BRIAN LAMB, HOST, Q&A: Markos Moulitsas, how did you build a following for your blog site?
MARKOS MOULITSAS, FOUNDER, DAILY MOULITSAS: Itís been a couple years. I started back in 2002, early 2002 Ė started at a time when it was extremely difficult to be a liberal and proud to be a liberal. And if you remember, this is right after the Afghanistan war, during the run-up to the Iraq war.
And people were Ė thereís kind of a hysteria in the country, kind of a political hysteria, where people were afraid to criticize the president. It didnít matter what the criticism was about. The fact is, if you criticized the president on domestic issues or whatever, you were giving aid and comfort to the terrorists.
So it was in that environment, out of that frustration, that my site grew. And clearly, there was a need at the time for that kind of content.
I mean, people were upset about what was happening in the country, and they may fully Ė they may have been fully supportive of the war in Afghanistan and of the war on terror, but this whole motion that being at war meant you couldnít criticize the president any more, there was quite a backlash, you know, quite a reaction to that. And people like me who ran sites like Daily Kos, I think, were the beneficiary of that reaction.
LAMB: Daily Kos, K-O-S.
LAMB: Dot com?
LAMB: Where does the name come from?
MOULITSAS: ďKosĒ is actually an Army nickname of mine. I served in the U.S. Army, 1989 to 1992. And people tend Ėand in the Army, everybody wanted to shorten my name to Mark. My name is Markos. They wanted to shorten my name to Mark.
And I used to say, you can call me anything you want at all, just do not call me Mark. And so, a couple of people trying to be, you know, they thought they were being funny, started calling me Kos instead of Mark.
And that kind of stuck. So, that was my nickname in the Army.
LAMB: Where are you from originally?
MOULITSAS: I am from Ė I was born in Chicago. I was raised in El Salvador, and came back to the United States in 1980, because of the civil war, and have lived all over the place. So, Iím from all over, generally.
LAMB: So, how many years did you spend in El Salvador?
MOULITSAS: About five.
LAMB: You went to school. A couple of degrees, undergraduate degrees. Where?
MOULITSAS: I did my undergraduate at Northern Illinois University. I had degrees in Ė I had majors in political science, journalism, philosophy. And I had a minor in German, for good measure.
And then I did my law school at Boston University.
LAMB: Why did you get a law degree?
MOULITSAS: I needed to kill three years of my life.
MOULITSAS: I was not ready, I think, to go out in the real world. I mean, it was kind of funny, because I had a job lined up with the Associated Press coming out of undergraduate in their Chicago bureau.
And it was at the absolute last moment that I took the LSAT, which is the law school exam. And I literally had to overnight all my law school applications, because the deadlines were approaching.
So, I just realized that I didnít Ė I wasnít quite ready to start working, but I needed to find a respectable way to kill three years of life. And law school was about as respectable as it got.
Of course, now, Iím stuck with about $100,000 in debt. So that was the price I paid for killing three years of my life. But I think that was the reason I did that.
LAMB: You read in a number of places that you are the single most successful blogger, political blogger, there is. Explain that if thatís true. And how do you measure it?
MOULITSAS: One of the ways to measure it is Ė probably the best way to measure it is just simply by traffic, the number of people that visit the site.
And as of today, Iím over three times more popular traffic-wise than the next most popular blogger.
So, in that regards, itís very successful. I mean, that is probably the best way to measure success, and in that regard, Daily Kos is the most successful blog right now.
LAMB: How many people come to your Web site every day on average?
MOULITSAS: Itís hard to say how many people, but as far as how many visits I get, Iím roughly averaging about half a million visits a day, about 500,000 visits a day.
Now, of course, that could be 250,000 people visiting twice, 100,000 people visiting five times. Itís really quite impossible to tell. But by sharing the number of people who hit the site, I mean, thatís 500,000 a day.
LAMB: Are you a journalist?
MOULITSAS: I do not like to think of myself as a journalist. Iíd prefer thinking of myself as an activist.
Journalism is, to me implies a greater degree of diligency (ph) to talking to multiple sources, to talking to experts and to have at least some semblance of impartiality. And Iím not impartial. Iím not fair.
I do not talk to Ė I do not like to call sources and verify and get multiple sources.
What Iím doing is, Iím reacting to what the news of the day is. And Iím helping direct a lot of energy, a lot of activism, towards those issues that people like me find important and think are worthy of attention and action.
LAMB: Whatís a blogger?
MOULITSAS: Thatís really one of the most misunderstood words, I think, that we have today.
Blogger is somebody who uses a blog. All right.
So now thereís this whole perception out there that a blogger is X, a blogger is a journalism Ė or a journalist. A blogger is not a journalist. A blogger is X, Y or Z. Itís really not the case.
I mean, a blogger is somebody who uses a blog the way that a writer may use a word processor. I mean, the blog is simply a tool. A blog allows anybody to publish on the Web easily, without knowing any technical skills. Thatís what a blog is. And a blogger is somebody who uses a blog.
So, itís just like, I can use the phone for personal reasons. I may use the phone to conduct business. I may use the phone for telemarketing, to sell. It doesnít make me a telephoner. It means Iím somebody who uses a phone.
So, a blogger can be any of a number of things. A blogger can be a sports fan. A blogger can be a journalist. Thereís actual, real journalism being done on the blogs today.
A blogger can be an activist or a thinker or an essayist. A blogger can be pretty much anything you can possibly do, just the way people can use print materials, paper publications, for any number of different ways.
So, when people say bloggers canít be trusted because theyíre gossipmongers, right, there are some bloggers that are gossipmongers, that are rumormongers. Thatís use like you have publications and magazines and newspapers that are really dedicated to a lot of gossip.
It doesnít mean that all of public publications are somehow held in lesser esteem or less respected because we had the ďWeekly World Report,Ē or you have any of these kind of tabloid publications. It means that you have to really understand what the source, who the, what the publication really is about.
So blogger, really, people think itís one thing. A blogger really is somebody who uses a tool called a blog.
LAMB: Where are we sitting?
MOULITSAS: We are sitting in my home in Berkeley, California.
LAMB: And why do you live here?
