Tuesday, February 06, 2007

The Shifting Nature of Blogs

Update 5P.M. 2/7: Welcome to Luskin readers. The original post was simply about blogging but I feel compelled to add this update. I'm glad Luskin 'trawls' liberal blogs though I should point out that I don't 'hate' Bush, I just don't respect the president's incompetence and recklessness. Lushkin obviously doesn't like Krugman but here's a link to Krugman's February 2004 article and a quick excerpt:
Let's start with the case of the missing W.M.D. Do you remember when the C.I.A. was reviled by hawks because its analysts were reluctant to present a sufficiently alarming picture of the Iraqi threat? Your memories are no longer operative. On or about last Saturday, history was revised: see, it's the C.I.A.'s fault that the threat was overstated. Given its warnings, the administration had no choice but to invade.

A tip from Joshua Marshall, of www.talkingpointsmemo.com, led me to a stark reminder of how different the story line used to be. Last year Laurie Mylroie published a book titled "Bush vs. the Beltway: How the C.I.A. and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror." Ms. Mylroie's book came with an encomium from Richard Perle; she's known to be close to Paul Wolfowitz and to Dick Cheney's chief of staff. According to the jacket copy, "Mylroie describes how the C.I.A. and the State Department have systematically discredited critical intelligence about Saddam's regime, including indisputable evidence of its possession of weapons of mass destruction."

To verify the 'tip' only required a copy of Mylroie's book or a good memory.

The original post now follows:

notice the audience for some of the big blogs is beginning to level off and I notice it's getting increasingly difficult to find a niche for oneself. I suspect it's simply in the nature of these things. Here's what Chris Bowers of MyDD has to say:
... here is Feldman's comment:
I think what you're describing is the transition from an open to a competitive market dynamic. Price of entry is now high enough that solo bloggers are not quite making it in, and established bloggers are innovating to retain their share.
I think this is exactly right. When the progressive, political blogosphere began, it was structured in pretty much the same fashion as the conservative political blogosphere. Almost every single major progressive blog was founded and operated by a single individual. However, starting in late 2003 with the introduction of a scoop platform to Dailykos, a process began where highly trafficked, highly linked progressive blogs continued to innovate far beyond the structure of a single blogger sole, mainly punditry oriented, content provider. Virtually everyone supplemented their writing staffs with guest bloggers, or even new, full-time bloggers. Virtually everyone started moderating their comments or requiring registration in order to post. Many blogs became community sites, with greatly enhanced user-generated content. Video, radio and other forms of multimedia became the norm. Many websites enhanced their political capability by starting Act Blue pages, founding PACs, or starting nationwide activist campaigns. Investigative journalism and live, on the ground reports from important events became commonplace. People scored interviews with, or even blog posts by, major figures in the progressive ecosystem and Democratic leadership. Bloggers themselves started appearing in a variety of high visibility media locations, including hosting radio programs, television interviews, meeting with former Presidents, and speaking before major conferences. Revenue streams were added, from Blogads, to Feedburner, to fundraisers, to consulting gigs, to sponsorships. Many are even publishing books. Now, more than three years later, it has come to the point where the early structure of the progressive political blogosphere has been almost entirely done away with. The days of the major, solo content generator, pundit blogger are all but over.

From 2000 to early 2004, I wasn't even aware of blogs and spent a lot of time on message boards, particularly on the AOL political message boards (that was a political education in itself). I became aware of blogs like many other people when Paul Krugman of The New York Times did a column on Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo in early 2004.

Krugman's column interested me because at that time the Bush Administration was claiming that the CIA had overhyped the war when in fact six to eight months earlier a book, How the CIA and the State Department Tried to Stop the War on Terror, by Laurie Mylroie made almost the opposite complaint that the CIA had been slow to admit some of the WMD claims that Cheney and the neocons had been promoting. Well, the CIA was right to discredit some of the claims though much of this was happening quietly in the back pages of different newspapers. But Mylroie's book jacket had plaudits by various prominent neocons so it was clear the book was a big deal and that they too thought the CIA had refused to accept viable evidence of WMDs.

At the time, in the spring and early summer of 2003, of course, we were failing to find any significant WMDs and Mylroie's book was a bit of a gamble that we would find those WMDs; it was also a bit of Bush propaganda. I wrote about this on AOL in the message boards under a pseudonym called Fishhawk (given the hysteria of the time, it was unwise to use real names on AOL).

About three days later, I was surprised to see my 'story' in Paul Krugman's column except that he had seen it on Talking Points Memo where a reader had passed the information on to Josh Marshall (TPM, of course, is known for its great readers and their attentiveness to good tidbits to pass on). My version was first. Some extra details were added by Marshall and Krugman but what the reader passed on to Marshall was very much what I wrote. I honestly didn't mind because I became a steady reader of Talking Points Memo and about two dozen other blogs and left the growing chaos and frustration of the AOL message boards behind.

