By Anne Valente
By Lindsay Toler
By Ray Downs
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By Danny Wicentowski
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By RFT Staff
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"I've seen it get head from other male dogs," he says.
At his University City apartment on an early Friday afternoon, Crawford has made a rare foray outside his bedroom. Unlike his histrionic Web presence, in person Crawford is quiet and accommodating. He wears frameless glasses, a gray T-shirt and flip-flops, and weighs, perhaps, 300 pounds. He says he hasn't checked the scales since he was a 260-pound heavyweight on the Parkway North High School wrestling team.
"I spent the last five years drinking coffee, watching TV and using the Internet, so...." he says with a shrug.
Crawford moves now into his cluttered, poorly lit bedroom, where stacks of empty Miller High Life cans line the windowsill and baskets of dirty laundry sit at the base of his bed. Crawford figures he occupies the room some twenty hours a day -- that is, when he's not crashing at his parents' place.
"You know, the dog kind of bugs me, and I've got my computer here, with all my files on it, my music and everything else," he says. "It's kind of like a dorm room away from college."
The room's main attraction is the audio/video equipment: a PS2, Sega Dreamcast, DVD player, computer, stereo, record player and 27-inch Sony Trinitron TV currently showing MTV's Date My Mom, a show in which young studs test-drive mamas before deciding which of their daughters they'd like to pursue, sight-unseen. MTV is almost always on here; it provides Crawford with the celebutantes, gangsta wannabes, reality-series bimbos and Top 40 hopefuls he mocks on his blog.
Consuming pop culture is Crawford's pastime, and dissecting it is his occupation. He has no hobbies to speak of and lives off the $500 a month he sells in ad space on his site. He dips into diminishing savings from his previous jobs, working at Big K-Mart and blogging for a site called MyInsurance101.com. He expects that money to run out soon.
Depressing? Nah. Crawford's living the dream. "Maybe in the long run I'll get a job that pays good money -- sit in an office, push pencils around, do whatever regular people do at work," he says. "Right now I have the best job I could have."
That job is maintaining his blog, and readers flock to it, seemingly smitten by his sulfurous prose. They fill up his comment sections and link Crawford's posts to their own sites.
All told, ByronCrawford.com averages 8,000 to 9,000 unique visitors per day. While that's far short of such blogs as Daily Kos and Instapundit -- with daily readership in the hundreds of thousands -- it is now one of the most popular blogs on the Internet that's not related exclusively to politics. A survey study earlier this year found that, of blogs with readership in excess of 100,000, it was the second-fastest growing, getting about as much traffic as many sites for established print publications like Vibe and Spin. The demand is so great that Crawford recently enlisted a weekend editor, a fifteen-year-old from Dansville, Michigan, who calls himself Big Walt the Agro-Centric.
"Byron's hits are like Eminem and 50 Cent numbers compared to everybody else," says Kris Ex. "His hits are not even in the same league as anyone else's hits, he's so far ahead of the pack."
"He's a phenomenon, a one-man wrecking machine," says Jim Izrael, the Cleveland writer. "He does, in my opinion, really smart satire. He does a lot of race baiting on his site -- and it's no accident that most of his readership are young, pseudo-hip white kids who presume him to be white. It's very interesting."
Sitting down, Crawford shows off the finer points of his six-year-old Compaq Presario. He uses it to compose his approximately 300-word blog entries, which he posts two or three times a day. He writes under the name Bol -- a childhood nickname -- and uses only two fingers when he types.
One of his PC's best characteristics, he says, is that it has a small hard drive. Too small for much porn.
"If I had a one hundred gigabyte hard drive," he explains, "I'd probably never leave the house."
Matt Drudge was the original Internet celebrity. Rising to fame in 1998 by breaking only-rumored details of Monica Lewinsky's heady encounters with President Clinton, the Miami-based raconteur created a unique niche that combined traditional news and unsubstantiated gossip -- without distinguishing between them.
"The archetype of all bloggers is Drudge," says Robert Niles, editor of University of Southern California Annenberg's Online Journalism Review. "He created the template by which everybody else started to play. Even though his format isn't faithfully what has become widely known to be the blog format, he established the tone and the personality that most early bloggers aspired to."
"There's a huge market for that kind of opinionated, voicy writing, especially if it's tapping into the kind of underlying sentiments that the mainstream publications won't touch," says Elizabeth Spiers, co-founding editor of Gawker.com.
Drudge ran with innuendo that conventional journalists eschewed. Like The Drudge Report, Crawford's site has little in common with traditional bloggers; instead of writing for a small circle of friends and family, he seeks out stories concerning nationally-known figures. While Drudge zeroes in on Washington and Hollywood scandal, Crawford focuses on celebrities more familiar to urban teens and twentysomethings.