MOULITSAS: Berkeley is probably Ė as far as the things that I find important, I have everything here. I have a world-class city across the Bay in San Francisco, minutes away, but I donít have to live in San Francisco. I donít like living in a big city.
Berkeley is a college town, so it has all of the college town culture and funky coffee shops and stores, which I really like.
And, if I just head out a little bit east, literally minutes away, I have open parklands, because I love to hike, I love to cycle. And so, I have great hills and wide open spaces.
So, these are things that really Ė I donít know any other place in the world that has this kind of environment where I have the big city, I have the college town and I have the wide open spaces for outdoors kind of work, and I can enjoy it year-round.
LAMB: How do you make your money?
MOULITSAS: Most of the money I make is advertising on the site. There are some subscriptions, as well. So people who do not want to see the ads can buy subscriptions on the site.
LAMB: Subscriptions to what?
MOULITSAS: To Daily Kos. So basically what a subscription allows you to do is view the site without the advertising.
LAMB: And is there a facility somewhere that holds all of your material? Is there a server?
MOULITSAS: There is a server farm somewhere in upstate New York that has all my information, that has all my data and has the Web site itself. But thatís completely transparent. I mean, I donít worry about it Ė except when I write a check. I worry about it them.
LAMB: What kind of money does it cost you a year to pay for a server like that?
MOULITSAS: I have Ė right now I have eight servers to push out my information, get a lot of traffic. And right now, per month itís costing me about $5,000 a month.
LAMB: Are there additional expenses for you?
MOULITSAS: I have a full-time programmer that also works with me, so, I have to pay him as well.
LAMB: And where does he work? Here?
MOULITSAS: He is in Washington. Heís in Olympia.
LAMB: Olympia, Washington.
LAMB: And do you do all of your Ė youíve got a laptop sitting here.
LAMB: Is that where you do all your work?
MOULITSAS: Thatís my office right there.
LAMB: Thatís your office.
MOULITSAS: Between that and the cell phone Ö
LAMB: I know thereís Ė once you hold it up, you may not want all that language on there. But thatís perfectly all right, ďFOX News, get off the air.Ē
And thatís an Apple computer.
MOULITSAS: This is an Apple computer.
LAMB: Why did you pick Apple?
MOULITSAS: I donít like to worry about my technology. I like to focus on the work at hand. And I always found with the McIntosh, you know, just the fact that I donít Ė it doesnít crash as much, itís easier to use Ė I can actually focus on Ė I feel like an Apple commercial Ė I can actually focus on work instead of focusing on the technology itself.
LAMB: ďFOX News, get off the air.Ē Why is that on your computer?
MOULITSAS: Itís Ė you know, itís a good question, I guess.
My problem with FOX News isnít so much the fact that itís on the air. My problem with FOX News is that it wonít admit to being a biased an unfair medium. And I have no problem with that.
I wish we had our own, liberal version of FOX. And in a lot of ways, I think the blogs are what FOX News is doing. I mean, weíre not pretending to be fair. Weíre not pretending to be balanced.
What weíre doing is, that weíre pushing those issues that we find are important. And FOX News does that, but FOX News does it in a way thatís dishonest by claiming that itís fair and balanced.
So, itís Ė so, the sticker maybe is not perfectly accurate, because I donít necessarily think it should get off the air. I wish we had our own version of FOX to provide real balance, balancing out what FOX News is doing.
LAMB: I got on your Web site this morning, or your blog site. What do you all it, blog site?
MOULITSAS: Blog, Web site.
LAMB: Web site? Does it matter?
MOULITSAS: It doesnít even matter.
LAMB: And just checked on the cost of taking an ad out, $650 for one week. What do you get for that?
MOULITSAS: How much do I get?
LAMB: No, no. What do you get Ö
MOULITSAS: Oh, I get it.
LAMB: Ö if youíre buying that?
MOULITSAS: Oh, you get one weekís, if you buy Ė it depends how much time you buy. But if you buy the one week, you get Ė the ad will show for one week.
And right now, a week of Daily Kos is about three to four million paid views.
LAMB: And how big is your ad?
MOULITSAS: Itís Ė well, itís hard to say on a computer screen, right. But itís kind of a box ad. And you have a graphic and then you have text, which can further explain.
LAMB: And do you have a link that you can go to off the ad?
MOULITSAS: Yes. The ad itself links to whatever the advertiser wants it linked to.
LAMB: And then I think I remember itís like $5,000 for three months.
LAMB: And so, what kind of an advertiser Ė give us some examples of whatís on there?
MOULITSAS: Most of the advertisers right now, since itís not a political year, are issue groups, people who are fighting the Bush agenda, people who are selling, say, partisan tee-shirts and bumper stickers, and that sort of thing.
So, itís a very partisan group of advertiser, people who are trying to reach partisan readers.
So, one of the things that a blog really does, and I think is very effective in, is that it allows Ė what you get in a blog, essentially, is you get these affinity groups, right. You have people who are really interested in one particular topic, be it politics. And if youíre talking about politics, divided into libertarians and conservatives and liberals.
You can have sports blogs. You can have technology blogs.
And what it does is, these people are really passionate about that subject, and advertisers really have an extremely targeted group of people to reach. So thereís where the value I think comes.
Itís not Yahoo! news or Google news, where it could be absolutely just anybody coming in to do that kind of advertising. And you hope that you get some targeted people, people who line up with what youíre advertising.
With blogs you know exactly what the audience is into. And if you have a product that really sells to that audience Ė in my case, political campaign or partisan tee-shirts, anti-Bush DVDs Ė if you have that kind of product, itíll do really well.
And itís the same for, say, the conservative sites, but on the flip side, right. I mean, if you have an anti-Hillary Clinton video, you know that some of the conservative blogs are going to attract the kind of audience that will do really well for your product.
LAMB: I notice where right here as the street sweeper comes by on this day, you can hear it outside.
At what point did you know that you had something unique, that you were getting a lot of attention? Do you remember the time?
MOULITSAS: I donít remember any one particular moment, because there was a lot of gradual growth. But there were a couple of spikes. And the first one came during the run-up to the Iraq war.
