Follow-Up: The Slow, Painful Coming Death Of The Independent, Conservative Blogosphere
Yesterday, a post I wrote called The Slow, Painful Coming Death Of The Independent, Conservative Blogosphere created a lot of discussion across the blogosphere. There was plenty of debate, disagreement, and more than a little, “Ye Gods, what if he’s right?”
Today, I wanted to link up some of those posts along with a few follow-up comments on some of the points that were raised.
How many people can put in 20-30-40-50 hours a week on something that’s not going to ever be their full time job? Can they do it for 5 years? 10 years? 15? 20?
Actually, there are a lot of people who do that: artists, retired folk, stay-at-home spouses, people who already have enough money, the disabled, and the hardcore believer. You know when you are writing for the intrinsic value of writing (and reaching readers) and when you are writing for money (or some combination of the 2). The thought that you are “put[ting] in 20-30-40-50 hours a week” nags in the head of a person who is doing it for money.
There are probably some bloggers who genuinely don’t care whether people read what they have to say or not, but those people would probably be better served writing in a diary or journal, where they don’t have an audience tuning in each day. Personally, my experience has been that bloggers care, not necessarily about money, but about how many people who read their blogs. A LOT. A whole, hell of a lot actually.
So here’s the thing: If you assume the niche market we’re in is largely tapped out and there is no big influx of new conservative eyeballs that are coming into the blogosphere and, worse yet, those that do are more likely to be attracted to the much larger, more professionalized websites, then chances are traffic is going to remain largely flat while trending slightly downward over time. That’s as compared to a decade ago, when traffic and potential revenue were surging upward.
With that in mind, are the sort of people who are drawn to blogging in the first place, people who have something to say and want to say it in front of an audience, going to be willing to put in a lot of work over the long-haul for a small, probably diminishing audience? My guess is “no,” but we’ll see.
What I liked about this post from The Looking Spoon is it gives you a good description of what it takes to blog for a lot of the people who put in a serious effort.
I work, I have a family, even if I had the resources to make and break news I don’t have the time to devote to actually doing it. Thanks to skill sets not seen too much on the conservative side of things, namely a sense of humor, and professional grade Photoshop skills, I’ve staked my claim on trying to become a kind of third rail (but in a good way) to the news blogs on one side, and the punditry on the other side of the tracks.
Truth be told my traffic isn’t anything to write home about, but I most definitely have better numbers now than I did a year ago, which were much better from the year before that, but that’s not saying too much either.
Given the total inability to compete with conservative blogs that break stuff faster than a liberal in charge of guarding the Constitution, I don’t know if The Looking Spoon can or should continue in it’s current form. The feeling that I got into the game a little too late haunts my sense of motivation to endure 4-5 hours of sleep (that are constantly interrupted by my baby daughter) every night.
That said, I’m not giving up.
Been there, done that. I remember grinding it out in a day job, working until the wee hours of the morning on RWN, getting 4-5 hours sleep, and then getting up and doing it again. Repeat that from 2001-2005 in order to go full time — and today, it’s considerably tougher to catch on than it was when I got started.
No Runny Eggs touches on a factor I touched on in the original piece, but suspect may be a bigger issue than people realize.
How much of that is consolidation at the top, how much is just more voices out there, and how much of that is social media sucking the life out of everybody is up for grabs. Way back in the day, Charlie Sykes established the Rule of Five, saying that one couldn’t really follow more than 5 blogs very closely. While he was way off on the 5 number, especially with the advent of RSS feeds, there is a very-real limit to how many blogs one can follow. Trust me on this one; I can’t keep up with all 400+ feeds I try to.
True story: There was a time when I used to regularly read 60+ blogs per day. Today? Not even close. In part, that’s because of the number of high quality, professional blogs that almost demand a look each day, but you cannot underestimate the impact of Social Media. In 2008, Facebook only had 100 million users (compared to 750 million today) and I didn’t even get on Twitter until RightOnline of 2009. Today, they’re both major timesinks for users and they’re dramatically reducing the number of webpages the average person can view in a day. In a field like conservative blogging, that’s going to tend to have a relatively small, devoted audience full of activists, it really stings.
Riehl World View had a couple of interesting points.
John doesn’t offer any data to demonstrate growth, shrinkage, or fluctuations in the numbers of pure bloggers, Left or Right, over the years.
