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Casaleggio on Beppe Grillo

Davide Casaleggio, an Italian internet consultant, tells us about Beppe Grillo’s blog, one of the most popular blogs in Europe and likely the most popular in Italy. Beppe Grillo is a popular and controversial comedian in Italy. Banned from Italian television for more than ten years, he’s continued to fill arenas in Italy with highly political, topical humor.

Much of Grillo’s work now sees the light of day online. His weblog is visited by hundreds of thousands of people a day, and some posts get as many as 3,000 comments. To a non-Italian reader, it’s certainly political, and not neccesarily funny, more like reading a left-wing blogger than a popular standup comic. Indeed, Grillo helped break the Parmalat scandal significantly before it hit the mainstream press. And he’s as influential as the mainstream press online, getting more links than major Italian newspapers.

According to Casaleggio, Grillo’s online efforts have now moved into more traditional online organizing. His readers have now started 95 meetups, rivaling the number of meetups organized for John Kerry. Recent online campaigns have mobilized over 100,000 emails to express opposition to the war in Iraq. Grillo has been raising money online to purchase spaces in real-world newspapers, like La Repubblica and the International Herald Tribune, purchasing an ad to demand the resignation of the Governor of the Bank of Italy for 15,000€. Casaleggio argues that this is the only way to get certain issues raised in mainstream media – buying an ad and then inspiring debate.

A question from the crowd asked whether Beppe Grillo is a participatory, conversational weblog… whether it’s a weblog at all given that the blog doesn’t accept comments or dialog with readers. But it sounds like there are some good examples of Grillo listening to reader input, as when he solicited suggestions on ideas to prevent changes to Italy’s election laws – he received over 3,500 user suggestions and amplified 19 of them on the weblog.

It’s interesting to think about what Jon Stewart might look like if he wasn’t able to get on the air in the US – maybe he’d be a blogger like Beppe Grillo.

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