It was a time, like I said, it was very difficult to criticize the president. There were a few of us that were screaming about so-called evidence for weapons of mass destruction, saying it really didnít add up.
But there werenít very many of us. And it was really easy for the opposition to demonize us, to say we were anti-American or we hated America, or we wanted the terrorists to win.
And I had a certain amount of cover, I think, because I was a veteran. So it was a lot harder for my opponents to scream and shout and claim that I was anti-American, when I had actually served, when most, if not the vast majority of my critics, had not served their country the way I had.
And also, having served in the military, I knew about things like logistics. And I knew what it took to move an entire army. So I had a certain amount of inside knowledge that most people really do not, because they are far removed from military matters, military issues, when I had actually lived that life for several years.
LAMB: Weíve done a series of interviews, starting with Paul Weyrich, who got the Heritage Foundation started, conservative. He needed $250,000 to begin, from Joe Coors.
The next interview was Peter Beinart, who is the editor of ďThe New Republic,Ē owned and operated for a long time by Marty Peretz. They took a pro-war stance. And he had to buy that magazine at one point.
You started in 2002. How much in the very beginning did the whole thing cost you to start?
MOULITSAS: The whole thing cost me maybe Ė maybe Ė about $300.
LAMB: And in the beginning, what did you pay the $300 for?
MOULITSAS: I had to Ė I had to buy a domain name. And thereís actually ways you can get them for free, but I wanted my own name, so I bought a domain name.
I got a hosting company that was charging me something like $10 a month. And I got a couple of subscriptions to some publications that I was using as sources. And that was pretty much it.
LAMB: What is a hosting company?
MOULITSAS: A hosting company is a company that has servers that can run your Web site, that can do your Web site. Now I have my own servers, so itís a whole different scenario, a whole different situation.
But at the time, since I was small I didnít need my own servers. So, I was able to use one of these hosting companies to do that for me.
LAMB: So, if youíre paying $5,000 a month now for your servers, does that cost keep going up as more and more people use your site?
MOULITSAS: Yes, it does. The more traffic I get, the more bandwidth I have to push. Bandwidth is literally delivering the contents from the servers to a browser. The more people do that, the more bandwidth I use. And those costs increase.
And in addition, if more and more people come to the site, my servers start getting maxed out and I have to add servers to my rack.
LAMB: Do you have to ask anybodyís permission to do this?
MOULITSAS: Well, my check book.
LAMB: I mean, itís totally your own decision.
LAMB: Nobody else you have to ask. You can get in business Ö
MOULITSAS: Right, yes.
LAMB: Ö just by spending this $300 originally.
LAMB: What Ė you told us early what, you know, politically what made you get into this. When in your life did you get into the Internet business itself?
MOULITSAS: Iíve always been sort of nerd, I think, when it comes to technology. And one of my Ė you know, I had all these degrees in college, as weíve discussed.
I wanted to learn how to program, but programming is very math oriented, very logic oriented. And I absolutely had no math skills whatsoever. Iím math illiterate.
And so, I realized I couldnít do that, but I could still tinker and I could still play with computers. And so, my whole life I really played with computers since as far back as I can remember.
I mean, I remember having a Texas Instrument 99, which at the time was kind of a Ė I donít think it was ever a cool computer, but it was a $100 computer and I was 16 years old, 15 years old, back in the late Ď80s, and I thought it was the coolest thing in the world.
So, Iíve always been around technology. Iíve always felt comfortable with technology.
After law school Ė I graduated in í99 Ė I came out here to the Bay area to make my dot-com millions and failed miserably, most people did.
But one of the things that I ended up doing is, the Web design company that worked with the dot-com I was working with hired me when my own company fell apart Ė not my company, the company I working for Ė fell apart.
So, I spent three years from 2000 to about 2003, I spent about three years working at a Web development company, essentially project managing large-scale technology projects.
So, one of the advantages Iíve always had as a blogger is that while most bloggers are writers, or thatís what they focus on, I felt comfortable with the technology and Iíve consistently been able to upgrade the site, Daily Kos, to take advantage of new technologies, take advantage of a lot of features that most people wouldnít know, wouldnít even begin to know, how to implement or how to add to their sites.
So, I think thatís been one of my advantage and is the fact that Iíve always worked in this technology world, and so Iím not afraid of the technology. And I can keep molding it, I think, to better represent my vision of what my site should be.
LAMB: Weíre taping this on Tuesday, April the 4th. And I got on your blog this morning and found there was a message on there from Representative John Conyers.
How did you get that message? Is it really him, or was it one of his aides? And can anybody like him get access to your site?
MOULITSAS: Anybody can get access. One of the things that Daily Kos does that the average blog does not do, is that it has a feature called Diaries, which means anybody can have a blog inside of my blog.
So, Representative Conyers Ė and it may have been his staff, or it may have been him. I know there are several reps and actually one or two senators who actually use the site. Anybody can get on it. Anybody can create these diaries.
So, itís a different Ė I think itís a different type of publication than what weíve really been accustomed to traditionally. I mean, weíve been accustomed to having to go through editors.
If, say, Representative Conyers wanted to write an op-ed piece in the ďNew York Times,Ē theyíve got to run it through the editors. It has to go through this whole process, and then maybe itíll get through Ė probably wonít Ė but maybe it might get through, right.
With Daily Kos, these people donít ask for my permission, they simply post, because theyíre communicating to the community thatís on Daily Kos. So the community talks to itself. They talk to me. They talk to their representatives.
And as the community grows Ė and itís tens of thousands strong, itís about 50,000 registered users right now Ė as that community grows, a lot of elected officials and party officials are using it to promote their agenda and to generate a lot of the activism that I think we need today to fight what is essentially Republican domination.
LAMB: Is there anything about this that surprises you?
MOULITSAS: Everything surprises me. I mean, thereís no way three years when I started the site that I could imagine that Iíd be where I am today. No way.
It was Ė I mean, nobody knew what a blog was, first of all. The most popular blogs got maybe 2,000, 3,000 visits a day. And so, it was never done in a way that it was going to be my path to fame and riches and incredible success. It was merely a way for me to express myself politically in an environment that was, like I said, politically hostile.
