Yet More on the Two Spheres

This post is not as well formed as I usually like to post, but I am in a hurray. This is because I will be discussing this topic tomorrow on The Brad Show, from 10-11 eastern Saturday. There will be an open thread about the show over at the Brad Blog.Of course, you may also use this thread to discuss the show.--Chris

Patrick Ruffini, who was the Bush-Cheney webmaster is 2004, is the latest conservative to weigh in on my piece from last Sunday, Aristocratic Right Wing Blogosphere Stagnating. Ruffini's two-fold response is pretty much the same as the others. First, he claims that the rising traffic of the liberal blogosphere is not a problem, and then he goes on to argue against my characterization of the right-wing blogger community while taking mock offense.

When it comes to the question of "community," Rufinni's basic argument is that right-wing bloggers link each other more than left-wing bloggers:Bowers' finding is not unrelated to the results of the BlogPulse study of blog linkage in Campaign 2004:

Even though numbers of blogs were fairly balanced, conservative blogs showed a greater tendency to link to other blogs (84% linked to other blogs, 82% received a link) compared to liberal blogs (74% linked to other blogs, 67% received a link).

Bowers trashes the consrvative blogosphere as "aristocratic" and "anti-meritocratic." But if anything, the tables are now turned. Ironically, it is the liberal blogosphere that has adopted the more corporate, top-down approach to blogging: to be heard, you must go to Kos, Atrios, and Josh Marshall.(...)

Conservative blogs may be smaller, but they are more densely interconnected. Conversation on conservative blogs is just as likely to happen between blogs as within them. In fact, I've noticed a unique phenomenon emerging right here: quite often, my number of trackbacks rivals, and sometimes exceeds, the number of comments. In terms of solid, valuable interaction, trackbacks are pure gold: they tell you that someone thought enough of your post not just to respond to it on a seldom-read comments page or diary, but to give it prime real estate in their personal space, all the while sending visitors your way.

I have several responses to this. First, the difference the BlogPulse study cites between the linking tendencies of liberal blogs and conservative blogs is not very large: 84/82 to 74/67. It certainly is not as large as the 65% (and growing) gap in traffic between the left and right wings of the political blogosphere that I found. Second, this is a one-off study that does not demonstrate any trends. In the nearly eight months since the end of the time period the study focused on, we do not know whether this gap has increased, decreased, or stayed the same. For that matter, we do not know what things were like before the period of the BlogPulse study. Many things have changed in the blogosphere just since November 2nd, and there is no reason whatsoever to assume that what the blogosphere was like in the autmn of 2004 is what it is still like in the summer of 2005.

More to the point, however, I do not think this even matters. My post was based on traffic stats that I check on a semi-regular basis. I know for certain that the audience of the left-wing blogosphere is growing at a faster rate than the audience of the right-wing blogosphere. I do not know for certain why the left-wing blogosphere is growing faster--the difference between the communities was merely a hypothesis. Since that time, commenters on the left and the right have rightly argued that I do not have enough data to prove if the community sites are in fact the main engine of left-wing growth, and that the anti-comment sites on the right are the ones that are stagnating. I do intend to look into that, however.

I do not know for certain the cause of the relatively greater growth of the left-wing blogosphere, but I do know that it is happening. The audience of the left-wing blogosphere is already larger, is growing faster, and is more politically engaged in the right-wing blogosphere. In no particular order, here are some points relating to these topics.

Size
In my latest survey, I found that among the top two-hundred political blogs, those that can be categorized as "left-leaning" receive around four million page views per week more than those that can be catergorized as "right-leaning." Rufinni argues that "if you put Blogads on Free Republic, which played the crucial role in opening up Rathergate, the traffic equation would look quite different." Of course it would, but it would also change if you put Blogads up on Democratic Underground as well. If one were to compare the page views of the two sites, which is the same measurement Blogads uses, than Free Republic, while larger, certainly does not receive anywhere near four million more page views a week than Democratic Underground. It is also interesting to note in that link that traffic on Free Republican is about one-third of what it was two years ago.

In terms of traffic, Dailykos and Glenn Reynolds are no longer comparable

In both the article and the comments below it, Ruffini and others compare Dailykos to Glenn Reynolds. While it is true that both sites are the highest trafficked on their respective sides of the political blogosphere, consistent comparisons of the two sites can often seve to mute the growing chasm between the two. Sometime I wonder if conservatives are really aware of just how large Dailykos has become.

