Monday, July 09, 2007

The End of the Flat Blogosphere

Via The Stranger, a fairly high-concept story on the new liberal blog Open Left about "The End of the Flat Blogosphere." While it is very much a deconstruction of the liberal/progressive blogosphere, the lessons here apply to blogging in general - especially blogging as a form of social networking. Perhaps the best way to compare what the article says about blogging today is to see what it says about blogging in 2002:

Back in late 2002, there was a nearly universal, structural format for progressive blogging, that centered around the following five, ubiquitous characteristics:

1. Individual. A single writer produced virtually all of the front-page content. Group blogs were extremely rare.

2. Independent. Five years ago there were virtually no "official" blogs for electoral campaigns, party committees, politically focused news outlets, think tanks or advocacy organizations. Whatever blogs were around were independent of established media and political outlets.

3. Hobbies. Five years ago, political blogging as a profession simply did not exist. Advertising was non-existent on progressive, political blogs. Fundraisers for the proprietors of blogs were extraordinarily rare. No one blogged full-time and no one used blogging as a primary source of income. Blogging was a hobby that operated almost entirely outside the market economy.

4. Limited Communities. Comment sections were not moderated in any way, shape or form. Registration was never required to post a comment. Opportunities for reader generated content, such as diaries, were limited. Comment threads were sparse by today's standards.

5. Less varied and original content. Original reporting and research almost never took place. Multimedia options such as video were equally rare. Guest posts from prominent media and political figures were unheard of. There was comparatively little in the way of direct activism on behalf of candidates and causes. Overall, at the time, content in the political blogosphere could be accurately characterized as micro-punditry on current events that was driven almost entirely by reporting from established news sources.
To get the state of the blogosphere today, basically reverse those ideas. However, the writer acknowledges that the "long tail" of the blogosphere - about 95% of blogs - still follow the above rules, but the "short head" tends to do the opposite. The short head, in this instance, are giant blogs like Daily Kos that comprise a relatively small part of the 'sphere, but constitute a great majority of its traffic.

The term for large blogs like that in PR circles is "influencers," bloggers whose stories are constantly picked up on smaller blogs - the "head" influencing the "tail" if you will. I'm actually not entirely sold on the author's comparison to the long tail, because that's really more of an economic model of profits that doesn't always accurately describe what's occurring on smaller, more personal blogs, but it's a minor point. The insights about the changing nature of the blogosphere are certainly worth checking out.

If you're worried about the liberal bias, you can just substitute "conservative" for "liberal" and "Free Republic" for "Daily Kos" and the article reads exactly the same.

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