Online chatfest Bloggingheads.tv — a cult favorite amongst wonky blognoscenti types — just got some money where its mouths are in the form of a cash infusion by cable TV pioneer and C-SPAN founding chairman Bob Rosencrans and a loose network of others associated with Bloggingheads co-founder and current proprietor Bob Wright. Though Rosencrans is the lead investor, Wright has retained control of the venture, which unites Bloggingheads.tv and its more soulful sister site, MeaningOfLife.tv (hosted on Slate.com) into a new company called Brainwave.tv.
Wright (pictured, left) founded the remote-location webcam show fifteen months ago with Slate's Mickey Kaus (also pictured, right) and site technical advisor Greg Dingle, who is well-known in certain rarefied circles as having developed the "Dingalink" — a time-coded link which takes the viewer to a specific spot in a video. Kaus, who runs the tart stream-of-consciousness political blog Kausfiles on Slate, renounced his stake in the business to avoid a potential conflict of interest with linking to the site's many video "diavlogs" (helpfully divided using Dingalinks). 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 as more and more viewers in the blogosphere tuned in and turned on (or, more likely, took notes).
Rosencrans said he was instantly charmed by Bloggingheads TV when longtime friend Wright introduced him to it last November. "It got better and better as I watched it, and seemed like something really unique," said Rosencrans, reached by phone earlier today. "I asked if he was trying to expand it, develop it and I thought it sounded like a great idea and said 'Let me join you!'"
Wright says the plan is to eventually make the site self-sustaining through advertising: "It will be a challenge to accomplish this while maintaining high standards, but we're going to give it a try." In the short- term, the plan is to improve site quality and build the audience, and expand the network of contributors (aka the eponymous Bloggingheads), a task which will be aided by the 'Heads' just-hired first full-time employee, production manager Brian Degenhart (Dingle dingalinks on a part-time basis). Though contributors will continue to vlog for free, Wright says he hopes to someday be able to pay them (and points out that he himself draws no salary, and has invested his own capital.) So far Heads like Matthew Yglesias, Ezra Klein, our own Arianna Huffington, Spencer Ackerman, Jonathan Chait, Joshua Marshall, Glenn Reynolds and the Alts — Eric Alterman, Ann Althouse and Jonathan Alter — don't seem to mind, nor does the still-ubiquitous and generously-browed Kaus.
Though obviously enthusiastic about the venture, Rosencrans said he has no plans to meddle in its success. "Bob has control - it's important that it's done based on his integrity and his vision," he said. "I find this very much akin to what we did with C-SPAN about 25-30 years ago — let it run, let it develop and the right people will take it on. Their integrity is the key to developing a very solid business." Also reminiscent of C-SPAN is its emphasis on substance over flash: "I love the civility of the discussion," he said. "That's unique on television." (That could just be because it's very difficult to imagine yelling at the mild-mannered and highly-respected Wright.)
Rosencrans says they're "no script" but they're hoping to get more cameras situated "in think tanks and bureaus around the world" as the site grows and the audience builds. "Obviously there is the possibility of financial gain, but that's not the point," said Rosencrans, in a statement that would likely sounds resoundingly unfamiliar to employees of the LAT and Time Inc. "There's no urgency to have it happen overnight. It's a rare opportunity to get invovled with some wonderful people and wonderful material but it's in Bob's hand and I think he's going to do a wonderful job."