While traveling last weekend I lacked the time to post as often as usual and missed some topics. Sarah Palin’s announcement sucked up most of the news last week, but before that there was one other item which was discussed on many blogs. The post attracted considerable attention in the blogosphere because it was a topic of interest to all bloggers–the blogosphere itself. Laura at 11D discussed the changes in the blogosphere over the past six years and is not happy about many of the changes.
Laura writes that the old A-list bloggers don’t have the same influence as they had in the past:
People used to read the A-list blogs because they were first on the scene to tell us what the hot articles and issues were. But now we get that information from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. Does anybody still read Instapundit? Most of the A-List bloggers aren’t all that influential. When I surveyed key journalists about what blogs they read, they rarely pointed to the traditional A-list blogs. They preferred the niche blogs, which brings me to the next topic.
Her next topic is that “If you have a particular expertise and unique perspective, they you can quickly gain a following. Everyone else is out of luck.” I do often suspect that I established my own blog in the nick of time and fear that it would be harder to start a new blog today and achieve even the modest (by old A-list standards) readership I have. If someone is already famous they have a shot at becoming a famous blogger. Otherwise, unless they really have something unique to office, I fear there are just too many blogs, and too many competing sources, to easily get established. Of course as long as a blogger is enjoying what they do it might not matter that it could take a couple years to receive a significant number of readers.
One reason it might be harder for new bloggers is that “Bloggers do not link to each other as much as they used to.” Part of that is burn out. It takes more time to go through all the small blogs and find those which have a unique and quotable take on a story.The value of links, while helpful, can be overrated. Often a link from an A-list blog will bring in a huge amount of traffic for one day, but what really matters is the readers who stick around as opposed to reading one linked post.
A related problem is that there are fewer places that can drive traffic to the small blogs. The Daou Report, which later become the Salon Blog Report, first under Peter Daou and then under Steve Benen after Peter went to work for the dark side, helped highlight the posts of many small bloggers. This is no longer around but there are still some sources which do this. Sites such as Memeorandum and Megite include links to both large and small blogs discussing a story, but far more traffic goes to the headline stories than small bloggers. Real Clear Politics does provide a handful of links every day to small as well as large bloggers. I also have some additional aggregators listed in the links section.
Laura complains about Huffington Post, complaing that “It has sucked up all the readers. And HuffPo isn’t a proper blog. It is run by people who don’t link to other bloggers and do not get the old ways and norms that greased the system in the old days.” Actually I have on rare occasions received links from writers at Huffington Post. Other times I have received traffic from links which people have included in their comments. I have no way to know if I receive more traffic thanks to such links or less due to Huffington Post sucking up readers, but I do not see their existence as a problem. She also sees Twitter and Facebook as problems, but while they might be in some ways competition I often receive traffic from people linking to me from both.
I generally agree with Laura’s comments on the problems with Link Monitoring:
In the past, I could easily figure out which blogs had linked to me and then send them a reciprocal link. For whatever reasons, Google Blog and Technorati aren’t picking up the smaller blogs, and I have no idea who’s linking to me.
Neither has been working well lately, but it isn’t simply a matter of missing smaller blogs. For the last few months Technorati has been missing the vast majority of links that I’m aware of, both from large and small blogs. My Technorati ranking has fallen from over 500 to under 200. While some of the sites linking here in the heat of an election year are no longer linking as much, there are also many blogs which I have exchanged links with over the past six months which are not showing up in Technorati at all. Using Google Blog Search has both the problem of many links being missed along with it adding a new link ever time a handful of blogs with links here enter any post.
Besides missing a tremendous number of links, Technorati rankings mean less as counting links from other blogs means far less than in the past. The idea is that the blogs with the most other blogs linking to them are the most influential. This misses the influence of a large number of forums, Facebook pages, Twitter comments, and links from other sources beyond blogs.
Laura notes that “Many of the top bloggers have been absorbed into some other professional enterprise or are burnt.” Ezra Klein (who himself has turned professional at The Washington Post) elaborated further on this further:
The place has professionalized. Talking Points Memo used to be some unemployed writer’s blog. Now it’s a significant media institution. Atrios used to be the only guy articulating a certain set of progressive frustrations with the media. Now he’s a fellow at Media Matters, a well-funded watchdog organization dedicated to tracking the media in excruciating detail. It used to be that people blogged in their spare time. Now kids graduate from college and apply for jobs as bloggers and, sometimes, internships as assistants on blogs.
This could be taken as good or bad by those of us who prefer our day jobs but still like to blog as a hobby. Independent bloggers are at a disadvantage compared to those who have the name of a professional news organization behind them. Being able to blog full time will also result in advantages. This could be a far better blog if it was my main job and not something done quickly throughout the day, but I’m certainly not going to take a pay cut of that nature.
The professionalization of the blogosphere also does help independent bloggers such as myself if you take the view that a rising tide raises all boats. With many of the old bloggers now becoming professional, the status of the entire blogosphere has risen. Independent blogs can be seen as being something of more significance as part of an entire blogosphere which has greater importance. While my readership might be small compared to that of the professional bloggers, I still have near 10,000 readers for many posts when including those reading trough RSS readers, email subscriptions, Kindle, and regular web surfers. Posts which are picked up by Blogburst are seen by far more readers at the web sites of many newspapers and media sites. Distribution through Newstex further increases the influence of the blog (as well as providing a monthly royalty check). Despite all the difficulties in an amature blogger getting noticed among the professionals, this really is not all that bad for a hobby.