So, to me to think that weíve gone from that, from 2002, to where the blogs are today is just mind-boggling. And I canít begin to really comprehend it all. Iím too close to it.
LAMB: This morning on your site, someone called Senator John Cornyn an idiot.
MOULITSAS: Yes. It might have been me.
LAMB: No, it wasnít.
MOULITSAS: I think I did that yesterday.
LAMB: I think it was somebody else. But what about that kind of thing? You donít care.
MOULITSAS: I donít care. Itís Ė weíre all adults. And there are times when using swear words is really what it takes to express frustrations about whatís going on with the country.
LAMB: Is there any limit to the kind of words you use?
MOULITSAS: There is limits. I mean, it canít be racist, homophobic. You canít go that far.
And Daily Kos is a site thatís really designed for Democratic politics and liberal politics. So, Iím a lot less tolerant if conservatives want to try to come and kind of create a ruckus or make a scene on the site. Iím a loss less tolerant than that.
Itís a site for liberals, by liberals. And there are plenty of sites out there that are for conservatives, by conservatives. And I think itís kind of, in a way itís healthy.
I mean, itís a way for us to discuss the things that are right with our party, the things that are wrong with our party, and how we can ban together and fix things in the ways that we can beat Republicans.
LAMB: As you know, the most controversial thing youíve done is make a comment about four mercenaries that died at Fallujah. Iíve got the quote here.
ďI feel nothing over the death of the mercenaries. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.Ē
And a lot of people went crazy over that comment. Why did you say it? Do you regret saying it? And how much criticism did you get on it?
MOULITSAS: I regret the way it was phrased. It was not very politically correct. But the sentiment behind it was very appropriate, and I still stand by it.
I mean, the whole context of this was the four essentially mercenaries that were killed in Fallujah. That exact same day five Marines were also killed, but they were nowhere in the news, right.
And I wore combat boots. Like I said, unlike most of my critics Ė the vast majority of my critics Ė I actually wore combat boots. To me, my first and foremost concern is for our men and women in Iraq and in the Gulf region and in Afghanistan.
And so, you have mercenaries, essentially, running around, these private militias that are accountable to no one but their corporate masters, puts our troops in risk. I mean, this is not something me, Daily Ė you know, Markos Moulitsasí liberal Daily Kos is saying. This is something thatís been said by the head of the U.S. command in Iraq, by the head of the U.S. special forces.
Because what it does is, it creates a lot of hostility towards Americans, because you have these mercenaries running around unaccountable. And the average Iraqi doesnít know that theyíre not CIA. They donít know that theyíre not U.S. military. So whatever they do, whatever these mercenaries do is projected onto our forces.
And so, these four mercenaries were running around Fallujah in the middle of a war zone. It was kind of interesting that they, on FOX News, Ralph Peters, who is a very conservative author and military commentator, gave them the Darwin Award for stupidity, basically saying, what were these people doing running around this war zone?
I mean, if they werenít there Ė I mean, a lot of my critics say, oh, they were delivering food to the needy. I mean, they werenít delivering food to the needy. They were Ė nobody knows what theyíre doing. Blackwell Ė Blackwater, which is the company that owns these mercenaries, wonít say what they were doing.
So, itís a situation that they were putting our forces, our troops at risk.
Now you also have the fact that five Marines were killed that day and they were completely ignored. And my sentiment is, to me, what Iím going to worry about are our men and women in uniform. I mean, theyíre wearing combat boots.
I wore combat boots. Thatís who I feel my strongest affinity towards. And anybody that puts them at risk, to me is somebody that I have little to no respect for.
And thatís where that comment came from.
Of course, things are taken out of context. Iíve learned that in this industry Ė I guess, if you want to call it an industry Ė thatís one of the occupational hazards, and something that I must deal with.
I also find it telling that Iíve written at least three million words since I started blogging, and those are the ones they keep bringing up over and over again, which is not only Ė it happened a couple of years ago, but really, if thatís the worst you can say about me, I donít feel too bad about what Iíve done the last couple of years.
LAMB: You were in the service for how long?
MOULITSAS: Three years.
LAMB: What service?
MOULITSAS: U.S. Army.
LAMB: What was your specialty?
MOULITSAS: I was an artillery man.
LAMB: Were you an officer or enlisted?
MOULITSAS: I was enlisted.
LAMB: Why did you go into the service? And what year was it again?
MOULITSAS: It was í89 to í92. And the reason I joined is, I was Ė this is kind of a quaint reason to join. And I wish more people did this.
But I was a military hawk when I was in high school. I was all for bombing Libya and invading Grenada. And I thought those things were great, right, because we need to assert ourselves as a country.
But I also thought, if Iím going to be walking around advocating the use of military force, Iíd better be in a position to have Ė Iíd better be Ė I had better spend a couple years in the Army, being in a position to be sent to these kind of conflicts.
You know, I need to put my life on the line. I need to Ė because to me it was a matter of integrity and a matter of, not even common sense, but I think integrity really says it. I mean, how can I advocate sending people to potential harm, when I myself have not put myself in that position?
And that was probably the main reason I joined the Army.
There were some extraneous reasons. I mean, it was a way for me to help pay for school. But my parents, you know, say, weíll pay for school, just donít join the Army, right.
And so it wasnít something that I had to. And I still donít know how my parents would have paid for school. They didnít have a lot of money. But for them it was Ė I mean, they did their best to talk me out of it.
To me it was a matter of principle. If Iím going to be a hawk, I need to be there myself. And Iíve moderated my hawkishness, but Iím still fairly much a military hawk. I mean, I thought Afghanistan was a perfectly justifiable war.
What I have a problem with is lying to start wars that are unnecessary, and I think Iraq qualifies.
LAMB: What was your rank when you got out?
MOULITSAS: I got out as a specialist.
MOULITSAS: Itís a E-4. Itís Ö
MOULITSAS: Private. You have the three ranks of private, and then specialist.
LAMB: What unit were you attached to?
MOULITSAS: I was in the 3rd Infantry Division. And Ö
LAMB: Out of where?
MOULITSAS: Out of Bamberg, Germany.
LAMB: Did you see combat?