That’s a good point, but the reason I didn’t is that it’s practically impossible to generate any hard data. Some people have hidden traffic statistics, some people don’t. People quit and come back, blog across multiple websites — even what’s defined as an “active blogger” is pretty up in the air. My general rule of thumb is that you’re “active” if you posted in the last 30 days, but nobody’s reading a blog that has up one post in the last month. Since the actual stats are so amorphous, I’ve relied on what I’ve learned from being around for a decade, compiling blogger email lists for my polls, talking to bloggers day in and day out, and running the Blogads conservative network.
Dan Riehl also writes,
If I’ve been hard on Beltway-based, Right-side new media outlets over the years, it’s largely because they’ve done a poor job of opening themselves up to indie bloggers through links and such. Their efforts have been more an expansion of what’s old, as opposed to anything new, efficient, or highly-effective and it continues to speak more to inside the Beltway types, than the grassroots, or a broader America. So, I’ve always taken a screw them mentality. If they don’t appreciate us as bloggers, and they mostly don’t except for wanting links, why bother with them?
With a few exceptions, they’ve also continued to hire talent from the same old establishment channels they’ve always used – rather than look at bloggers as resources. Except for exporting the same crap they’ve been publishing on dead trees for years to the Internet and constantly pimping it to bloggers for links, while ignoring some good work by many of those same bloggers, they’ve done nothing except seek to expand their own brand, and or donor base at the expense of any blogosphere they never have understood very well. And their often antiquated real world infrastructure continues to waste valuable Right-side donor dollars. It’s more corporatist, than it is grassroots, or conservative, and if it mostly died tomorrow, the real benefactor would likely be Indie blogs and bloggers.
All that said, Salem has done its part with Hot Air, Human Events hired John Hayward, Breitbart exists today and is only beginning, as does Pajamas Media, and some groups like AFP, Freedom Works and others are doing things to encourage a broader blogosphere, so it’s ongoing.
There are just a lot more opportunities for a talented liberal blogger than there are for a conservative with the same skill level. The Left has put a lot more money into building new media outlets than the Right — and that’s even setting aside all the opportunities that exist at newspapers for liberals, that really aren’t there for conservatives.
Moreover, it really is frustrating how unwilling many “established” conservative outlets are to help along the talent that exists in the blogosphere. There are people who are more talented than 95% of the professional conservative columnists out there, who can’t get a job writing for a living. Is that because they don’t have the right connections? Is their style too “P.J. O’Rourke” and not enough “William F. Buckley?” It’s hard to say for sure, but what we can say for sure is that there’s a lot less of that sort of talent waste on the Left.
American Glob added this,
Would I leave my day job to work as a full time blogger for a big news outlet? Sure.
Until then, I’ll keep writing at American Glob.
Keep writing and publishing independent bloggers, you do make a difference. Jim Hoft had nothing more than a Blogger account when he brought down Van Jones.
We don’t all get to be Jim Treacher, John.
That doesn’t mean we should just quit.
Don’t misunderstand: I’m not saying anyone who’s not the size of Hot Air or Redstate should quit. Certainly, Right Wing News isn’t that size and I’m not hanging up my computer and going to get a day job just yet.
However, I’m a big believer in trying to give people an accurate picture of what the world really looks like and letting them make a decision about what to do from there. At the end of the day, the more information people have about things that matter to them, the better decisions they can make.
This Ain’t Hell offers some advice for bloggers,
I know there are some bloggers out there reading TAH who aren’t of the milblog genre who can use some advice and I’ve depended on the advice of others since TAH began, since we were late-comers, John Hawkins among them. Not that I think we’re all that big in the traffic area…just well-known — but then I just applied what I knew about marketing from my days in sales. And the blogosphere is a captive audience in most cases.
I also learned that you can’t do the same thing that everyone else is doing — if you’re cutting and pasting from Yahoo News or Drudge, so are a billion others. Most of you come to TAH because we give you unique news and commentary you won’t find anywhere else. And commenters are the most important part of blogging. During our MSGT Soup Sandwich era, hundreds stole our pictures of him and they were all over the ‘net, but what brought the traffic was your comments. That’s why I keep comments unrestricted, despite the spam invasions that crop up. People read blogs because they want to participate in the conversation, otherwise they’d be on the news sites.
Here’s the best advice I can give to people who want to get started with blogging: Don’t start a general blog. Find a niche that can draw some traffic, dominate that niche, and become the go-to place for people who want to see that niche. If you’ll notice, I’ve followed my own advice over the last few years. After RWN, I created Linkiest, which is all links, Viral Footage, which is all videos, and Trending Right, which I do with Doug Ross, features the hottest conservative links on Twitter right now. All three of those websites have grown significantly faster than RWN. That’s no surprise.
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