Patrick Ruffini

About a week ago, John Harris, editor-in-chief of The Politico, appeared on Hugh Hewitt's show. He made two points that stuck out at me. The first: The Politico is not going after every reader -- and they know that. Recognizing that general interest media is waning (represented by broadcast TV and print newspapers), the Politico is aggregating an audience of political junkies all across America. As we all know, that wasn't possible before the Internet, when the only outlet for people like us was late night C-SPAN. What's significant is an element of the old-line MSM is rearranging itself accordingly. Niche media is now king.

The second point is equally significant: the Politico is branding itself as multimedia and leading with the Web. It's a newspaper second. They know their print edition probably won't be as influential as their Web site, which garnered 1.5 million unique visitors in the last month. People want fresh content right now -- and only the Web is poised to deliver it. That's a paradigm shift from bread-and-butter newspaper Web sites, which are slowly migrating their audiences online.

Of course, none of this is new. Blogs have now become old hat. Townhall has been an established force on the right for more than a decade. What is new is that old-line MSM outlets are starting to recognize the mortal threat this poses to their business model and responding accordingly. Bloggers are no longer legions of pajama-clad gadflys. They're becoming a revenue drain, and that focuses the mind like nothing else.

It's easy to say that the Internet is revolutionizing everything. But its progress is uneven and interesting to observe. Camera shops are going the way of the dodo bird thanks to digital photography. Used book stores have unexpectedly gone in the other direction, thanks to a new surge in nationwide net-driven business. Craigslist has revolutionized the classifieds. iTunes may not represent a majority of music sales, but even a small drop in music industry revenue has the major record labels running scared. No industry will be spared, and the advent of ventures like the Politico likely means that traditional newspapers are (finally) next.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to go scratch a longstanding item off my to-do list and cancel my newspaper subscription.

Patrick Ruffini

Patrick Ruffini is an online strategist dedicated to helping Republicans and conservatives achieve dominance in a networked era. He has seen American politics from every vantagepoint — as a campaign staffer, activist, and analyst.