MOULITSAS: I did not see combat.
LAMB: Did you go to Iraq back then?
MOULITSAS: I did not go to Iraq. My Ė it was interesting. Our equipment shipped out, but the war ended too quickly. And being artillery, we were kind of a lower priority. Well, it ended so quickly that we never had to ship.
LAMB: You mentioned your parents. Where are they?
MOULITSAS: My father passed away in í93. My mother lives in El Salvador.
LAMB: And what kind of profession was your father in and your mom when you were growing up?
MOULITSAS: My father sold furniture. He was a furniture salesman. He actually started working in a warehouse. He was a Greek immigrant.
And my mother was a Salvadoran immigrant. She works as a secretary.
LAMB: Where did they meet?
MOULITSAS: They met going to school at Roosevelt University in Chicago.
LAMB: And you said you spent five years in El Salvador. Why were there? And do you remember much about it? Do you go back very often?
MOULITSAS: Sure. We went Ė my mother was from El Salvador. So after she had me, she had my brother. They moved back to El Salvador. And this was í75 Ė í74, í75 Ė and lived there about five years. Civil war really ignited in í79, so we, in í80 we came back.
My family had a house out in the countryside, and it was rebel-held territory. So my parents received an envelope with pictures of me and my brother getting driven to my grandmaís house in the capital getting on a school bus, pictures of us getting off the school bus at our school.
And it was basically a message saying, weíre watching you. We know where your kids are. Leave.
And the day after, my family packed up everything they own in their station wagon and we drove back to the States.
LAMB: Whatís your brother doing?
MOULITSAS: My brotherís an artist in Chicago.
LAMB: You know, for someone who tells that story about being watched down there, youíre very open on your Web site, and about the fact, here we are in your home and basically, you know, people know where you live.
You even took us through the birth of your child, your 17-month-old baby. Why did you decide to do that, with all the photographs of your wife and all that?
MOULITSAS: Itís Ė thatís a good question. I donít know.
One of the things about blogging, I think, that really is different than traditional media is that it allows readers to make a more personal connection with the host of the site. And thatís something that Iíve always thought was kind of one of the nice things.
I mean, itís no longer a pundit telling you what to think. Itís actually people who you essentially become almost kind of friends with, and youíre having a conversation online. And itís not a top-to-bottom, itís not me saying, think this because I have some particular knowledge. I donít. Iím no more wiser than the average person, I think.
But what it does allow is people to gather that have likeminded interests and discuss what those interests may be Ė politics or sports or anything like that. And when you know the host and you feel like, OK, this guyís almost kind of a virtual friend, I think it adds to kind of the homey, coffee shop feel of what blogs really are.
And, you know, you mentioned I ran through my wifeís pregnancy. I mean, that was a separate blog I did. And that one I did because I wanted to chronicle what was really to me a very scary and Ė you know, it wasnít the kind of environment where I knew what I was doing. I like being in control and I like to know what Iím doing. I like to be on firm ground.
And suddenly I have a baby on its way, and I have no idea how Iím supposed to think or feel or act. And my wife is going through these incredible changes, and Iím just completely freaking out.
And the site was a way for me to almost deal with that. And also a way to keep family and friends posted about what was happening. And, of course, by the end of the day, the whole world, keeping everybody posted on what was happening.
But it was basically, again, you know, just the way Daily Kos was begun as a way for me to cope with the stifling political environment, I think that blog on my wifeís pregnancy was created as a way for me to deal with these incredible changes in my life and how I was going to deal with these things.
LAMB: By the way, how old are you?
MOULITSAS: I am 33 years old.
LAMB: And you know you look significantly younger than that.
MOULITSAS: I sure do.
LAMB: What does that do for you, or against you?
MOULITSAS: I think against. People tend to underestimate and misjudge me, based on how I look.
I guess there may be some advantages to that, but I still really havenít seen them. So, I wish I looked older. But then, again, when I go to a bar or restaurant and I order alcohol and I donít get carded, I get offended.
So, Iím still kind of debating whether I like looking young, or whether I do not like looking young.
LAMB: Where did you meet your wife?
MOULITSAS: I met her at Boston University at a tango class. I took the class to meet girls. She took the class to learn how to dance tango.
LAMB: It worked.
MOULITSAS: It worked. Well, almost. I mean, I was supposed to meet girls, plural. And she was the first that I met. But Ö
LAMB: And how long have you been married?
MOULITSAS: Weíve been married four years, going on five years. We dated for about three years before that, three to four years. So weíve been together almost nine years.
LAMB: So, whatís a day like? Take us through from beginning to end, and especially, when do you blog? When do you add?
Because I notice, when I got on your Web site this morning, you said, yesterday Ė I wrote it down. Where is it here? I canít find it on my list.
Anyway, you were going to do your taxes. Iíll be back later. Something like that.
So, give us the day.
MOULITSAS: I do a lot of traveling, so thatís a whole different Ö
MOULITSAS: Conferences. I spend a lot of time in D.C. talking to potential sources and Ė but mostly conferences and panel discussions and speeches, that kind of thing.
But if Iím home, my typical day is, I wake up around 7:30, courtesy of my son, who wakes up at 7:30, so the rest of the house has to get up with him, of course.
I usually check my e-mail for about an hour, till about 8:30 in the morning. I get a couple hundred e-mails a day, so, you know, a significant amount of my time is spent just going through e-mail.
I start blogging about 8:30. I usually blog for about two hours, so about 8:30 to 10:30. Then I take a shower. I eat.
LAMB: And thatís 8:30 to 10:30. Thatís 11:30 to 1:30 back East.
MOULITSAS: Right, right. Yes, so usually itís about noon before anybody sees any content in the East Coast, which is Ė but, you know, to me, I like being out on the West Coast, because by the time I wake up and by the time nine oíclock rolls around, everythingís already happened in the East Coast, which is really nice and convenient.
When I travel to the East Coast and I wake up at nine and nothing has happened, it really frustrates me, because I like Ė I mean, one of the things I do is rip off the news of the day. And there is no news of the day at 9:00 a.m. on the East Coast. So, itís Ö
LAMB: How do you get your news?
