ALPHARETTA, GEORGIA — With its simple design and lively comments section, Peach Pundit resembles many right-leaning political opinion blogs. What may set it apart is its pedigree: Clayton Wagar and Erick Erickson, both among the founders of conservative mega-site RedState, founded Peach Pundit in 2005 as a side project. The site covers Georgia state and local politics with a conversational flair, but, according to Charlie Harper, the site’s editor-in-chief, it’s not a money maker like its big brother. “Red State had the business model,” he says. “Peach Pundit was for fun.”
- Read more about Peach Pundit
Peach Pundit drains free time from its four editorial staffers (five counting “editor emeritus” Erickson, who is less involved now that CNN broadcasts his commentary.) The editors work day jobs, but spend several hours a week moderating comments and seeking out new contributors. Their efforts have made Peach Pundit one of Georgia’s most popular political websites. It averages about 175,000 unique visitors a month, according to the site’s rate card.
The site publishes commentary from a stable of (sometimes pseudonymous) contributors. Harper himself began writing comments under the name “Icarus” until Erickson invited him to write posts, and eventually to edit the site. The site’s contributors, all volunteers, write political opinion and commentary. They’ve cultivated a humorous, low-key tone that seeks to draw participation in comment sections.
While Peach Pundit typically sought new talent from within its own comments sections, Harper began looking for outside voices after his elevation to editor-in-chief in 2009. “First I identified new talent and fresh blood,” he says. “I found more folks who leaned to the left. …We even have a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party.” His picks also created “more of a cross-section of the Georgia Republican Party.”
Peach Pundit sells ads year round, but expects them to be Georgia-centered and in good taste. Ads cost about forty dollars a week, although election season frenzy raises market rates for prime spots. The cost of hosting the site is Peach Pundit’s primary expense.
Topics vary. Harper tries to focus his own writing on government accountability, but he does not exert influence over other writers. “We pride ourselves on each being independent contributors,” he says. His role has less to do with shaping content than with marshalling it. “Frankly, [editor-in-chief] is a misnomer of a title,” he says. “I’m more of a glorified traffic cop.” A post can be as simple as a money quote from a politician’s press release, or a viral video about the national debt made by an advocacy group.
Peach Pundit has developed a good relationship with the local media. Radio stations and TV stations often call to interview contributors. Courier Herald Publishing, a chain of nine local papers based in Dublin, Georgia, has recently hired Harper to write columns for its weeklies and a daily column for its flagship paper, the Dublin Courier Herald.
While breaking news is rarely their forte, Peach Pundit does slightly better with breaking scandal. Republican politicians have preferred to leak information to Peach Pundit’s editors rather than Georgia’s local media. “Republican politicians tend to not trust the media,” Harper says (although it would be rare to see a politician who does). “We have connections within Republican politics, so they think we’ll be fair.”
Peach Pundit has successfully harnessed the energy of an online community to maintain a regular conversation about local politics. By nurturing writers from their audience and developing contacts in politics, they’ve weaved themselves into Georgia’s political fabric. For little more than the cost of hosting a web site, that’s not bad.
Peach Pundit Data
Name: Peach Pundit
Principal Staff: Charlie Harper, editor-in-chief; Jason Pye, assistant editor; Rep. Buzz Brockway, assistant editor; Clayton Wagar, publisher.
CMS: WordPress - Hosted (.com)