Will Instapundit Become an Instant Best-Seller?

ByABC News
March 9, 2006, 12:46 PM

March 2, 2006 — -- Heh.

If that little word is familiar to you, then you probably are a fan of Glenn Reynolds, aka "Instapundit," one of the most popular and influential bloggers on the Web.

You probably also know that Reynolds lives with his wife and daughter in Knoxville, Tenn., where he is a law professor at the University of Tennessee.

Regular readers of Reynolds' blog may also know that on several occasions he has quoted from, and linked to, this column. Being linked to by Instapundit can cause one of the most remarkable of all Internet phenomena: the so-called "Instalanche," in which thousands of new visitors suddenly overwhelm your site in a matter of minutes. Small-time bloggers dream of being noticed by Reynolds -- and then quickly regret it when their servers collapse under the strain.

Even at a Web site as big and powerful as ABCNEWS.com, I find myself calling to warn that the Silicon Insider is about to be hit by an Instalanche -- just in case the system momentarily buckles under the traffic.

Just why Instapundit is so popular, and so influential, is a complex matter. A few sites, such as the leftist DailyKos, claim to have more traffic. Other sites, like the conservative Power Line or the military Belmont Club, can claim to have had greater impact. And certainly there are hundreds of other blogs whose authors generate more copy.

But nobody in the blogosphere has the power of Reynolds to validate a story as important, set the debate, or determine who are the best advocates for each side.

Why? One obvious answer is sheer energy. Reynolds has a reputation for being the Superman of the blogosphere, knocking out a dozen or more postings each day, week after week, year after year. How he manages to teach law, write columns for other Web sites and places like The Wall Street Journal, and read dozens of other blogs and post numerous times each day, has been the object of speculation in the blogosphere for years.

But even more important to Reynolds' success, I believe, is his personality. Ensconced in Tennessee, he seems to embody the virtues of Middle America: fairness, a kind of sympathetic conservatism that sometimes looks a lot like old-fashioned liberalism and other times like outright libertarianism, a willingness to share credit with others, and for all of his postings, a Midwesterner's reticence about stating his views too strongly.

The result is that over the last few years, Reynolds has made himself into the William Allen White of the blogosphere -- that is, the small-town journalist whose judgments echo in the hallways of Washington and the canyons of Manhattan. Actually, he's half of White: The great prose style of the Sage of Emporia has been inherited by that other Midwesterner, James Lileks.