MOULITSAS: Very many sites. You know, Google news and Yahoo! news and just surfing the Ė you know, check out what the ďNew York TimesĒ is saying and the ďWashington Post,Ē and things like that.
LAMB: What role does television play, if any, in your news Ö
MOULITSAS: Very, very little. Itís Ė television is there for baseball games. Itís there for a handful of TV shows I watch. But mostly, itís all online.
So, in a way, I think itís a detriment, because so much of the news coverage is shaped by whatís happening online, by CNN and FOX News and C-SPAN and MSNBC, that it would serve me better, I think, to spend a lot of time on TV, but I donít. It just Ė the lack of Ė thereís a lack of depth to it that really aggravates me, and so I avoid it.
LAMB: Whatís the last hour of the day that you blog at all?
MOULITSAS: Usually I go to bed around, about one in the morning. And so, I always do a last sweep of the news.
Now, what happens is, around nine oíclock things get really quiet. E-mail stops coming in. The phone stops ringing. The babyís in bed. My wife goes to bed.
So, actually, between nine and one, I get a lot of my reading done. Thatís when I actually read a lot of the longer pieces that I canít really get to during the day. So a lot of essays. I may skim some books that I get.
And so, right before I go to sleep, I usually try to post a couple of things, so in the morning when people wake up, thereís something thatís relatively new on the site.
And I also have a couple of hours to digest things a little deeper. So, a lot of my night posting is a lot more deeper type of posting. Itís a lot more introspective kind of work, as opposed to during the day, which is more of a quick reaction to whatís happening in the news.
LAMB: And again, so you told us you get about a half million unique viewers Ö
MOULITSAS: Visits, visits.
LAMB: Not viewers, visits a day, which could be anywhere from 100,000 people to 500,000 people.
LAMB: Go back to the comment you made about Fallujah. And these are questions I know youíve been asked before.
After you made the comment about the mercenaries there, John Kerry took you, your link off his Web site, as I understand it.
LAMB: Did he ever put it back on?
MOULITSAS: No. And in fact, what they did a couple of weeks later is, they took all the links down to all the Web sites. They decided that it wasnít really worth the potential hassle to worry about what every blogger was saying.
And, you know, thatís what I would advise. Itís either Ė there are politicians who put links to blogs, and are prepared to say, that doesnít mean I agree with everything blogger X has to say. Itís just that they have content of value. Or donít link at all, right. None of this selective linking to linking, because itís really Ė itís silly.
I mean, itís saying Ė itís, say a campaign, and say the Kerry campaign bought ads in the ďNew York Times.Ē It doesnít mean that they endorse every single thing thatís written in the ďNew York Times.Ē
So, this notion that advertising on a site or putting a link to a site means you endorse every single thing that blogger says, or in the case of my community where I have thousands of people writing diaries and making comments, it doesnít really make much sense.
So I always advise either put up links and then if anybody makes any noise or tries to make an issue out of it, you know, come up with an efficient way to push them back. Or just take all links off, because every blogger at some point or another is going to say something thatís not politically correct.
We have no editors. Itís all very emotional, very raw, very immediate. And so things come out in ways that they wonít necessarily come out in print or even on television.
LAMB: Another thing that your Ė a lot of the conservative bloggers talk about is that you allegedly took money from Dean, Howard Dean, to consult his campaign committee.
First of all, is that true?
MOULITSAS: Yes, thereís nothing alleged about it. I mean, I had Ö
LAMB: Oh, you admitted it?
MOULITSAS: I had a big disclaimer on my site, on the top of the page that said, I am a paid consultant with Howard Dean. We Ö
LAMB: Have you been paid by others?
MOULITSAS: By campaigns?
MOULITSAS: Yes. Last Ė 2003 to 2004, I was a political consultant. Now the site does well enough that I donít have to worry about that anymore, so I donít consult anymore.
LAMB: Would you not consult at all from now on?
MOULITSAS: I donít say that. I mean, if a candidate there Ė I mean, itís clear that I have certain skills and certain expertise building online communities that very few people have. Thereís probably three in the entire country that I know that have the kind of skill set that I have.
So, if thereís a candidate that comes along that I believe in strongly and I think I could help out, I definitely reserve the right to go back in and help out.
But, of course, like I did with Dean, I disclosed it from the beginning. And the thing I remember with Dean is that my firm Ė mostly my partner, my old firm Ė we helped map out a lot of the Dean campaign online strategy, the blogs and the Meetup. I mean, that came out of what we were doing.
And so, we were already doing all this stuff for free, right. So at the end of the day, you know, we ended up getting paid for three monthsí worth, and it was disclosed. Not only did I disclose it on my site, my partner actually quit his blogging and the campaign disclosed it in all its Ė in its FEC reports. So it was all properly disclosed.
Everybody knew we were doing it. There was no mystery. And there are people on my site that every time I wrote about Dean would say, well, youíre just saying that because heís paying you, right? And it came with the territory. I mean, that was one of the things that I knew was going to happen if I actually got paid by Dean.
But, I mean, thereís no big mystery about it. I mean, thereís no big surprise. And I found it really amusing in a lot of ways, when a year later, you know, this spate of stories came out talking about how I was paid by Dean.
And a lot of it was an attempt to find moral equivalency with the Armstrong Williams, where the U.S. government, the Bush administration paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to various pundits, conservative pundits.
And this wasnít, obviously, the case, because, one, it wasnít tax dollars. And two, it was all disclosed all the way around. There was no secret.
And it got to the point where even a lot of conservative bloggers were saying, well, the guyís really just Ė you know, thereís lots of reasons we can criticize Kos. This really isnít one of them.
LAMB: You have on the right-hand side of your blog site recommended sites. And I think I wrote down that there were about, I donít know how many. You can tell us how many there are.
MOULITSAS: Only about 40, maybe?
LAMB: Yes, 40 or 50.
Youíre quoted as saying at Ė first of all, what makes you decide you want to recommend a site to somebody?
MOULITSAS: Itís tough, because there are so many good sites out there that itís Ė I mean, if I put every site that I thought was great, Iíd have thousands of links.
And I also need to balance the need to promote a lot of these sites and the need to have a list of links thatís actually usable to my community.
