1,000 Days Of Blogging

Tuesday, July 12, 2005; Posted: 11:10 a.m. EDT (15:10 GMT)

NEW YORK (AP) -- While some see blogging as a fad, AA-List John Walkenbach takes it seriously. The J-Walk Blog, considered by many to be the best blog in the world, celebrates its 1,000-Day anniversary. Walkenbach reminisces and shares some of the keys to his amazing success.

John Walkenbach, known by many as simply "J-Walk" lounges in his impressive $12.5 million Park Avenue apartment, and looks out at the skyline. The room is surrounded by computer monitors, each displaying a continually updated blog. "It wasn't always like this," he says. "Things were different back in 2002 when I was just starting out as a blogger."

Different indeed. When the J-Walk Blog started, in October, 2002, Walkenbach was living in dilapidated trailer in San Diego. "I was on welfare back then, and I usually didn't know where my next meal was coming from," he confesses. But once he caught the blogging bug, it didn't take long for him to figure it out. Due primarily to Walkenbach's foresight and innovations, blogging is now a big business. Within two years, the J-Walk Blog had risen to the top of the heap. The ever-increasing advertising revenue allowed Walkenbach to pursue a life-long dream and move to the Big Apple.

"The nice thing about running a blog is that you can just make stuff up and nobody knows the difference," he notes. For example, about a year ago Walkenbach chronicled his "move" to Tucson, Arizona. "There's no way I'd live in a stinking desert," he admits. "New York is where I'd rather be." But Walkenbach and his staff fabricated a story, and his loyal readers ate it up -- as they always do. "People really think I'm living in that hell-hole called Tucson," he laughed.

Occasionally, the "Tucson thing," as he calls it, causes conflict. "I've often wanted to write about my fascinating New York experiences," he relates. "But then I remember that I'm supposed to be in Tucson. Instead of writing about a fantastic Broadway musical, I have to make up some nonsense about seeing a stupid javalina in the yard."

While most blogs attract fewer than 100 readers per day, on a typical day about 3 million Web surfer flock to the J-Walk Blog to read Walkenbach's latest musings and click his eclectic links. One thing that distinguishes the J-Walk blog is the lack of advertising. Or so it seems.

Walkenbach explains: "You know all of those weird links I post? Every damn one of them is a paid ad." Walkenbach has a staff of five employees. Every day, they sift through hundreds of email pleas from webmasters begging to get their site listed on J-Walk. As long as the site meets his strict criteria -- and they put up the money in advance -- the ad appears as a blog entry. What are those criteria? "The advertised site must be unique, cool, madcap, groovy, amazing, spiffy, zany, wacky, or mind-boggling," Walkenbach explains.

It's a formula that works -- and it works well. These days, Walkenbach doesn't even use computers. Rather, his staff takes care of the drudge work required for a successful blog. "It's a great gig," he explains. "I spend quality time watching game shows on TV and walking my poodle in Central Park. Everyone thinks I'm hard at work blogging." He continued, "I get all the credit, and my minimum-wage employees do all the work." At that point, he snapped his fingers and his butler appeared. "Hey, bring me another Scotch," he ordered.

In addition to blogging, Walkenbach's employees have written about 40 Excel books -- all under the name of John Walkenbach. "Pretending to be a tech author adds some credibility and attracts a different type of reader," he explains. "I've used Excel once or twice, but I really don't understand it. I'm not what you'd call a numbers person -- except when it comes to counting my money."

Many J-Walk Blog readers feel that they've gotten to know Walkenbach as a result of the occasional personal items that appear in the blog. We picked Walkenbach's brain about a variety of topics:

  • Politics: "I've been a staunch Republican all my life," he admitted. "I've been invited to the White House a few times, and I like to think that I'm at least partially responsible for the liberation of Iraq."
  • Pamn: "A complete fabrication," he confessed. "As you might expect, I've got a steady stream of chicks coming through here."
  • Music: "I tried playing the guitar, but it had six strings and I've only got five fingers," he quipped. "I enjoy listening to high-quality music from the major labels. Kenny G really touches my heartstrings, and I feel that Christina Aguilera sings directly to me at this point in my life."
  • Religion: Walkenbach is a devout Catholic, and watches Mass on TV every Sunday. But he sometimes has doubts about his faith. "I just can't stop thinking about Noah's Ark," he admitted. "It seems a bit unlikely to me, but I pray that I'll have the faith to understand it."
  • Entertainment: "I'm addicted to TV," he admits. "Those reality shows are great!" He also enjoys reruns of The Cosby Show and Little House On The Prairie. "When pressed, I'd have to say that my favorite is Gilligan's Island. Have you ever noticed that Gilligan always screws things up?" he asks.
  • Whole Wheat Radio: The J-Walk Blog frequently mentions this small webcast that originates from Alaska. "What a joke!" he exclaimed. "That moron Jim Kloss sends me five grand a month so I'll mention his pathetic webcast. And they still don't have any listeners! No wonder they have to live in a 12x12 cabin."

We interviewed several regular J-Walk Blog readers, and it's clear that  Walkenbach is viewed as a super-star in the world of blogging. A woman who goes by the name of "Wendy!" is a self-admitted J-Walk groupie. In a phone interview she told us, "J-Walk Blog is my home page. I spend 9-10 hours each day at that blog, and it's a wonder I still have a job."

Another reader, who uses the handle "wok," admitted: "I just can't stay away from that blog. I admire J-Walk, and some day I hope to be just like him." We later discovered that "wok" is actually a pseudonym used by Jim Kloss.

Yet another regular, known affectionately as "Toad," claims to actually know Walkenbach. "Yeah, we grew up together in the slums of Toledo where we played baseball with broomsticks and rolled up socks," he told us. "We both got drafted into the Army and, as luck would have it, we were both assigned to the same unit in Viet Nam," he continued. "I ran off with his wife, but that's all water under the bridge," he said. "J-Walk is a great guy, and I really regret the law suit that I'll be filing next week."

Not surprisingly, Walkenbach is also highly regarded in the blogosphere. Thousands of wanna-be bloggers have been inspired by the J-Walk Blog, and many of them now have their own blog. One such blog, called Boing-Boing, regularly steals material from J-Walk. When pressed, Boing-Boing's Cory Doctorow admitted, "Boing-Boing would be nothing if it weren't for J-Walk. He's my inspiration and silent mentor." Similar sentiments were expressed by other bloggers including Robert Scoble, Doc Searls, Anil Dash, Glenn Reynolds, and Adam Curry. Even Dave Winer had had to admit, "J-Walk is pretty much the reason I invented RSS. The damn stuff was so good it just had to be syndicated."

After 1,000 days of blogging, what's next for J-Walk? Cocktail in hand, he pondered this question as he gazed out at the skyline of Manhattan. "I think I've pretty much milked this cash cow for all it's worth," Walkenbach said. "A while back, I invented a little thing called podcasting. That, I think, is the future."

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This is a parody. A spoof. A joke. It's not real. Well, part of it may be real, but most of it isn't. In any case CNN has nothing to do with it.