Twenty years ago, Matt Drudge was first with the Monica Lewinsky/President Bill Clinton story. It launched a career that has been fascinating, insightful, disruptive, agitating and on and on.

This week, Drudge posted a story from what was called “All Politics CNN” that was from that era. This was apparently a blog that was done in cooperation with “Time” magazine (although I am not sure the word “blog” existed in those days).

Excerpts from this story CNN posted on January 18, 1998:

“NEWSWEEK KILLS STORY ON WHITE HOUSE INTERN:?23-YEAR OLD, SEX RELATIONSHIP WITH PRESIDENT
“**World Exclusive**?“**Must Credit the DRUDGE REPORT**

“At the last minute, at 6 p.m. on Saturday evening, NEWSWEEK magazine killed a story that was destined to shake official Washington to its foundation: A White House intern carried on a sexual affair with the president of the United States.

“These words, posted early Sunday morning, Jan. 18, on the personal website of a man named Matt Drudge, began the lurid multimedia frenzy engulfing the United States today.
“Welcome to journalism in the Internet Age: an age when a 30-year-old former CBS gift-shop clerk like Drudge, armed with a computer and a modem, can wield nearly as much power as a network executive producer or the editor of The New York Times.”

The story went on to say that “Some 60,000 subscribers receive Drudge’s daily bulletins and ‘flash’ reports.” It then harrumphed that Drudge could beat everyone else to the story because he had “lower standards.”

The only thing that has not changed since then is that the format of the Drudge website looks just like it did 20 years ago. No website updating going on here.

As for “standards,” if Drudge’s were lower, everyone else since passed him on the way to the basement on the express elevator. After all, Drudge’s site is basically an agglomeration of news sources from leading publications. There is very little original content or opinion. The New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal and nearly every other paper around the world gets equal billing on Drudge.

For instance, I have usually clicked through from Drudge to the maximum number of free stories I am allowed to read on the New York Times by the 10th of the month (I won’t give them a dollar). Then, I start over the next month.

On Drudge, the National Enquirer gets the same billing as the New York Times, as position the NYT has worked hard to earn.

Where is Drudge today? How popular is his site?

On the day I wrote this column, he reported 22,605,214 visits in the last 24 hours; 868,596,584 visits in the past 31 days and 10,581,048,994 in the past year.

Wikipedia has a long piece on the Drudge Report which generally labels it as (my words) “conservative leaning.”

Quantcast, whose job it is to analyze website traffic reports the audience is largely male; has a household income in the range of $100,000 and up; is 45 years of age or older; and is college educated with a strong component having graduate degrees. It is largely a white audience with the second-highest race demographic being Hispanic.

In politic interests, the audience leans Republican with Democrats not too far behind and Independents way at the back of the field.

Not surprisingly, the readership is considered “politically active.”

Happy Birthday, Drudge.

Jim Thompson, formerly of Marshall, is a graduate of Hillsboro High School and the University of Cincinnati. He resides in Duluth, Ga. and is a columnist for The Highland County Press.