On Increased Entry Costs In The Progressive Blogosphere
by Chris Bowers, Tue Feb 06, 2007 at 09:27:48 AM EST
The blogosphere may have started as a new form of individual punditry, but at its elite levels, the progressive blogosphere has now moved beyond that. Take a quick look at the structure of the new progressive blogosphere elite, and consider how difficult it is for a new blog to break into this group (or even to maintain its place within the group):
- The Huffington Post: A mega-blog with dozens of writers, many of whom are drawn from the highest levels of the progressive advocacy system, Democratic consultant class, and Congressional leadership. It can score virtually any interview it wants, has numerous live blogging features from important events, and even has potential funding from large donors.
- Dailykos: The ultimate community blog, with 120,000 registered users and nearly a dozen regular front-page writers. It produces over 500,000 new words of content every day, on virtually every topic in politics, and has attracted writing from virtually the entire Democratic leadership. .
- Raw Story: A significant outpost of investigative journalism and newswire consolidation. It has multiple staff writers and regular original stories..
- Talking Points Memo, including TPM Café and TPMMuckraker. The first major progressive blog has now added a community oriented website with regular, high-profile guest bloggers and loads of original, investigative reporting.
- The Demcoratic Underground blog, which just happens to be attached to the largest online progressive community as all (twice as large as Dailykos, by some measurements).
- Crooks and Liars. A major blog with several front page writers. It has connections to Blue America PAC, and is by far the best filter for progressive news video to be found anywhere on the internet. The video is culled from hundreds of hours of DVR recordings taken every single day.
- Think Progress. The extremely well-funded and staffed blog of the extremely well-funded and staffed Center for American Progress. Much of their unmatched rapid-response, original video and research is produced by paid staff.
- Alternet Blogs are attached to now-established news organization Alternet. Original video, orginal reporting, investigative journalism, analysis driven punditry--you name it, you can find it here.
- Firedoglake boasts perhaps the tightest community of commenters in the blogosphere, is the main outlet for Blue America PAC, has been at the forefront of investigations into, and coverage of, the Plame affair, features huge amounts of video and pictures, actually moved to Connecticut for the Senate primary last year, and has several, major front-page writers.
- Americablog, which rose dramatically in national prominence by exposing Jeff Gannon, is a group blog that is often called the most effective GLBT activist outlet in the entire country. Of course, that isn't all it does.
- Eschaton, is one of the last, top-tier, solo-content provider independent blogs around. Atrios has somehow managed to put up twelve posts a day, every day, for five years. A superhuman effort few can match.
- Unclaimed Territroy. Another solo-content blog that relies on several, long posts every day from Glenn Greenwald. Again, a supherhuman effort. This is a theme among the remaining solo-conent provider blogs--the individual provider must produce almost un-imaginable amounts of new content every day.
- The Agonist: A major community blog featuring newswires, multiple front page writers, and significant user generated content.
- Hullaballo: A similar structure to Unclaimed Territory (although it came before Unclaimed Territory). Digby is by far the main content provider, but of late has taken on weekend and occasional help. As with Atrios and Glenn Greenwald, check out how much digby writes to get an idea of what it takes to be an elite, solo-blogger these days.
- Political Animal (Washington Monthly) and Tapped (the Americna Prospect) are major blogs produced by major national periodicals. This alone gives them access to writers, research, and journalistic resources that are difficult for independent bloggers to match.
- MyDD, if I may be so bold, to include us in this list (our incoming links on Technorati would put us in this group). We have long engaged in a variety of high profile activist projects and on the ground reporting. We also provide infrastructure and election analysis that goes well beyond what you will even find in established, national news outlets.
To get an idea of just how much more competitive it has gotten, take the example of MyDD. In order to only marginally improve our market share since August 2005, we have done the following: hired Matt and Jonathan, added Breaking Blue, changed the site layout, incorporated an advanced content tagging system, conducted several national activist campaigns, commissioned three original polls, conducted a huge amount of on the ground reporting from over a dozen major events around the country, produced exceptional electoral forecasts, built the Liberal Blog Advertising Network, published scores of high profile interviews, revamped BlogPac, and agreed to God knows how many interviews with outside news sources. And oh yeah, we did some good blogging too, almost doubling our average daily amount of new content. That allowed our traffic and incoming links to increase by about 20-40%. By comparison, in the sixteen months from April 2004 to July 2005, we did not conduct nearly as much original work, and our traffic and inbound links increased by about 1200%. Within the national blogosphere, the market dynamic has changed dramatically, and the entry barrier to the "top-tier" has become far more difficult to break through.
This brings me to the second comment I noted in the thread, written by Andy X:
In Maryland, we still organize using leftyblogs and Blognetnews, because most of use have our own personal blogs. As long as new voices and bloggers in Maryland join leftyblogs, there is a good chance they will get regular traffic.
There has been some recent talk about trying to set up a scoop based blog for the Free State, but the only issue is that many of us Democrats in Maryland get along well with our right-wing counterparts and tend to be more moderate.
I am surprised then, that the blogosphere may be reaching some sort of apex, because in Maryland there is a lot of room to grow.
Finally, I think this also helps explain the explosion of social networking sites, and the Obama Facebook phenomenon. They just have lower barriers to entry, and a less competitive market dynamic for their users. While blogging used to be the lowest cost means of democratizing political content generation, it isn't anymore. A MySpace page or a Facebook profile is easier than even a blog was four years ago. Higher entry costs in the blogosphere could very well be shifting large numbers of new participants to even more democratic forms of content generation. It remains to be seen what impact this will have upon the blogosphere, the netroots, and upon politics itself. It is very possible that the blogosphere will either collapse due to a lack of funding, or develop into a new form of establishment elite.
This all quite dizzying to think about, but after my post on the professionalization of the netroots, and on stagnating political blogosphere traffic, at least now I finally have a hypothesis. Thank you for your comments, because they really pushed this discussion forward. Also, isn't it impressive to see all of those blogs / websites listed together? New progressive media has emerged as an extremely flexible, innovative, and powerful political force.