Liberal Values Escapes Trend Of Reduced Readers at Liberal Blogs

There’s been some interest around the blogosphere in a report at Blogasm comparing readership at liberal and conservative blogs:

It has long been understood that the largest liberal blogs have generally produced more web traffic than the largest conservative blogs. But I have noticed a general trend over the past few months that I didn’t want to write about until the end of the year. After surveying the traffic stats of many major political blogs, I found that web traffic for several major liberal blogs either declined sharply or stayed the same while major conservative blogs saw a sharp increase in traffic…

Now, it’s very difficult to make conclusions based on these findings. It could be that the liberal blogosphere is experiencing a Long Tail effect, meaning that readers of liberal blogs are spreading out over a larger range of websites. And though liberal blogs showed a sharp decline in web visits during 2007, this isn’t to say that their overall visits didn’t increase compared to 2006 — it’s hard to say, since Site Meter only tracks the previous 13 months.

visits-past-year.png

The graph above, like those at Blogasm, shows number of visits (not page loads) per month). While small compared to the blogs reviewed at Blogasm, readership at Liberal Values has been increasing in contrast to the liberal blogs evaluated. I’ve attributed this to being a newer, smaller blog which is gradually building an audience. Maybe overall readership at liberal blogs is down because liberals see more victories in the real world and have less need to spend as much time at blogs as when Republicans controlled everything.

I’m now wondering if there isn’t something to the long tail effect. Many of my links come from small blogs and I wonder, with the larger liberal blogs becoming somewhat of an echo chamber repeating the same stories and views, if there isn’t increasing interest in us smaller blogs which often do cover different material. It would be interesting to see if there is an overall increase in a liberal blogosphere beyond the largest and most well known A list blogs. More liberal readers might be finding a niche which comes closer to their views or interests.

Justin Gardner also gives his views on this topic. While I’m not sure if the the long tail explains this, I don’t agree his dismissal of the idea by asking “who’s going to trade more news for less?” Several times I’ve reported on items which the bigger blogs didn’t discover until days later, and I’m sure this is true among other smaller blogs. Monitoring a selection of small blogs might be a better source of information than only reading the big blogs. This is especially true the more the big blogs concentrate on the top headline material for which there are many other sources of information.

Another factor which might throw off these calculations is the effect of RSS readers. While some weeks my readership might be up or down based upon direct hits, the number of subscribers to the RSS feeds has consistently gone up by about one hundred new subscribers every week, and the number of subscribers to the RSS feed is several times the number of visitors. Perhaps the decrease in circulation among liberal blogs is only a consequence of more people subscribing to RSS feeds. This would need to be evaluated before really comparing liberal and conservative blogs if for some reason hits on liberal blogs are simply being affected more by RSS readers than conservative blogs.

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6 Comments

  1. 1
    Tom Maguire says:

    Riddle me this – I can find a number of liberal blogs with that April 2007 peak (including Atrios, Crooks and Liars, My DD, TalkLeft and Liberal Values), but I don’t know why.

    The Libby verdict was in March; Imus got canned in April and got a lot of blog love (and some hate, too – let’s say, “attention”), but I have a hard time believing that is it.

    The V-tech shootings were in April also, as was the first Dem debate.

    A quick scroll through the Lib Val archives does not provide much illumination, other than to assure me that I am not alone in wishing that the spell-check macros also applied to post headlines.

    Your thoughts?

  2. 2
    Ron Chusid says:

    I wasn’t aware that there was an overall April peak. In my case the April numbers were a combination of two factors. Between December and May there was a fairly consistent increase in visitors from month to month. The April numbers were exaggerated by a link from one of the major blogs which knocked it higher than usual. I’m afraid I don’t recall which post got all the extra links or if it was from one of the events you mention. Regardless that wouldn’t explain an overall increase in traffic to liberal blogs.

    I figured that the April numbers would have been more comparable to May’s if not for the link. The trend stopped as traffic dropped back for a while starting in late May. This was probably a combination of my traveling during the summer and overall reduced blog reading during the summer.

    Some jumps in traffic also have nothing to do with major political events. For example I got a brief boost after Vanessa Hudgen’s nude photos were on line. I had a post which mentioned this and had a picture of her in a bikini which received a huge boost. In general the biggest jumps come when someone like Crooks and Liars links here.

  3. 3
    Eric Dondero says:

    A rather useless survey if you ask me if they exclude libertarian blogs.

    Where do they lump us libertarians in, with the conservatives?

    While we are cousins to conservatives, and are close friends with them, and allied against the Liberals, WE LIBERTARIANS ARE NOT CONSERVATIVES!!

    We are Pro-Choice. They are not. We are anti-Nanny State. They are fine with Seat Belt Laws. We are in favor of decrminilzied marijuana, prostitution and gambling. Most conservatives are clearly not.

    Ron, tell you buddies who do this survey to include libertarian blogs next time, please.

  4. 4
    Ron Chusid says:

    Eric,

    It was one individual blogger who put this together and I had nothing to do with it. They don’t lump libertarians in with conservatives but look at a handful of big liberal and conservative blogs. There’s probably not a big enough sample of libertarian blogs with comparable traffic to make similar comparisons.

    Since I’ve posted this I’ve seen speculation that the difference is discussion of Ron Paul. In general liberals read liberal blogs, conservatives read liberal blogs, and those of us who cross over probably don’t impact the total traffic that much. Paul supporters swarm any blog which discusses Paul, and it is likely that more Republican/Conservative blogs have posts on him. By their logic I could be bucking the trend as I have many posts on Paul, as well as some links here from libertarian blogs.

    While traffic to a blog mentioning Paul is probably primarily from Paul supporters, there is also some interest in Paul beyond his supporters. Looking at the search engine hits which bring people here, many are for “Ron Paul” which could indicate support or opposition, with most of these probably coming from Paul supporters. However some of the more detailed search engine strings do suggest that the visitor was anti-Paul. This would include searches such as “Paul opposed to separation of church and state.” There are also searches related to Paul and right wing extremist groups. These could be Paul supporters looking for such posts to defend him, but I suspect a number are from people who object to Paul because of his connections to them.

    “We are Pro-Choice.” Talk to all the Paul supporters who have entered comments here claiming that abortion is murder.

  5. 5
    Eric Dondero says:

    So Ron, what your saying is that this survey completely and deliberatly ignored libertarians and kept them out of the survey. That’s even worse, than lumping us in with the Cons.

    Who is this guy? I’m going to write him a nasty email.

    BTW, on Paul supporters claiming to be “libertarians,” most of them are clearly not. They are some wierdo leftwing populist conspiratorialist posing as libertarians, cause they know “libertarian” sounds cool and sells well.

  6. 6
    Ron Chusid says:

    Eric,

    I don’t think that there are enough libertarian blogs with the number of visitors as used in his comparison to have been included.

    Paul receives support from a combination of libertarians and non-libertarians. While many are non-libertarians, most are right wing, not left wing. There are some left wing opponents of the war supporting him but I doubt they make up a meaningful percentage of his support.

    There is probably no way to say for sure how many of each type of person supports Paul. The people posting comments here might not be representative, but the vast majority are right wingers with some libertarians and very rare left wing supporters. I wouldn’t classify any of them as populist but a tremendous number are into various conspiracies. The mind set of many is based upon conspiracy theories. Besides supporting a number of well known conspiracy theories, I also see that mind set as I get a lot of comments asking things like which corporations paid me to write posts critical of Paul.

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