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BusinessWeek Profiles Robert Wright's

Low-key Political Chat is Sharp and Surprisingly Fun to Watch
July 3, 2006

If I may borrow someone else's adaptation, soon everyone will be famous for 15 people on the Web. That can even be where wider-world fame starts, because the Net is both farm team and idea incubator from which traditional players steal new notions and talent...

Middle-aged pundits Mickey Kaus, author of the long-running blog kausfiles, and Robert Wright, a senior fellow at the centrist think tank New America Foundation, will never get massive on MySpace. But Wright's site, on which he and Kaus tangle remotely via webcams on matters political, may portend a next generation of political talk shows. "In theory," Wright says, "narrower niche audiences should work now." Not that he has tested a business model yet. Bloggingheads launched last November and is ad-free, though Wright says if the audience keeps growing, a partner or investor and then -- gasp -- ads could follow.

The site is so strenuously devoted to eggheadedness that the aside "you are turning into Senator Moynihan" works as a joking inside reference to the late, famously erudite and self-referential New York pol. (Perhaps you had to be there.) Bloggingheads airs two or three hour-long face-offs each week, with Wright and Kaus appearing in tandem on one of them. But if the site has stars, it's them. "Star," in this context, doesn't mean Katie Couric. Here, the talent wear ungainly dangling earpieces, guzzle take-out coffee, and gnaw bagels on air. At times it's not entirely clear on these "diavlogs" whether Kaus has changed out of the sweatshirt he slept in the night before. "We wanted to distinguish this from what you see on TV," says the reliably deadpan Wright. "One way of driving the point home immediately is the fact we look like [expletive]."

Despite, or because of, these reasons, bloggingheads is great. It's smarter than the networks' Sunday morning talking-points recitations and more engaging than PBS' high-minded fare. What could be the future of political talk is so creaky and homemade it resembles public-access TV.

"The point is," says Kaus, "if I were having a phone conversation with Bob, this is what it would be like..."

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