Top-Down Right-Wing Blogosphere Growing Powerful

The right wing blogosphere and netroots is starting to show some of the same institutional strength and message consistency that has helped make the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy such a success. Over the past month, there were two instances when their newfound strength was demonstrated, the Swift Boat Liars and the "Forged" documents inanity.
As a blogger obsessed with blog traffic, I have become something of a student of traffic patterns on both right wing and left wing blogs over the past couple months. During that time I have found made a few important preliminary observations.
  • The lower the stickiness of a blog, the higher the relative traffic value of a link from that blog to the blog being linked. In other words, a blog where there isn't much to do besides visit (no comments, few or no special pages, short articles), will cause a higher percentage of its traffic base to visit a blog that it links than will a blog with high stickiness (diaries, long articles, polls, comments, arguments, many special pages, etc).

  • High traffic right-wing blogs, such as Andrew Sullivan, Hugh Hewitt, Real Clear Politics, Powerline and especially Instapundit (among the top seven right-wing blogs, only Captain's Quarters and Little Green Footballs have comments), tend to be less sticky than high traffic left wing blogs. Among the top seven left-wing blogs in terms of traffic, Dailykos, Atrios, Political Animal, Wonkette, Smirking Chimp, Political Wire and Talking Points Memo, four of the seven have comments, and Dailykos, twice as trafficked as any other blog according to some measurements, is perhaps the stickiest blog of them all. In fact Dailykos is so sticky, I can tell you right now without equivocation that being linked by in a post by Atrios does a lot more for MyDD's traffic than being linked on a front-page story by Dailykos, despite the enormous traffic gap between the two sites. (The two huge spikes in the link were on days when Atrios linked us,. By contrast, we were linked five times on front page Dailykos articles over the last month, but you can't tell what days those are, can you? Further, as I write this, we are experiencing a third major upsurge in traffic, once again courtesy of Atrios).

  • The lower stickiness of top right-wing sites, especially Instapundit, can lead to a complete domination of the right-wing blogosphere by the "one big story" if the top bloggers are all pushing one story. Glenn Reynolds in particular, who does not have comments or special pages and who rarely comments on a subject beyond "xxx has the goods on this one," or "indeed," can send the traffic of any blog he links skyrocketing to a degree no left-wing blog can even come close to matching (and he links other blogs a lot). Right-wing blog traffic, and the articles people tend to read on any individual right-wing blog, has a remarkable correlation to the interests of the top-right wing bloggers, and Glenn Reynolds in particular. That is why, in the title of this article, I called the right-wing blogosphere a top-down operation.
To make a long story short, the lower stickiness of top right-wing blogs compared to top left-wing blogs leads to greater message consistency in their half of the political blogosphere than in ours (I can show anyone extensive site meter statistics to prove this). This consistency helps stories from the right-wing blogosphere reach the national media more often than those from the left-wing blogosphere. This seems to mirror the left and the right in other mediums as well.

The strength of the right-wing blogs in impacting the national media does not end there. Of late, more established institutions of right-wing ideology, including Drudge and right-wing talk radio, have taken to adopting the "one big story" dominating / originating from the right-wing blogosphere. For Hugh Hewitt, it is a seamless operation, but Rush Limbaugh has gotten in on the act as well. Also, while Dailykos is by far the most trafficked political blog of any ideology, the left still lacks a "breaking news" independent website that is the equivalent to Drudge, which has a larger portion of the media's ear than any blog or group of blogs. While Air America is extremely blog friendly and experiencing consistent ratings growth, it still does not have the same institutional power to spread stories that right-wing talk radio does.

So, the right-wing blogosphere stays more on message, and has easier access to larger media outlets than the lefty-blogosphere. This is a formula to influence the national media:

"It was amazing Thursday to watch the documents story go from FreeRepublic.com, a bastion of right-wing lunacy, to Drudge to the mainstream media in less than 12 hours," said Jim Jordan, a strategist for independent Democratic groups opposed to Bush.

"That's not to say the documents didn't deserve examination. But apparently the entire thing was cooked up by a couple of amateurs on Free Republic. The speed with which it moved was breathtaking."

By Friday, articles in the Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post and other news outlets were quoting some analysts raising questions about the CBS documents, and others saying it was impossible to judge the memos' authenticity without seeing the originals.

Over the past few days, southpaws spent a lot of time countering the "forged" charges made by freepers, but you never saw any of our charges showing up in national stories on the subject. Instead, defense of the memos was left entirely to CBS news. Our successes with Trent Lott, Howard Dean and Wesley Clark were remarkable, but of late I feel that the right-wingers are outstripping us in our ability to push a big news story into the national media. The right-wing blogosphere has become integrated into the Mighty Wurlitzer, while we remain a loose confederation of outrage, analysis and action.

