site cannot do without, rather than endure the shame of life on welfare.

Rightbloggers who hadn’t taken Pajamas’ bait celebrated their own superior judgment. “They paid small blogs almost no dough — while prohibiting us from taking any other advertising,” said Atlas Shrugs. “So I left. I thought they missed the boat, lost a golden opportunity to alter the direction of human history.” She added that she could have done some “serious ass whuppin” with “20% of what was invested in PJM.” Doc Weasel (NSFW) counseled porn and gambling. Dennis the Peasant, an early non-adopter, told his detractors, “Who called it from DAY fucking ONE? Who? I did. And who got it 100% fucking RIGHT? Who? I did. Right? Fuckin’ A, Baby!” He then told them to kiss his ass, and gave them the finger.

Tools of Renewal blamed the abandonment of God. “I used to see the PJ fiasco as the result of greed, treachery, foolishness, and dishonesty,” he mourned. “These days I see it more as the evidence of a curse. The US is declining very quickly… I believe that when people persist in really stupid behavior, and the stupidity of the behavior is obvious to anyone with a grain of common sense, and the behavior is easily avoided, the behavior probably has a supernatural origin. That explains the mortgage mess. It explains Obamamania. And it explains PJM… The right used to be blessed. Until maybe 2003, our star was rising. Maybe that’s because we were more closely attuned to God. Now we think we have to dump God in order to attract voters… But the right was stronger back when religious people had more power. And it will weaken more and more, as we get more desperate and distance ourselves from God.”

Instead of God, Simon has placed his hope for Pajamas Media on “a new arena, television.” PJTV offers professors and other glamorous figures (including Joe the Plumber!) talking to the camera or one another (we reviewed one of these offerings previously). You may subscribe to these for as little as 15 dollars a month. “Old media seems to be collapsing around us,” Simon still believes, “but a healthy democracy requires a healthy press.” So consider your subscription price an investment in the future, which still remains ahead of us. Remember, you’re just a secure payment away from the guy who ended Dan Rather’s career — or his memory anyway, as he left Pajama Media in 2007 — and a bunch of guys who lost an election and couldn’t make payroll.

*Update: Dan Collins writes to notify us that the Protein Wisdom Update mentioned here is by Goldstein, not him, then asks, “I mean, do you read this stuff, or does what someone actually says matter at all to you?” which we take for a rhetorical question. He also says “It’s strange how you and others have decided to characterize this as welfare,” which would make us question his reading (if we were prone to that sort of schtick) because, as the article shows, we got this information directly from his social worker, Roger Simon.

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