Monday, January 30, 2006

Spivak & Bice: The Anti-Blog Bloggers

One might think that Milwaukee Journal Sentinel columnists Spivak and Bice don’t much like blogs. At least, if you look at their own blog, you will find them:
It sure seems that they don’t like blogs. Is this “the Mainstream Media strikes back?”

And is there anything wrong with that?

Not that we can see.

We bloggers have long assumed that the Mainstream Media inhabit a free fire zone. Can we object when they attack some blog content as biased, or inaccurate, or silly?

If we bloggers are the “watchdogs,” are they allowed to watch the watchdogs?

In reality, it is a sign of the growing power of blogs that Mainstream Media outlets think it worth covering (and sometimes attacking) them.

In terms of mere readership, this might be a puzzle, since no Wisconsin blog has a readership anywhere near the 200,000+ circulation of the daily Journal Sentinel, and the 400,000+ of the Sunday paper. Of course, these numbers have to be deflated due to the fact that nobody reads every article in the paper, nor anything near all the articles.

But consider the following figures (current as of today) for average daily visits:

The heavyweights:
  • McBride’s Media Matters — 1,035
  • The X-off Files — 1,025
  • The American Mind — 750
  • Sykes Writes — unknown
Mid-level blogs:
  • Jiblog — 103
  • Marquette Warrior — 469
  • Thoughtful Conservative — 94
  • Texas Hold ‘Em Blogger — 175
  • Eye on Wisconsin — 208
  • Fraley’s Dailytakes — 341
  • Free Will — 155
  • Wigderson Library & Pub — 212
  • Lakeshore Laments — 293
Top College Blogs
  • GOP3.COM: The Triumvirate — 300
  • Letters in Bottles — 172
Good blogs that deserve more readers
  • Office of Homeland Security — 45
  • Blog of Nate — 54
  • Lance Burri — 39
  • Leaning Blue — 71
How could such shoestring operations have such a considerable influence?

Quite simply, because blogs occupy a strategic place in a network of political activists and political junkies.

The readers may be few, but they care about what is being written — often because it is being written about them. And the readers are often strategically positioned to pass along information they find, whether they be radio talk show hosts, reporters for mainstream outlets, or just other bloggers.

It’s a bit like Fox News. While Fox beats up on the other cable networks in terms of ratings, compared to the broadcast networks their ratings aren’t that impressive. Average Joe and Janie are still likely to get their news from ABC, CBS or NBC just like their parents did 30 years ago.

While the flagship newscasts of those networks have lower ratings than they used to, they still have many more viewers than cable news.

But in the world of political junkies, Fox News is a big deal, because the junkies care a lot about news and watch cable news a lot. That’s why liberals obsess on the network, and conservatives love it.

So we bloggers can be happy that we are worth attacking.

One has to suspect that Mainstream Media types, in their hearts of hearts, would be happy if blogs just went away. But slowly they are beginning to learn to live with blogs, and indeed are being seduced by the timeliness and flexibility of the medium.

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