Now, I definitely do not want to decrease the stickiness of top-left-wing sites. I greatly prefer being part of an active community rather than dominated by a few people at the top. However, there needs to be some way that we can match, and hopefully exceed, the newfound power of the right-wing blogosphere in influencing the national media. Personally, I do not know what is to be done. It will take a group of people more creative than myself to work out a solution to this problem.

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)

Comments

28 Comments

rw blogs
Chris,

I think the vast rightwing conspiracy has been a succes to the extent that they now have most all of the corporate media whores on their side.  We have to continue to build new media from the ground up, the way Al Franken is doing it.  That's the quickest and surest route out of this mess.

by global yokel 2004-09-13 10:12AM | 0 recs
Re: rw blogs
You are probably right, but as an impatient blogger I want results now.
by Chris Bowers 2004-09-13 10:24AM | 0 recs
Re: rw blogs
Plus, I just can't stand getting beat by bloggers on the other side of the political spectrum. Those are the last people in the world to whom I want to "lose."
by Chris Bowers 2004-09-13 10:26AM | 0 recs
Stickiness
FWIW, I get most of my traffic from Kos referrals in any given month. These are presumably people clicking on his blog links to my front page, since Kos hasn't linked to a specific post in a long time. A link to a post from Atrios or Kevin Drum generally generates about two or three days' worth of high traffic (highest on Day One, dropping off afterwards).

Just my observation. I definitely agree that we don't have a delivery mechanism to the media like the wingers do. Don't know what we can do about that.

by kuff 2004-09-13 10:29AM | 0 recs
Kos links muted at MyDD
It is hard to trace the impact of Kos links on MyDD, since arond 30% of our daily traffic is generated by permanent links to MyDD on Kos's front page (House, Senate and Governor outlook, plus the glorified spot in the blogroll). As such, I imagine other blogs might have a different impact from kos links than we do.
by Chris Bowers 2004-09-13 10:37AM | 0 recs
Re: Stickiness
One thing that may contribute to the "Atrios effect" is the general terseness of Atrios's posts. When a 'Kos post links to a story, he usually includes a quote and a great deal of context, so you can get the "feel" of the linked story without having to click through. Atrios, in contrast, often posts just one or two sentences with a link, so you're pretty much forced to click through to figure out what he's talking about.
by Mathwiz 2004-09-15 07:54AM | 0 recs
Re: Right-Wing Blogosphere Growing Powerful
Couldn't BuzzFlash have the same power to be the "breaking news" site for the media that the Drudge Report is to the left? Why isn't it?
by dwbh 2004-09-13 10:48AM | 0 recs
Re: Right-Wing Blogosphere Growing Powerful
Buzzflash mostly operates from emails that are sent in, and not particularly from blogs, but from regular news. What seems to make the right very powerfully effective in terms of their using the blogosphere in these last two cases of the Swifties and the Bush documents?
by Jerome Armstrong 2004-09-13 01:05PM | 0 recs
rw bloggers
I have noticed when I put a logical rebuttal to RW
positions in a RW blog, it is there for only a few seconds and then deleted. What do you people
think about this?
by kitchingd 2004-09-13 11:22AM | 0 recs
Par for the course
It certainly wouldn't surprise me. There are exceptions, like Tacitus, but rightwingers in general are less interested in open discussion than in pushing their message.

Which makes sense, since authoritarianism is an inherent part of conservatism. To paraphrase the popular Religious Right bumper sticker, Bush says it, they believe it, and that settles it. Logic is irrelevant.

by Mathwiz 2004-09-15 08:06AM | 0 recs
Is it Drudge?
Could it all be due to Matt Drudge? He seems to have been the intermediary in the forgery flap. If the mainstream media all read Drudge looking for the next Lewinsky scoop, and Drudge posts stuff from FreeRepublic, then that's practically a hotline.
by corax 2004-09-13 11:43AM | 0 recs
Re: Is it Drudge?
Well DailyKos (in terms of traffic & concentrated effort and expansion) is becoming the FreeRepublic of the right. I think you'll see with the platform extensions that are planned there, that it becomes even more of a community site.

There is no Drudge of the left. But what we might do is get all the scoop blogs on the left together, maybe even bet Atrios, Pandagon, and BOPNews on Scoop, and do a SSO that starts linking the communities together much more strongly.

