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.