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Monday, July 9, 2007

The End of the Flat Blogosphere?

posted by on July 9 at 11:06 AM

Over at the newly-launched OpenLeft, there’s an interesting piece by Chris Bowers about the transformation of the liberal blogosphere over the last few years.

It’s dry, policy-paper-style analysis, but if you’re a bloggy type it’s worth a read because it explores all the hot blog topics of the moment—financial sustainability, blog hierarchy, the decline of the single-blogger model, the 24/7 imperative, and the increasing barriers to “top tier” entry.

If you can’t follow this excerpt, don’t worry. Unless you run a liberal blog. In that case, maybe you should worry.

…By late 2005, the end result of this transformation was a collection of four or five dozen well-established national websites that no new progressive blog following the old, independent, single content producer could ever hope to either equal or surpass. In fact, as of July 6, 2007, of the 50 progressive, political blogs with the most traffic, every single one of them was founded before November 2005, and over 90% were founded in 2004 or earlier (see note two at the end of this piece for more on this). It has been over one and a half years since a new blog has broken into the “short head” of the national progressive blogosphere, whereas not long ago new members of the “short head” used to be fairly common… A caste system is solidifying and a new establishment is crystallizing.

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I actually posted on this very phenomenon several weeks back. The blogosphere is becoming very consolidated, and it's increasingly rare for a new blog to come out of nowhere and join the national discussion.

Posted by Gabriel | July 9, 2007 11:39 AM

Some points:

1. Political bloggers like to use the word "blog" to mean "political blog". In the rest of the world, it can be, and is, on any subject imaginable, and there's no shortage of new ideas.

2. Most if not all of the "upstarts" who were going on and on and ON about new paradigms and shaking up the established order and new ways of communicating and giving voice to the people etc. were not, in fact, interested in doing any of these things. They were interested in joining the elite that they were railing in, not tearing it down.

3. In ten years time, the stars of the political blogosphere, left and right, will be right up there dancing with President Bush's successor at the White House Correspondents Dinner, looking even more ridiculous than David Gregory did when he rapped with Karl Rove.

4. You heard a lot about the voice of the people, but what you really had was a handful of talented journalists looking for an outlet. Even on the good political blogs, the commentating is of a uniformly abysmal standard. What the people have to say just isn't that interesting to anyone but themselves. You can create a community of people who enjoy hearing each other talk, but it has no importance whatsoever in the outside world. Notice that some very influential blogs, like Sullivan, feature no comments at all, and a writer established outside the web.

4. This is all very predictable. There are only so many people eager to type furiously about the issues of the day, and during the period of discovery, when they were finding their outlets, it was very exciting. Now, they've all got their niches, and stasis sets in.

5. This is just another wave in internet maturation, following Usenet, email discussion lists, and the first wave of the Web.

6. It's really no different than anything else; it's a medium. It can help fundraise. It generates a huge amount of heat, not much light. It's not a revolution.

7. In the future, politics will be driven by the comments on YouTube.

Posted by Fnarf | July 9, 2007 1:02 PM

I'm not terribly surprised. I read a few different progressive blogs, and for the most part, they repost the same stories on every one. They each have maybe one unique story per day, and Crooks and Liars does a good job reposting video clips, but I can't see many more sites being supported.

Posted by Gitai | July 9, 2007 1:13 PM

Every new organizational entity, no matter how noble, eventually turns into a caste-style hierarchy.

Posted by Gomez | July 9, 2007 3:44 PM

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