I don't think we are going to win by replicating the right, we have to think of ways to leapfrog them.

by Jerome Armstrong 2004-09-13 01:09PM | 0 recs
Several Stories from Daily Kos have migrated...
...to the "real" media.  A (apparently false) story about Henry Hyde being in poor health wound up in the Chicago Sun Times.  They got quoted in the typewrite nonsense too by somebody.  The story where a freeper played a "joke" on somebody trying to find crash space in New York for the GOP convention was picked up by ABC.
by Geotpf 2004-09-13 02:34PM | 0 recs
DailyKos
I assume you meant "the FreeRepublic of the Left," but DailyKos isn't nearly as far left as FreeRepublic is far right. ThisModernWorld.com is much more liberal, but it also gets much less traffic than DailyKos (though it has had a few Drudge-like successes).

Fitting with Chris's "stickiness" meme, thismodernworld.com isn't a very "sticky" site - it doesn't even allow comments - and it goes Atrios one better by opening off-site links in new windows by default (Atrios requires you to check a box for this behavior), which makes clicking through much more convenient (especially for IE users) - when done, you just close the window and you're back at thismodernworld.com.

by Mathwiz 2004-09-15 08:16AM | 0 recs
rw Stickiness and Drudge
I don't even have you bookmarked. I just go to Kos first and use the link on his blogroll.

I think Chris hit the nail on the head with the idea of a leftwing Drudge. I go to Drudge for breaking news.

The left needs a clearinghouse like this.

by mysteve 2004-09-13 11:48AM | 0 recs
No Mystery Here
I must be missing something.  There's no mystery here - the media and the righty blogs are on the same team.   We have AirAmerica.  We need a cable network as well.  Until that happens, we're sunk.  But when it does happen, the Wingnuts are sunk.

In the meantime, we just need to integrate our blogs state by state more efficiently.   Kevin Hayden's project at the American Street is an excellent start.  

by eRobin 2004-09-13 12:45PM | 0 recs
Re: No Mystery Here
I know it seems like the the right choice now, but I think trying to replicate the Right's message machine would be a big mistake.  That's because there's a big downside to the Mighty Wurlizter...it affects the very conservatives who are a part of it.

Remember back to 2000 when everybody on the Right thought that Bush was not just going to win, but going to blow Gore out of the water?  Why did they think that?  Because that was the message they kept repeating to try and influence late-deciders to "go with the winner".  But if you say something over and over again, you eventually start to believe it.  The day after the election you could hear how totally stunned Rush Limbaugh was that Gore actually got more votes than Bush.

The Mighty Wurlitzer is a great short term tool, but in the long run it hurts conservatives by trapping them inside their own fantasies.  Mesmerized by their own spin, the Right is going to get further and further disconnected from reality.

Mike

by MBunge 2004-09-13 12:51PM | 0 recs
The advantage of our model
The left-wing blogosphere is more powerful, but Democratic leaders aren't using it correctly.  The left-wing blogosphere's comments and especially diaries produce a copious amount of data/stories and strategy.  This does tend to decrease the capabilities of the leftwing blogosphere amplifying a small story and pushing it into the mainstream (although this did happen with Trent Lott).  However, it does create a large "collective" mind that produces a lot of information, some junk, some gems.  However, most campaigns and leaders feel that if an idea didn't come from a high priced consultant, it isn't a good idea.  This problem extends beyond just blogs: grassroots leadeers and low-level county party officials like myself spend a lot of time banging out heads against the wall, trying to get others to just listen to our ideas.  Democratic Party leaders and candidates need to see that blogs do not equal just money, but ideas.  The Dean campaign got this better than any other campaign did; unfortunately, they didn't the traditional experts around to "sort" through suggestions and much of what DFA did was limited to taking low level ideas (e.g. "Democrats Abroad for Dean" downloadable signs).

What needs to happen is for some people to in authority to start "mining" blogs for good ideas, not just cash.

by Lavoisier1794 2004-09-13 01:34PM | 0 recs
Re: The advantage of our model
This is exactly right, and exactly what the DNC needs to do to remain relevant.

The right-wing model is a Microsoft model.  Be the big player on the block, pick your message, and pound it mercilessly until everyone caves and believes that it must be right.

The counter to that is an open-source model.  Many eyes debugging whatever issue or problem is out there.  I've seen many great suggestions here, on dKos, etc., that just need someone to pick them up and run with them.  But the DNC isn't doing that.  (Winning Argument and the Center for American Progress have made some steps in the right direction.)

MoveOn had the right idea with the "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest.  Why pay expensive consultants to put together the same old political ads?  Why not have a contest with thousands of entries and use the best ones as decided by the people?  You've got built-in focus grouping.

