For the second time in three months, Web logs, or "blogs," trumped the mainstream media in coverage of the 2004 presidential campaign. In September, several bloggers, particularly Charles Johnson on conservative Little Green Footballs, debunked CBS News' story on President Bush's service in the Texas National Guard and in doing so were well ahead of the mainstream media at Fox
This incident has become known -- rightly, I think -- as the moment that the network media recognized that it no longer controlled the "hot and now" component of news and analysis. The Internet, which was hailed in the 1990s as the thing that would change everything, really has changed everything. Though Americans purport to want an unbiased media, the raw fact is that no such thing really exists.
My humble opinion? The closest thing that America has to an unbiased source of information is Gannett's
This time around, the bloggers aggressively reported "exit polls" from the presidential election, circumventing an embargo that the networks place upon themselves for projecting or discussing any state's voting until its polls are closed. Bloggers have no such compunction, no formal or informal limitations. As such, they aggressively went after information on the exit polls and reported the results as soon as they got ahold of them, well before voting was complete anywhere in the country. These polls showed something that would have seemed unbelievable a few hours previous: not that Democratic challenger John Kerry was winning in several contested states but that he was absolutely destroying President Bush.
And this time around the bloggers who posted the exit polls were wrong. They had bad information, and ran with it. But what's important to note is that once again the network media had lost control of the message, that the opinion-shaping and cutting-edge reporting of ongoing events was left to a group that has very few press credentials. Blogs have asserted their prominence, and some of the largest companies in the world, those listed above, are going to have to figure out how to deal with them.
Certainly there is an investing angle here, right? Why yes, there is. As it turns out, a publicly traded company bought the start-up that launched the blog revolution and still maintains a vise grip on the engine that runs the "blogosphere."
That company? Yeah, if you didn't think that Google
Bill Mann owns shares of Disney but none of the companies mentioned in this story. Obviously, the blogs are Rule Breakers. Interested in other companies that are fundamentally turning industries on their ear? Try a free trial to David Gardner's new newsletter service, Motley Fool Rule Breakers .