Ed Driscoll

Scenes From A Launch

Yesterday, I left New York’s Penn Station on an Amtrak Acela bound for the District of Columbia, to have a blogger confab with Senate Republicans. The Senate Republicans seemed to have gotten an incredible case of the wobblies recently, so it will certainly be interesting to here their rationales. That they were smart organize this meeting with a variety of conservative bloggers is a helpful sign, I suppose.

Naturally, there’s no Wi-Fi onboard Acela, and I stupidly forgot to bring a dongle to connect my laptop to my cell phone to send data at 56k-ish rates, so I wrote this long rambling piece to upload later (if you’re reading this, you know it’s “later”), rather than a bunch of short hit and run individual posts. On the plus side, the seats are larger and more comfortable than the Amfleet cars that have been in service since Amtrak commissioned them in the mid-70s after absorbing the aging fleet of the nation’s post-World War II passenger cars. There are several spots on each car where the seats face each other and a fold-open table can be deployed to do some work. Except, because this is Amtrak, the row with those style seats didn’t have any power.

But the side I’m now sitting on does. So with juice to spare, here are some thoughts on Wednesday’s launch:

Like Penn Station, Pajamas Media is fading into the distance, as OSM itself leaves the station: we had a blow-out cocktail bash Wednesday night in the W, and then around 9-ish Roger, Charles, Nina and I slipped out to the Smith & Wollensky Grill Room (as opposed to the Smith & Wollensky Pool Room, I guess…) Seriously though, the S&W Grill is a little less formal, and open until much later, which was fine with us: we all needed time to decompress after an crazy day, and even crazier six months. We all agreed we had the best waiter: loud but cheerful, with a vaguely Philadelphia-ish accent, and nice shock of salt & pepper hair. He was enthusiastic and efficient, but unlike most similarly eager California waiters, never showed you pictures of his children or asked your thoughts on whether or not he should reamortize his 30 year adjustable rate mortgage.

We had tried to talk Steve Green of VodkaPundit into joining us, but we couldn’t pry him away from his many groupies. And it’s not too surprising: in his navy double-breasted suit, pocket square, and perfectly coifed hair, Steve was fighting off bloggerwomen all night. But somehow, I don’t think he minded the attention.

About an hour into our roast beef hash (which Nina and I had previously sampled late Sunday night, when they were the only thing open), we were joined by Andrew Breitbart, co-author of the terrific Hollywood: Interrupted and the man behind not only Matt Drudge, but Arianna Huffington’s Huffblog.

Breitbart knows the X’s and O’s of Internet news much the same way that Bill Walsh knows the West Coast Offense. You can almost see the sparks flying as he talks. And we were all happy to listen and absorb his advice.

Afterwards, I had one last Martini at the W’s bar, served by the thin brunette with the endless legs who’s been tending bar there all week. When I ordered a Martini, she asked in the most dulcet and demure Noo Yawk tones why I wasn’t drinking the same thing I had the night before. (A MAHTEEENEEEE?! WHAAAAT! NO LILLET BLONDE?!) But I guess I shouldn’t complain: only an octopus could have worked more efficiently tending that crowded bar alone. And it wouldn’t have the legs for the uniform’s high slit skirt and tight-fitting top.

Tim Blair was still down there, and I don’t care with Jeff Goldstein keeps telling me–he looks a lot taller than 5’1” to me! And more importantly, seems like a heck of a nice guy. (And come to think it, I still owe him a Martini, after he spotted me a Lillet on Tuesday.) We met a blogger who’s name or blog I didn’t catch, but she was a hoot: she noticed I was wearing a Hamilton tank watch and immediately wanted to show it to her husband, a very well polished looking 30 or forty-something investment banker. (I bought it in Hawaii in 2000, not knowing anything about it except that I admired its 1920s-ish looks–which go with my 1920s-ish suits. Mister, we could use a man like Calvin Coolidge again!)

Beyond its thoroughly well-lubricated bloggers, (I wonder if Roger has ever asked Steyn or Lileks what they drink, so he can send a case to all his writers…) all-in-all, OSM certainly had a first class launch Wednesday–a couple of bumps on the way out of the drydock, but nobody expected the launch to be entirely frission-free.

Which reminds me: these fellows misinterpreted my feverish stenograph-style typing Wednesday morning as a case 1999-style dot.com fever. The funny thing is, living in Silicon Valley, I watched lots of dot.coms crash and burn, interviewed their staffs for magazines, and had lots of friends who had signed up for all-too-brief tours of duty. And my wife has served as attorney for more than a few start-ups. I’ve also written for a surprising number of start-up magazine ventures that didn’t make it past their first year. (Not to mention writing some of the first articles for National Review Online’s nascent Financial section, some of the first pieces for Blogcritics, and starting a blog three and a half years ago, back when you still had to explain to everyone what the heck a frickin’ blog was.

You don’t have to do that any more. Thanks, Ms. Mapes! Thanks Mr. Klein!

But do I think that OSM is a sure bet? No, of course not. And I’ve never drunk the Tony Robbins-ish Kool-Aid that makes you believe that you must not think any bad thoughts at all or you’ll ruin all that positive thinking. Will OSM succeed? I don’t know–and more importantly, the members of the Complainy-American Community who’ve bitched, moaned and pecked at its ankles for the past few months really don’t know. (Jealousy and paranoia make for a bitter cocktail when mixed together.) But what’s the downside? If OSM fails, it’s not going to be the Internet equivalent of the wreck of the Penn Central: this is as demassified a business as possible, which will make long-term casualties virtually nil: Roger, Charles, Glenn, Michelle Malkin and the other “Names” aren’t going to lose their massive readership. Nor will anybody else involved in the project. Do you care whether your broker works for Smith Barney or Paine-Webber if he’s been doing great work for you for a decade?

But I do know that like George Steinbrenner, or Jerry Jones when he bought the Dallas Cowboys, Roger and Charles and their backers have acquired some incredible talent. Now it’s time to put ‘em in position, on the field, and turn them loose, as OSM begins to deliver news on as timely a basis as possible, and a variety of opinions from 70 or so very smart bloggers who don’t lack for ideas or shy from controversy.

Update: IowaHawk explains the OSM business model, using detailed PowerPoint slides and precise mathematical calculations. When it comes to analytical business journalism, Larry Kudlow’s got nothing on this guy!