My readers are always number one. And a list of links thatís too long doesnít serve my readers.
So, one of the things that I do is, I look for sites that really have an impact. I mean, a site that really breaks a big story and pushes and promotes it properly, that to me is whatís important Ė sites that have a strong voice.
I mean, they have to be liberal sites. I donít link to conservative sites.
Itís basically sites that I think have made a mark on the blog world. And thereís a lot of sites that criticize Bush, right. You know, itís done. Itís done by a million sites, and a lot of them do it fairly well, but it really doesnít stand out a lot from the crowd.
Itís how do you stand out from the crowd? And those sites that really manage to stand out from the crowd are those sites that end up on that list.
LAMB: On your biography sheet you even make recommendations to people on how to get recommended by you or even be noticed.
You say, be noticed. Make a stir. Donít regulate the contents of the news Ė or donít regurgitate the contents of a news story.
What do you mean by that?
MOULITSAS: A lot of people will link to a story, say, thatís critical of Bush. Today, this morning, I just did it, right.
A new Gallup poll came out. It shows that George Bush has the lowest ratings at this point of his presidency of any president this century, and last century. And Ė since Gallup starting polling, essentially.
And so, I just, since, you know, we had this interview, I didnít have a lot of time to add anything to it. So basically, I just put a link to the story and made some really offhand remark at the bottom.
A lot of sites, thatís all they do, right. So, great, you know. You found some good stories in the ďNew York Times,Ē but a lot of people can do that. A lot of times itís finding the stuff that nobody else has found, and a lot of times is making a new mark. Itís forging, I think, a trail.
And if I just want to know whatís in the ďNew York Times,Ē I can get that in a lot of places, or I can just read the ďNew York Times.Ē I mean, give me something more.
LAMB: You said itíd (ph) be clever, funny, original. Get away from the default templates.
What do you mean?
MOULITSAS: A lot of the blogging tools Ė there are two main blogging tools out there. One of them is called Movable Type and the other one is called Blogger.
And they both have templates Ė I mean, the idea of a blog is to make it so that anybody with no technical skills can publish online. One of the things that Ė you know, one of those Ė part of that process is having a design for the Web site, right.
Most people donít know how to design a Web site, wouldnít know where to begin. So, Movable Type and Blogger both have templates that you can choose from to build your site with, right.
The problem is, when you have hundreds of bloggers using the same template itís hard to really differentiate yourself from the crowd.
From the beginning I designed an entirely different and Ė I mean, itís an orange site. I mean, my siteís not the most attractive site. But if you visit the site and see something you like, youíre going to remember, right.
I mean, I canít tell you how many times Iíve been to a blog, thought, oh, this is pretty good stuff. And then two hours later I have no idea where that site is, because it looked every other site and I canít tell them apart.
LAMB: You say, get away from BlogSpot. Whatís that mean?
MOULITSAS: BlogSpot is a free service. So, you can blog literally for free.
Now, the problem with BlogSpot is that the URL, the name you have to type in has BlogSpot in the name. So you type in, say, if I did Daily Kos on BlogSpot, it would DailyKos.BlogSpot.com.
So you have all these sites that are on BlogSpot.com. So it makes it more difficult to really come up with a clean identity. I mean, DailyKos.BlogSpot.com and hes.BlogSpot.com (ph) sound too similar to really differentiate themselves. So, DailyKos.com is actually much cleaner, and itís a lot easier to remember, a lot easier to promote.
LAMB: Thereís a lot more that you recommend, but I want to jump to the bottom of the paragraph and you say, well, I appreciate any traffic you send my way. I donít care whether you link to me or not, or how much traffic you send. Like I said already, I donít use my blog roll as a marketing tool.
Whatís that mean?
MOULITSAS: A lot of people when theyíre starting out, what theyíll do is, theyíll say Iíll add a link to your site if you add a link to my site. Which is a form of marketing online. The more people link to you, obviously, the more traffic youíre bound to get.
And so, most people wonít add a link to your site unless you add a link to their site, right. So itís kind of a trade. Letís trade links.
And I still to this day still get people who start a new start and theyíll say, Iíll add a link to your site if you add a link to mine, right. And, you know, notwithstanding the fact that thereís a huge disparity between, say, my traffic and some little site, the fact is that I donít do things to market the site if I think theyíre going to hurt my readers.
And I think that having a blog roll, a list of sites that I read, thatís too long does not serve my readers.
LAMB: You complete your biography by saying, the progressive movement of the future will be built in large part on this digital foundation.
The progressive movement. First of all, what would you Ė define your own politics? Whatís a progressive? Whatís a liberal? Are you a Democrat?
MOULITSAS: I am a Democrat. I am a liberal. I am a progressive.
There is a Ė to me, progressive in a lot of ways is a reaction to the demonization of the word ďliberal.Ē So, I donít mind the word ďprogressive.Ē I actually think itís a nice-sounding word, but I almost prefer liberal. I want to take back the word from those who want to make it a dirty word.
The right wing has spent Ė the conservative movement, starting with Barry Goldwater Ė spent 30 years building this incredible infrastructure. They spent $300 million a year on this.
I mean, everything from the Heritage Foundation and Cato and the think tanks to training institutes that train their up-and-coming politicians and staffers and pundits, to their media outlets Ė you know, talk radio, FOX News, the ďWashington Times,Ē the ďWall Street Journal.Ē
So they had this incredible machine that creates language, that creates policy, trains people, trains for people on how to use that language and how to promote those policies. And then this media machine took it out into the public.
We donít have anything like that. Nothing.
So, suddenly after this last election, there was a realization, I think, between liberal circles that, my God, there really is this humongous machine. And weíre not going to be able to win anything until we can respond in kind.
So, now money is flowing in and theyíre starting to build this infrastructure. But the idea is not to copy what the right wing did, because, of course, they started this 30 years ago. They built this machine for a different era, right.
So now, if weíre looking ahead to building our own, say, back (ph) to (ph) left-wing conspiracy, and weíre looking out 30 years from today, we have to build this infrastructure on a digital foundation, because thatís exactly where the world is moving.
