Josh Marshall’s Optimistic Leap to Web TV

Mr. Marshall has already built up a considerable following—he says the suite of sites gets 400,000 page views a day—on the strength of a reputation built on periodic, spectacular reporting coups. In December 2002, he drove national attention to racially charged remarks by Trent Lott that eventually led to his resignation as Senate Majority Leader. In 2004 and 2005, Mr. Marshall’s relentless advocacy reporting forced members of Congress to take specific positions on the privatization of Social Security—which, in turn, eventually helped to sink the President’s Social Security plans. This year, he has been the driving force behind the media’s coverage of the fired U.S. Attorneys, and the subsequent pressure on Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to step down.

In a few weeks, Talking Points Memo will put its increasing reliance on Web video—and its entire business model—to the test, when it undergoes its most radical redesign since Mr. Marshall created the site nearly seven years ago. Mr. Marshall said that the new layout, which will debut sometime in July, will feature more aggregated daily news and a more TV-friendly format.

According to Mr. Marshall, the content on the new site will be nearly twice as wide. The blog will occupy the left side of the page. The right side will provide coverage of the news of the day, including articles from wires services, original stories from Mr. Marshall’s growing news staff (he’s now up to six full-time employees) and links to stories from other publications.

The newly revamped site will also serve as an improved portal to the accompanying TPM satellite sites: the online salon TPMCafe, the investigative-reporting blog TPMmuckraker and a frequently updated politics blog called TPM Election Central.

And of course, on the new site, TPM TV will have a permanent, prominent home near the top of the page.

“The basic idea is that we’ve been evolving from being one blog to being a full-service news site for politics and serious national news,” said Mr. Marshall. “We want our readers to know that if they don’t see it on our site, it hasn’t happened yet.”

Mr. Marshall declined to discuss how much revenue the TPM franchise is currently generating, other than to say that it’s “enough to pay for six full-time staff members.” He said that he was investing a “few tens of thousands of dollars” in the redesign.

Whether the newfangled site ultimately succeeds will depend in part on Mr. Marshall’s ability to transform himself from a rumpled, bespectacled link jockey with a monitor tan into a viable Web TV anchor. That might seem like an odd gamble for a guy whose past accomplishments—he earned a Ph.D. in American history at Brown University, wrote for the likes of The Atlantic Monthly and The New Yorker, and created what has been by almost any measure one of the most successful political blogs since the form was invented—have depended on his way with the written word.

But Internet activists say that such transformations are no longer optional.

Andrew Rasiej, the former nightclub owner and founder of Personal Democracy Forum who has become something of an Internet prophet, was one of the people who advised Mr. Marshall about the necessity of getting into video content.

Josh Marshall’s Optimistic Leap to Web TV