In the fall of 2005 by Robert Wright, Mickey Kaus, and Greg Dingle. Wright and Kaus, both journalists, had long been attracted to the idea of pontificating on TV, but so far few if any TV producers had seen merit in this aspiration. Wright and Kaus wondered whether the new economics of the Internet—which had already turned thousands of not-very-good writers into print pundits—could turn two not-very-telegenic people into video pundits.
They turned to Dingle, a Canadian tech-guy who had already collaborated with Wright to build the Meaningoflife.tv web site. Dingle came up with a cost-effective system for creating split-screen streaming videos featuring two people in remote locations and—voilà!—on November 1, 2005, Kaus and Wright aired their first “diavlog.” Soon they were being watched in literally scores of households.
Sharing The Joy
In early December, Bloggingheads featured its first guest—Eric Umansky of Slate and ericumansky.com. This triggered an insight: If Bob and Mickey recruited two guests and put them on the same show, then both Bob and Mickey could take the day off! The first of these non-Bob-and-Mickey shows featured David Corn and Matt Yglesias.
Before long—and we say this with all due respect for David, Matt, and Eric—respectable people began appearing on the site. Francis Fukuyama! Arianna Huffington! Andrew Sullivan! Michael Kinsley!
Remarkably, the occasional appearance of respectable people didn’t ruin the neighborhood. As the Huffington Post wrote in January of 2007, “What started as two charmingly wonky fellows having a semi-stiff conversation about the issues of the day via broadband quickly expanded into, er, a lot of charmingly wonky people having all sorts of lively, policy-diatribe-infused discussions about the issues of the day….”
That same month, Bloggingheads.tv attracted investment money. Thus was born Brainwave.tv, LLC, which owns both Bloggingheads.tv and Meaningoflife.tv. The lead investor in Brainwave.tv is Bob Rosencrans, a Cable TV pioneer who, among other accomplishments, imparted the initial momentum to C-SPAN.
Though Brainwave.tv, unlike C-SPAN, aims to become a profit-making outfit, we hope to match C-SPAN’s commitment to substantive discussion (albeit with a slightly lower commitment to gravitas). And we must be doing OK in that department, because in the fall of 2007, Bloggingheads.tv entered into a collaborative relationship with The New York Times.
Bloggingheads is in some ways a classic expression of the Internet: the ever-dropping cost of information-processing allows people to interact in new ways, and a whole new tribe—the Bloggingheads tribe—is formed. But we hope to be in one sense an unusual expression of the Internet. Almost all blogs have a dominant ideology and a fairly homogeneous comments section to match. We pride ourselves on having a diversity of views in our diavlogs and an accordingly diverse comments section, where thoughtful disagreement is expressed in civil terms. (OK, usually thoughtful, and usually civil.) We thank our commenters—and for that matter our less-vocal viewers, and of course all the bloggingheads—for making this website a place where great minds don’t think alike.