I watched the numbers for blog readership explode. In June of 2004, I started a blog, then realized I didn't have the time to devote to it at that point. As everyone knows who writes them, it's a lot of work. For the next eighteen months, blog readership continued to explode and I then finally committed to doing one in late 2005; I was never built to be a workaholic but I quickly noticed it was getting harder to build up the numbers like others had done. I was a little late to jump in and I confess I'm not much interested in spending my time adding bells and whistles, though I admit I had aspirations of finding a niche for myself. . I'll keep writing but I have no illusions about how big an audience I'm likely to have though my numbers keep climbing at modest levels.

I enjoy writing and I find the issues I'm writing about compelling. As I said, I wasn't built to be high energy, so I also enjoy being sly at times and letting other people do the hard work of following up a story or pursuing a possible angle or thinking about an issue in a different way, though admittedly much of my slyness occurs when I comment on other sites or write e-mails. Blogging is an adventure and I've had many adventures in my life and there will come a time to move on to do other things. To be honest, despite my interest in politics, I really would rather be talking about literature and philosophy. In a year or two or three, a small new blog may appear somewhere in the blogosphere. Maybe I'll talk about the disastrous ethical dimensions of George W. Bush's notion of free will.

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Anonymous S.W. Anderson said...

Ah, to have a larger following. There's a dynamic involved that somehow escapes me.

I say that after having looked at some blogs that always attract a glut of commenters. TPM's popularity I get. Same goes for Joe Gandelman's Moderate Voice.

Atrios' incredible popularity escapes me. I wonder if it has something to do with many of his commenters striving for some kind of cool-by-association status effect.

DailyKos is an institution. I take it to be a magnet for poli sci students, grads, lawyers, activists and pol wannabes. I rarely go there for the same reason I avoid monster-crowd events: the alleged benefits aren't worth the hassles. It wears me out.

Firedoglake came from out of nowhere and suddenly had a large following. I read it for a short period and found it shrill, angry, irresponsible and sometimes questionable about facts. I don't go there any more.

Maybe being perpetually over the top ensures a blog's success, at least where following is concerned.

I've had to accept the notion that no matter how worthwhile and readable some of my posts might be, I probably never will draw more than a handful of regular readers.

Craig, I marvel at how you create so many top-quality posts. I don't mean to engage in apple polishing, but your stuff is well informed, readable, thoughtful and thought provoking.

I have to work blogging in as I can with a bunch of other things going on. I also have periods when I would rather read others' stuff and maybe add a comment than originate posts at Oh!pinion. Yet, I feel I should try to have a post of some sort most every day, both to keep it fresh for my small band of regulars and as an exercise in self-discipline.

Megablogs with multiple writers, some with well-known names, such as The Huffington Post can be good to read at times. Much depends on who's written what about whatever. But I think there's still a place for single owner-operator blogs, and much to recommend reading the better ones.

I hope so, anyway. I'd hate to see blogging fall prey to the kind of homogenization and standardization that makes dining along a freeway in California little different than doing the same thing in Pennsylvania.

10:36 PM  
Anonymous AlwaysQuestion said...

For myself, at least, it comes down to why I blog. I appreciate the folks who stop by, and especially the folks who comment, but I started writing to let it out.
I don't know that I've ever read DailyKos or TPM. (I'm going to have to confirm what TPM is.) I value your take on things, and S.W's as well, for whatever that's worth.

7:06 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

S.W., I appreciate your comments very much. A lot of blogs, mine included, sometimes begin to chase their tails and you sometimes begin to wonder what you're doing. When I have the energy, I work hard too to try and keep it fresh.

I hear you on the other blogs. You said about Daily Kos, 'It wears me out.' My sentiments exactly. I read fast, too fast maybe, but I happen to read a lot of blogs and some I just scan and some I frequently stop to read closely. Daily Kos is not my first choice but I still scan it quickly about three or four times a week; at night, I sometimes look to see if anything interesting pops up on their diary recovery roundup. It's a rare week though that I spend more than 10-15 minutes total on Daily Kos.

Atrios used to run a better blog until he became famous; I don't think he's become jaded or anything, he's just got too much stuff going on.

Firedoglake is a strange animal. When Jame Hamsher, just to mention one over there, isn't attacking Joe Lieberman or doing snark, she can actually be useful (I just read her summary of the Libby trial for Wednesday). A lot of material is posted, far too much that really isn't interesting, and I'm very glad I can scan quickly for the material here and there that makes it worthwhile to keep stopping by.

In the blogs and in the media, it's just a fact of life that being over the top sells but I'm glad there's a number of bloggers who don't do that.

Your comments by the way are among the best I've seen around whether you comment here or on other sites such as Alone on a Limb. I even catch myself sometimes wondering if I need to add a point in case S.W. wonders what I'm talking about. That makes me a better blogger.

12:31 AM  
Blogger Craig said...

Always Question, thanks for your comments and I know what you mean about just letting it out. One reason I started writing many years ago is that I kept noticing things that I never read about and felt an itch to write those things down myself.

It's always good to hear from you. You have a new blog and I wish sometime you would tell us a little about it. I read about the New Zealand adventure and your take on health care. Health care is a big big issue and it's something I'd like to know more about.

12:50 AM  

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