18 Feb 2006

Is the Blogosphere Winning?

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At Technorati, Dave Sifry evaluates the state of the blogosphere in February 2006, comparing MSM links to blog links. Although, with a handful of exceptions, Sifry finds that blogs are still lagging the MSM establishment by a huge order of magnitude, he identifies a beginning point of influence in the quantitative link curve:

This realm of publishing, which I call “The Magic Middle” of the attention curve, highlights some of the most interesting and influential bloggers… these are blogs that are interesting, topical, and influential, and in some cases are radically changing the economics of trade publishing.At Technorati, we define this to be the bloggers who have from 20-1000 other people linking to them… there are about 155,000 people who fit in this group. And what is so interesting to me is how interesting, exciting, informative, and witty these blogs often are.

We have 191 links as of today ourselves by Technorati’s count (every blogmeter produces different readings).

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Meanwhile, Trevor Butterworth at the Financial Times is skeptical:

But as with any revolution, we must ask whether we are being sold a naked emperor. Is blogging really an information revolution? Is it about to drive the mainstream news media into oblivion? Or is it just another crock of virtual gold – a meretricious equivalent of all those noisy internet start-ups that were going to build a brave “new economy” a few years ago?…

After talking to various people in the new media world, it’s possible to estimate an income of $1,000 to $2,000 a month in ad revenue from a typical blog getting 10,000 visitors a day and playing to a national audience with a popular topic such as politics.

The problem is that few blogs do even that much traffic. According to the monitoring done by thetruthlaidbear.com, only two blogs get more than 1 million visitors a day and the numbers drop quickly after that: the 10th ranked blog for traffic gets around 120,000 visits; the 50th around 28,000; the 100th around 9,700; the 500th only 1,400 and the 1000th under 600. By contrast, the online edition of The New York Times had an average of 1.7 million visitors per weekday last November, according to the Nielsen ratings, and the physical paper a reach of 5 million people per weekday, according to Scarborough research.

That is one reason why advertisers are still sticking with the mainstream media. The other has to do with the very basic selling point of blogging. “There is a certain loss of control when it comes to advertising on blogs,” said Mark Wnek, chairman and chief creative officer of Lowe New York. “The connection the most popular citizen journalists cultivate with their devotees is through an honest, uncensored, raw freedom of expression, and that can be quite uncomfortable territory for a traditional marketer.”

The dismal traffic numbers also point to another little trade secret of the blogosphere, and one missed by Judge Posner and all the other blog-evangelists when they extol the idea that blogging allows thousands of Tom Paines to bloom. As Ana Marie Cox says: “When people talk about the liberation of the armchair pajamas media, they tend to turn a blind eye to the fact that the voices with the loudest volume in the blogosphere definitely belong to people who have experience writing. They don’t have to be experienced journalists necessarily, but they write – part of their professional life is to communicate clearly in written words.”

And not every blogger can be a Tom Paine. “People may want a democratic media,” says Cox, “but they don’t want to be bored. They also want to be entertained and they want to feel like they’ve learned something. They want ideas expressed with some measure of clarity.”

Which brings us to the spectre haunting the blogosphere – tedium. If the pornography of opinion doesn’t leave you longing for an eroticism of fact, the vast wasteland of verbiage produced by the relentless nature of blogging is the single greatest impediment to its seriousness as a medium.

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Not everyone can be Tom Paine, well that’s a relief.

I am beginning to think that out of fear and apathy, the American public simply choses to stick with MSM. I don’t think the American public at large wants to know the truth.



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