LAMB: Isnít this changing just about everything, when you think Ė I mean, you say youíre not a journalist, but it looks a little bit like journalism.
MOULITSAS: It does look a lot like journalism in a lot of ways. And what really makes things a lot more complicated is that, there are a lot of my site on the diaries doing their own journalism.
So, obviously, Iím not a journalist, but that doesnít mean that thereís no journalism happening on Daily Kos, because there is a lot of journalism happening on Daily Kos.
LAMB: Are you driving the journalists crazy in the country?
MOULITSAS: I Ö
LAMB: I mean, you trained originally Ė that was one of your majors is journalism.
MOULITSAS: Correct. I have no idea what Iím doing with journalists.
I know Iíve been to journalism conferences, and Iíve been accused of being dangerous and of being Ė and Ė but I donít want to be a journalist. I donít want to make calls and report. I mean, I actually depend on journalists to provide a lot of the fodder for what I write.
So, I actually think that journalism is great. And I think itís necessary. And I wish journalists all the luck, because if they donít do it, I may have to do it. And I donít really Ė I donít want to do it.
LAMB: Well, what about the theory that people can leak things to you, and you can put them on the Web site. And then it transfers to all the other Web sites, and eventually in itself becomes a story, even if it isnít a legitimate story. And then mainstream media pick it up and say, this is happening on the blogs, which makes it a news story.
Have you seen that happen?
MOULITSAS: Yes. Weíve Ė and I think itís a good thing, actually. I think, in the past there was Ė the gatekeepers of what was news was the editors and the reporters, right. And now we have a system where average people can push stories into the mainstream. I mean, itís no longer just top-bottom.
One of beauties of the Web and of the blog world is that itís trying to erase this top-bottom approach to news and opinion and punditry and even politics. You know, we start with the Dean campaign.
What we want to do, what the Internet is allowing us to do is empower people to start exerting pressure on the establishment Ė on the political establishment, on the media establishment Ė from the bottom.
So, if a ton of people say, we want this to be a story, and the mainstream media is ignoring it, to me thatís a problem, because itís a lack of responsiveness to what the public is interested in.
I mean, one of the things I find completely Ė not fascinating Ė but really encouraging is that Ė I was talking to a sports reporter, a gate (ph) reporter for one of the local baseball teams.
And she was saying that she gets a lot of her story ideas from the baseball blogs, because thatís where sheís Ė these are where sports, baseball fanatics are congregating. And they talk about what they wish the ďChronicleĒ or the ďOakland TribuneĒ or the ďContra Costa TimesĒ would write about. And so, theyíre becoming a lot more responsive to that.
So, in a lot of ways, journalists shouldnít see this as a threat. They should see it as actually a way to really zone in on what people want to see in their coverage, and to be a lot more responsive to what people want.
LAMB: How many bloggers are there, you know, political bloggers?
MOULITSAS: Itís Ė I Ė hundreds of thousands.
LAMB: Who are your Ė who do you admire or watch closely in the conservative world of bloggers?
MOULITSAS: Oh, boy. Not very many.
MOULITSAS: Itís Ė I Ė pretty good question. I donít know why.
The way I feel is, if I want the conservative viewpoint, Iím swamped by it. Itís on radio. Itís on FOX News. Itís in a lot of print publications.
And I would actually almost prefer reading, say, a ďWeekly StandardĒ or a ďNational Review,Ē which is a little more intellectual based than a lot of the stuff that passes as commentary from the blog world, on the right side of the blog world. So Ö
LAMB: Anybody in the conservative world?
MOULITSAS: Anybody in the conservative. Probably not.
LAMB: None of them are worth reading (ph).
MOULITSAS: There are writers, you know, that, say, like an Andrew Sullivan or a, say, Byron York in the ďNational Review,Ē who arenít necessarily bloggers, who are more kind of partisan media type personalities that I actually enjoy.
I actually enjoy Robert Novak, and heís hated in the liberal blog world for lots of reasons, and most of them are legitimate. But I find the guy absolutely fascinating, and I like a lot of what he writes.
But I havenít found bloggers that really Ė on the conservative side Ė that really captivate me as much as some of their columnists.
LAMB: What happens to Daily Kos when you start making more and more money, and you can buy nicer things and live in fancier houses and drive bigger cars and become a part of the establishment? Then what happens to you?
MOULITSAS: Oh, boy. Letís hope that doesnít happen. Letís hope the part about making lots of money and a house Ė buying a house. This is a rental, and itíd be nice to own a house someday.
But itís Ė you know, this is something I actually grapple with quite a bit. And thereís no doubt that I straddle the line between establishment and non-establishment. And the fact that I have a direct line to a lot of campaigns and a lot of the party structure is something that most people do not have. And it kind of sort of makes me a little bit establishment type.
But Iím also not afraid to take on the party and criticize the party and criticize our officials. And I do so with, a lot of times with a lot of gusto.
LAMB: Can you make good money at this? Right now, do you feel like this is paying the bills?
MOULITSAS: Oh, itís definitely paying the bills. It actually helped me get out of debt, which was nice, because I had a lot of credit card debt from my failed dot-com years.
And itís Ė I live comfortably. Iím writing a book. Itís coming out in January. So, Iím hoping that that takes me up to the level where I can actually afford to buy a home.
But I donít think Iím going to make millions. But I can live very nice and comfortably. Iím not complaining.
LAMB: Weíre out of time. But the Yearly Kos is what?
MOULITSAS: The Yearly Kos is an effort by members of the community to put together a conference next year. Again, this is one of those examples where people are taking the initiative on their own. Iím not driving it. Iím not Ė I had nothing to do with this, other than the fact that members of my community have taken the initiative to do something that they think they want to do.
LAMB: Youíre going to have a meeting somewhere, a convention.
MOULITSAS: Yes. A convention.
LAMB: Donít know where itís going to be yet?
MOULITSAS: Not yet. Theyíre all working those logistics out right now.
LAMB: All right. If people want to find your Web site, the Web address is what?
MOULITSAS: DailyKos.com. Daily K-O-S dot com.
LAMB: Markos Moulitsas.
LAMB: Thank you very much.
MOULITSAS: Thank you.