"Traditional journalists look like hermetic monks"; 160 million pageviews for liberal blogs

Major hattip to MCDAC (which, if you’re not reading, you should start now) about this article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times. Hattip also to the LA Times for writing a substantive article about blogs without resorting to catchphrases and namecalling. Maybe we really are finally leaving behind the stereotypes that have persisted about blogs and bloggers. But only maybe (I’m paranoid).

The article examines the tight and unique and valuable connection between the writer (yes, the article calls bloggers “writers”) and the reader versus that between the MSM and its consumers. For example,

“Hundreds of people out there send clips and other tips,” Marshall said. “There is some real information out there, some real expertise. If you’re not in politics and you know something, you’re not going to call David Broder. With the blog, you develop an intimacy with people. Some of it is perceived, but some of it is real.”

Marshall’s use of his readers to gather information takes advantage of the interactivity that is at the heart of the Internet revolution. The amount of discourse between writers and readers on the Web makes traditional journalists look like hermetic monks.

Duncan Black, an economist who writes as Atrios on his website, Eschaton, receives hundreds of comments for almost anything he posts. Thursday morning, he posted a short note saying he would not be writing much that day as he was going to be traveling. Within the hour, 492 people posted comments on that. A political reporter at a metropolitan daily might not get that much reader response in a year.

Now, we know, not all news consumers consume or react to what they’ve consumed in the same way. The Web interaction isn’t for everyone (just like some people, rare though they may be, still want their gas pumped for them). But the numbers are undeniable: many news consumers, and a growing number of them, love it.

Still, I agree with this assertion in the article:

Though the numbers and breadth of blogging are indeed astonishing, it’s not at all clear what the numbers mean, if they mean anything at all. Much of what constitutes the phenomenon of blogging is apt to be inconsequential for the simple but powerful fact that nobody reads most of them. That is, aside from their authors, literally nobody.

Most of these blogs are the creations of individuals who have a passion to write, usually about a single subject, that subject often being themselves. Some of them are truly horrible and, thankfully, short-lived. The passion burns out.

Others, though, are remarkably good. There are sports blogs devoted to single teams that are far more acute in their analysis than mainstream media (MSM) covering the same sport. This is particularly true in baseball, where statistically driven analysis has been adopted wholesale in the blogosphere while the MSM has been slow to recognize its value.

And here’s a reference many of Ohio’s political blog readers and writers will recognize:

Many critiques from both sides of the blogging-MSM divide are accurate, if sometimes misplaced. The chief criticisms of blogging from defenders of the MSM are, one, the pajama charge — that is, bloggers are not professional journalists and don’t do much reporting (thus the image of them sitting at home in their pajamas) — and, two, the incivility charge, that many bloggers use impolite language.

Most bloggers, in fact, are not journalists and do little if any reporting. But most bloggers don’t claim to be journalists. They’re bloggers. The incivility charge is true too. Many bloggers use bad language, but so occasionally does the New Yorker, and no one accuses it of lacking manners.

“I’m familiar with the critique,” Marshall said. “I don’t feel it has a great deal to do with us, what we are doing. There’s a ton of stuff out there, and a lot of it is screechy and angry and undisciplined. I don’t have a problem with it, but it’s not stuff I’m particularly interested in reading.

“It’s totally in the tradition of political pamphleteering. … Individually, I think some of it isn’t necessarily that pretty, but I think the whole thing altogether is a great thing.”

My emphasis and link.

Finally, that 160 million page views? It’s tucked into a near-the-end discussion of how BlogAds came to exist, at the hand of Henry Copeland. The Times’ article says that “dozens” of blogs are profitable now. In a world with 60 million, that’s still pretty negligible. But I sure would like to know how many of those are the political ones other than the big boxes.

Here’s the money quote:

Copeland said the relatively small world of left-of-center political blogs now receives an estimated 160 million page views a month, in the same ballpark as some major newspapers and far more than any opinion magazine.

Wow. And that number is only for left-of-center political blogs, with ads on them. Doesn’t have anything to do with the views blogs like WLST get (oh, okay, I know – that number is negligible too – but you know what I mean).

Anyway – I like the article a lot. It brings the MSM-blog conversation into the present. Though I don’t know where it will go for the future, and the article doesn’t venture into that either.

6 thoughts on “"Traditional journalists look like hermetic monks"; 160 million pageviews for liberal blogs

  1. Well, you are right, and I do agree with everything you say re: building community, being able to find people who are sympatico with our ideas more easily, the lack of necessity for face to face to assuage loneliness or feeling that you are alone and of course improving how we understand.I guess, however, there just isn’t anything that can be invented or created that doesn’t have some downside, hm?

  2. Aw, Jill. It’s not creepy. Our society has been on disconnect for quite a while now. The internet is how we build community with each other these days. It used to be you had to pick from the people who lived around you. And tough luck if you couldn’t find anyone who thought like you did.Blogs don’t take the place of face to face interaction but they sure can make people less lonely in this world.Communication leads to understanding. Even if I don’t agree with someone, understanding where they’re coming from breaks down the Us/Them mentality and puts it back in the territory of ‘We’.

  3. Thank YOU Carole for having such a quality blog. In a way, it’s almost creepy how many individuals throughout the world simply love to express themselves when given the tools and easy access. I love it.

  4. Thank you Jill for pointing us to the article. That is a lot of page hits lol. I read, even in the Washington Post a few months ago, that the pyramid of where the news comes from has turned upside down; many reporters (without blogs, presumably!) go to bloggers for info; the Arkansas story certainly backs that up. It also tells me that responsibility of what we write is as critical as it is to print reporters. We have free speech and thank the gods for that. But I loved when the Marshall guy said he had a comfort zone. Anyway, ty again!

  5. Unique, you make an excellent observation re: opeds and facts. The threshold is so high for opinion pieces, typically and in the best papers, because you can’t give your opinion and have it in a paper unless you can support it. I think that’s the way it should be.However, it is amazing how the reporting that we expect to be full of facts often isn’t – or not the ones we want, that we think will help us understand what’s going on.And yet, isn’t it opinion pieces that are supposed to be just that – opinion? Yet we demand so much more from them. Really interesting – thanks.

  6. What the numbers mean….when he says:* “it’s not at all clear what the numbers mean”*What it means to me is: We no longer trust MSM to tell us all the facts, let alone the truth behind those facts, so we are searching elsewhere and everywhere and determining for ourselves just what those facts mean.Sorry, MSM, you are losing your credibility. You won’t get it back until you stop leaning, slanting, and interpreting. All I need are facts. I can draw my own conclusions. If I want opinions, I’ll read the Op Ed page. Funny how sometimes there are more facts in the Op Ed than there are on the front page. And I don’t mean ‘funny’ ha ha….

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