In the LA Times, former blogger Billmon writes that bloggers have sold out. His thesis is that “[a]s blogs commercialize, they are tied ever closer to the mainstream media and its increasingly frivolous news agenda.”
I was particularly interested in his argument that “a charmed circle of bloggers” is gaining “larger audiences and greater influence,” while the rest of the blogosphere is being left behind. Media exposure to the top blogs, he argues, “is intensifying an existing trend toward a ‘winner take all’ concentration of audience share.” He goes on:
Even before blogs hit the big time, Web stats showed the blogosphere to be a surprisingly unequal place, with a relative handful of blogs say, the top several hundred accounting for the lion’s share of all page hits.
In Billmon’s eyes, the blogosphere is an inegalitarian place, with little opportunity for new blogs to break into the “charmed circle” of high-traffic sites that have sold out in pursuit of advertising dollars. I am not familiar with Billmon’s writings, but I get the sense that he (or she) probably feels the same way about economic opportunity in the U.S.
How well does this pessimistic view of the blogosphere align with reality? Is mobility really as limited as Billmon suggests?
A little more than a year ago, John Hawkins listed the most influential center-right bloggers. (He ignored left-of-center blogs and non-political blogs because he was not well acquainted with them.) His list was as follows:
1. Andrew Sullivan
3. The Corner
4. The Volokh Conspiracy
5. Little Green Footballs
6. Lileks (James) The Bleat
7. Steven Den Beste
9. A Small Victory
10. Tim Blair
If Hawkins were to create such a list today, I have no doubt we’d see plenty of new names–sites like Powerline, Hewitt, Allah, and perhaps Wizbang and INDC Journal. Not coincidentally, these are among the most consistently interesting and informed sites in the blogosphere.
It cannot be denied that early bloggers enjoy an advantage over latecomers. A blog that launches today, no matter how good or heavily promoted, will not soon overtake Instapundit or Daily Kos. Yet even the mightiest blog won’t retain its position in the “charmed circle” for long if it is running on fumes.
Update II: For blog newbies, N.Z. Bear’s weblog ecosystem is a fascinating barometer of blog mobility (though it seems to be down this morning for maintenance).
Now, will the mainstream media pick certain blogs and pump them up with traffic? Sure, but the rest of us in the blogosphere still benefit from it.
For example, Power Line, Allah Is In The House, and Little Green Footballs are flush with new readers sent by the MSM because of the fine job they did of covering the memogate scandal. So does that mean they benefitted while the rest of us got screwed? Not at all. Because they have plenty of new readers and when they link the rest of us, those new readers will trickle down. In other words, they’re not becoming “a big fish in a small pond,” they’re helping to grow the pond for the rest of us as they expand….and that’s a good thing…
Speaking of Powerline, read this post to readers, which shares details about the blog’s explosive growth.
Also: Polipundit, an up and coming blogger, recounts his entry into the blogosphere.
And the quip of the day regarding Billmon’s bilious op-ed goes to Brian at Memento Moron, who writes:
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While it may be arguable that blogs in general are not as upwardly mobile as Billmon wishes we were, one thing can be said in our defense:
At least we’re self-propelled.
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