Last Rites? The Blogosphere Is Barely Out Of Diapers

As I was perusing Michelle Malkin’s exquisite blog, I ran across this whiny column by ex-blogger Billmon of Whiskey Bar and I thought there were a couple of things in it worth commenting on.

To begin with, Billmon opines that blogs “are losing their indie cred man because they’re being co-opted by the corporate machine”! Ok, he didn’t say that exactly, but he might as well have…

“…The conservative bloggers who led the charge against the CBS story were hailed as giant slayers. And yet it’s the blogging phenomenon itself that may need the last rites.

…Recently, however, I’ve watched the commercialization of this culture of dissent with growing unease. When I recently decided to take a long break from blogging, it was for a mix of personal and philosophical reasons. But the direction the blogosphere is going makes me wonder whether I’ll ever go back.

Even as it collectively achieves celebrity status for its anti-establishment views, blogging is already being domesticated by its success. What began as a spontaneous eruption of populist creativity is on the verge of being absorbed by the media-industrial complex it claims to despise.”

This sort of mopey, “dude, blogs just aren’t cool anymore,” whimpering reminds me of people I used to know who were huge fans of these indie bands that no one had heard of at the time like…geeze, do I feel old…”Hootie and the Blowfish” & “The Ben Folds Five”. I knew people who loved these bands and talked them up to me incessantly, but then turned on them when they finally made MTV because they had “sold out”. That made no sense to me at the time, but since then I’ve realized that’s just how some people are. They just enjoy knowing about some cool little band, TV show, author, comic, some something, that no one else knows about and the moment it becomes popular, they lose interest. Billmon impresses me as such person, particularly since he cites no actual examples of blogs that have been “domesticated” by the MSM.

But, Billmon really screws the pooch when he makes a mistake common to liberals, assuming that the readership “pie” is only so big and every person who takes a bite out of it leaves less for everyone else…

“What began as a spontaneous eruption of populist creativity is on the verge of being absorbed by the media-industrial complex it claims to despise.

In the process, a charmed circle of bloggers — those glib enough and ideologically safe enough to fit within the conventional media punditocracy — is gaining larger audiences and greater influence. But the passion and energy that made blogging such a potent alternative to the corporate-owned media are in danger of being lost, or driven back to the outer fringes of the Internet.

….Media exposure, in turn, is intensifying an existing trend toward a “winner take all” concentration of audience share. Even before blogs hit the big time, Web stats showed the blogosphere to be a surprisingly unequal place, with a relative handful of blogs — say, the top several hundred — accounting for the lion’s share of all page hits.

…To be sure, there are still plenty of bloggers out there putting the 1st Amendment through its paces, their only compensation the satisfaction of speaking the truth to power. But it’s going to become more difficult for those voices to reach a broad audience. If the mainstream media are true to past form, they will treat the A-list blogs — commercialized, domesticated — as if they are the entire blogosphere, while studiously ignoring the more eccentric, subversive currents swirling deeper down. Not the most glorious ending for a would-be revolution, but also not a surprising one. Bloggers aren’t the first, and won’t be the last, rebellious critics to try to storm the castle, only to be invited to come inside and make themselves at home.”

As someone who has been running a political webpage since mid-2001 and who has been involved in the blogging community since early 2002, let me say that it has NEVER BEEN EASIER to build traffic and make a name for yourself than it is right now.

I say that because 2 1/2 years ago, just about the only blogger on the right side of the net who could send any significant traffic your way was Glenn Reynolds from Instapundit.

Back then, a link from the Professor was worth around 2k new sets of eyeballs hitting your page tops, 1000 more typically, or only a few hundred if it was part of one of his posts where he linked multiple blogs. There were very few other blogs capable of sending over more than a couple of hundred readers back then and most of them focused more on content than linking.

But today? Although the Instalanches are a lot bigger (I think the last one I got was around 10k daily uniques), there are now dozens and dozens of blogs capable of sending over a few hundred plus sets of eyeballs if they link you.

Just today for example, Michelle Malkin sent me more than 1000 readers. Her blog didn’t exist a year ago. Then there’s Betsy’s Page. I can remember when a link from Betsy was worth only 15-20 hits. On the other hand, today I’ve gotten over 360 hits from a link on Betsy’s Page. I could go on and on like this over the course of a month.

Now, will the mainstream media pick certain blogs and pump them up with traffic? Sure, but the rest of us in the blogosphere still benefit from it.

For example, Power Line, Allah Is In The House, and Little Green Footballs are flush with new readers sent by the MSM because of the fine job they did of covering the memogate scandal. So does that mean they benefitted while the rest of us got screwed? Not at all. Because they have plenty of new readers and when they link the rest of us, those new readers will trickle down. In other words, they’re not becoming “a big fish in a small pond,” they’re helping to grow the pond for the rest of us as they expand….and that’s a good thing.

So contrary to what Billmon seems to think, the blogosphere doesn’t need “last rites” by any stretch of the imagination. As a matter of fact, us bloggers are barely getting out of our diapers at this point….

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