19 Jul 2011

Somebody Has To Do It

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Pity the fate of the less-than-top-rank right-wing blogger. Not only did the Age of Obama not create booming traffic for us, we’re actually an endangered species, argues John Hawkins.

[W]hen Barack Obama got into power, you’d have expected that traffic on the Right side of the blogosphere would have surged just as it did on the Left side of the blogosphere in the early Bush years.

That didn’t happen.

Sure, there were a few outliers that took off: Hot Air, Redstate, and the Breitbart empire for example, but most conservative blogs have either grown insignificantly, stayed the same size, or even shrank. Most bloggers on the right side of the blogosphere haven’t increased their traffic significantly in years. Moreover, the right side of the blogosphere as a whole is definitely shrinking in numbers as bloggers that have had trouble getting traction are quitting and fewer and fewer bloggers are starting up new blogs.

The problem is that there are no ecological niches vacant anymore, he contends. Insignificant microbes, to employ NZ Bear‘s metaphors, find it harder to evolve. You become a Crunchy Crustacean or even a Flappy Bird, and that’s it. The days of evolving into Higher Beings are over. There is simply too much higher quality competition for almost any blogger to overcome.

The market has also become much more professionalized. When I got started, back in 2001, a lone blogger who did 3-4 posts a day could build an audience. Unless your name is Ann Coulter, you probably couldn’t make that strategy work today.

Instead, most successful blogs today have large staffs, budgets, and usually, the capacity to shoot traffic back and forth with other gigantic websites. Look at Redstate, which is tied into Human Events, Hot Air which connected with Townhall, Instapundit, which is a part of Pajamas Media, Newsbusters which is a subsidiary of the Media Research Center and other monster entities like National Review and all of its blogs, Glenn Beck’s The Blaze, and the Breitbart media empire. An independent blogger competing with them is like a mom & pop store going toe-to-toe with Wal-Mart. Some do better than others, but over the long haul, the only question is whether you can survive on the slivers of audience they leave behind. …

Most bloggers are not very good at marketing, not very good at monetizing, there are no sugar daddies giving us cash, and this isn’t the biggest market in the world to begin with. In other words, this is a time-consuming enterprise, but few people are going to make enough money to go full time. How many people can put in 20-30-40-50 hours a week on something that’s not going to ever be their full time job? Can they do it for 5 years? 10 years? 15? 20? This is the plight that 99.9% of serious, independent conservative bloggers face. This has already created a lot of attrition and over the next few years, as people realize that their traffic is more likely to slowly, but surely significantly deteriorate rather than explode, you’re going to see a lot more people give up.

I think there is more than a small amount of truth in what he says. The top ranking bloggers are very, very talented people who are incredibly hard working, and the successful ones now have staffs. Few people and only the most professional are going to make it to the top.

But Ann Althouse is right in offering the response that not every conservative blogger is really trying to play the game professionally. A number of bloggers, like myself and the talented crew who publish at Maggie’s Farm, think of ourselves as “boutique bloggers,” catering to a smaller, but more sophisticated and discriminating, audience. Our blogging activities reflect our own eccentric and individualistic personalities.

I often think of my own blogging as just an alternative high tech way of forwarding links to my friends.

As to future readership growth, who knows? I do find it is much more difficult to get links from the top blogs anymore, but I also long ago quit emailing links to them seeking their attention. I’m looking forward to seeing what the 2012 election is going to do for blog readership myself.

Some people are predicting that blogging in general is already out of date, and arguing that blogs are already in the pricess of being replaced by new social networking formats like Google+.

I’m more optimistic. I think, on the prospects of blogging, we can refer to Henry David Thoreau’s estimate of the human condition generally: “There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star.”

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5 Feedbacks on "Somebody Has To Do It"

W. Kimbell

You keep blogging and I’ll keep reading. And thanks for what you do, it’s appreciated.



Caroline

I’m with Kimbell. Love your blog and will continue to read.



Maggie's Farm

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Texan99

It’s a little like bemoaning the fate of a serious author in a culture where James Patterson consistently cranks out bestsellers. It’s not the same audience, so who cares? I’m not going to take up James Patterson novels no matter how many he sells.

I like HotAir just fine for news, but it’s not where I go for thoughtful discussion of surprising topics. For that, I like sites like Maggie’s Farm or Assistant Village Idiot. In between would be Megan McArdle at The Atlantic, who gets lots of traffic and benefits from an articulate bunch of commenters from all over the political spectrum.



Smokey

Finding a niche is important. My favorite [science] site, WattsUpWithThat.com, has rocketed from zero to over 83 million hits and 630,000 unique reader comments in only four years, by allowing both sides of the global warming debate to weigh in. It fills the niche that global warming alarmist blogs don’t – because they censor opposing opinions.

Find a niche and exploit it. Don’t try to be just another voice competing with other blogs that do the same thing.



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