Democrats need more of this thinking, not less.

by kenfair 2004-09-13 03:21PM | 0 recs
Key component
Something I didn't think about earlier, but which I think is a key component, is that James Taranto, the wingnut WSJ Online guy, is a big fan of Glenn Reynolds, Little Green Footballs, Steven den Beste, and so on. He's a huge vector for transmitting rightwing blog memes to the "mainstream" media.
by kuff 2004-09-13 04:05PM | 0 recs
technology inquiry
dKos has its new "Recommended Diaries" section, which is great for keeping stories from being buried. Is it possible to create a multi-blog "Recommended Diaries"? In essence to have high stickiness and high linkage simultaneously.
by patch in bklyn 2004-09-13 04:34PM | 0 recs
Re: technology inquiry
Yea, we eventually will do that with scoop sites, across the platforms.
by Jerome Armstrong 2004-09-13 04:55PM | 0 recs
non-technology inquiry
Are we identifying 'blog-friendly' politicians? The blogs are funneling money to challengers, but do we know sitting politicians who are aware of and actually read blogs? Are the big time bloggers in contact with their own local political representatives?
by patch in bklyn 2004-09-13 04:40PM | 0 recs
Promotional Chat on the Internet
Look up David Godes and Dina Mayzlin for their research in Word of Mouth buzz generation on the internet.

I think they have a model that suggest that if you big time alist bloggers can get some of your influencal commenters to spread out and post to other lesser or b list blogs you can effect the addoption of opinion formation better. It shows that the Reach is more important than the frequency.

"The coefficient of entropy of .577 implies that a change in the distribution of post to an even split between two news groups (10 post each) would yeild an entropy of .693 and would be associated with an estimated increase of approximately 75,00 viewers for the next episode"

She is analysing the news groups alt.tv and using Nielson ratings to determine future sales caused from buss or word of mouth activity on the internet.

I think you are on target to the stickyness. Less sticky means more reach and I guess higher entropy, whatever that is.

Any it is an interesting read. I found the pdf's by a simple google search on Dian Mayzlin.

It realy doesn't matter what's true or not true its now about openion formation.

I guess today you will start to see polls of the regerstered document experts showing a tie but the likely document experts showing a 10 point lead on frake over real.

nice work keep it up.

by StephenDulaney 2004-09-15 12:00PM | 0 recs
right/left blog ecology
Really nice job on this topic!
If I may offer a couple of ideas to the mix...
The top/down nature of the rightist blogs is a reflection of their overall perception of the medium  as a broadcast tool, whereas the leftist part of the blogosphere is more of a communication network that is much more responsive to feedback and receptive to diversity of opinion.

This distinction is key to the efficiency in delivery of simple, compact messages from the right where the bigheads do all the idea lifting and dissemination.  The risk here is if their prognostication is off-target (ex. the war analysis), they are painstakenly trapped in the support they promote for their ideas from the beginning.  Thus, they do not recover well from mistaken analysis and ride crises out with their sad cognitive dissonance.  

The left's message delivery is burdened by multi-faceted perspectives and heterogeneous voices that can leave an uninformed observer overwhelmed in the beginning.  However, once one moves to a dynamic view of this process the left's ability to evolve and adapt is clearly the more desirable system in terms of informing its base and developing shall we say "shock-resistant" strains of knowledge.

At present it may appear that the right enjoys an advantage in the battle between these two systems but I believe this is really an artifact of the short attention spans that have been cultivated by the previous media of message delivery.  

by self 2004-09-16 09:21PM | 0 recs
Hey Chris
I posted a traffic test at kos in the diaries to test your theory. I hope you can look at it and see if it has and impact. I can update it as needed.

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2004/9/20/34329/7533

by Davinci 2004-09-19 11:46PM | 0 recs
My suggestion
Perhaps you guys, along with kos, atrios, and any other popular left-wing blog owners who want to participate, should consider creating a coordinated and centralized weblog to push left-wing stories and talking points? You could even make it a members only setup where invitations are sent out to trusted left-wing bloggers to view the content to push, but not participate in the creation of it. It would be like a private wire for the left. Or perhaps a left-wing hotline for top stories of the day.

This is an interesting topic and I think you're on to something important here. My view is that the biggest problem for the left isn't it's lack of talking points, but rather it's lack of organized mediums to push it's information. The talking points need a lot of work also, but the lack of good mediums is the bigger issue. I don't consider it a coincidence that the media picked up the right's version of the CBS memo's so quickly as it did.

by rob 2004-09-20 03:40AM | 0 recs
Re: My suggestion
Btw, another reason for the members only setup is to make the intended audience feel special and part of the system. If they feel included then they're more likely to help out by making an effort to push the stories offered.
by rob 2004-09-20 03:43AM | 0 recs

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