In July of 2003, Instapundit had three times the traffic of Dailykos. Now, Dailykos has four times the traffic of Instapundit. In fact, Dailykos, has more traffic (3,002,558 page views per week) than Glenn Reynolds, Little Green Footballs, Powerline, Michelle Malkin, Andrew Sullivan and Hugh Hewitt combined (2,965,460 page views per week). There is simply no blog comparable to Dailykos on the conservative side of the blogosphere.

New Stars Rising

Rufinni consistently talks about Dailykos, Atrios, and Josh Marshall as the end-all be all of liberal blogging. Coudld he be any more behind the times? The long-standing superstars of the right wing blogosphere might think of Dailykos, Atrios, Josh Marshall and Kevin Drum as their equals, but it is particularly interesting to compare several new Democratic blogs to the established right-wing stars:

According to Blogads, these five new liberal blogs account 2,280,857 page views per week. By way of further comparison to the newness of these sites, Little green Footballs moved to its current blog platform on February 7, 2001. While big new conservative sites such as Michelle Malkin and Polipundit are appearing, comparatively more high traffic liberal sites are coming into being. For every conservative blogging superstar, whether new or old, there is both a new and an old liberal blog to match it.

Total number of blogs

It is also interesting to note that among the seventy-four most trafficked blogs, thirty-seven are liberal and thirty-seven are conservative. It is only among blogs 75 and up that the conservative advantage in total number of blogs begins to kick in. Further, from blogs ranked 165 and above, there are equal numbers of liberal and conservative blogs. The conservative advantage in total number of blogs exists entirely within the 75-165 range. That might be useful for growth later on, but right now it is not clear that it offers any advantage whatsoever.

Traffic sharing

If conservatives share more traffic than liberal sites, as Ruffini argues, wouldn't that actually make the comparative size of the liberal blogosphere even larger than my estimation?

Democratic Blog Readers are More Politically Engaged Than Republican Blog Readers

In an attempt to make the issue of blogosphere size and growth not seem important, Ruffini suggests that the traffic on right-wing blogs is superior, and that the growth on left-wing sites is coming from dubious sources:

First, to what extent is Kos cannibalizing non-blog traffic from message boards and stealing from venues like DU? The left tends to dominate the baser forms of online community -- just look at Yahoo's message boards. Is Kos just moving to that space? Now, let me state that from an online strategy perspective, what he's done is perfectly desirable -- he's consolidated a whole bunch of activity that used to be on disparate sites onto his own site (for which he now charges $35,000 a quarter for Blogads). But that doesn't tell us how effective he's been. And I think it's the case with the left that they've acquired a bazooka, but thus far they've aimed it squarely at themselves.

The study also includes sites like SmirkingChimp and MeFi, not exactly a hopping joint for influentials and opinion makers.

This is both pure speculation and nonsense. According to the 2005 Blogads research survey, on every measure of political engagement, self-identifying Democratic blog readers either equaled or surpassed self-identifying Republican blog readers (look halfway down the page on both links). It is kind of amusing that the only area where Republicans have something resembling an actual advantage is "Made a Speech," since that ties nicely into the point Iw as trying to make in the original post.

* * * Anyway, I got stuff to do before the show tonight. I'll have more on this tomorrow.

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)

Comments

15 Comments

Excellent
I'm so happy you're going to be on the Brad Show tomorrow night! I'm a regular listener and it's a great show!

People like you, Brad, Kos, etc are directly responsible for allowing the mostly ignored majority to have a voice and you're changing the direction of media in this country, which as we all know is essential for anything else to change.

Thank you Chris, and can't wait to hear you tomorrow night!

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by jen 2005-06-17 03:32PM | 0 recs
A small point
I think it might be a little too soon to use TPMCafe. We don't know if its current traffic is going to sustain (although I think it will) or if its still residual from the launch. Basically I'd feel more comfortable with a longer trendline than 2 weeks. But that is a pretty minor comparrison.

I think a good illustration of the right-sphere is more like a frat, whose memebers contact each other regularly, but who take greater time to admit new "frat brothers" as it were.

by MNPundit 2005-06-17 04:36PM | 0 recs
DU
Wow, I didn't know DU's traffic was that high. Its pretty close to Free Repblic.

I think the key difference is Scoop. Scoop blogs are just so much better, as they can develop a much more orderly/communitarian ethos that also leads to many good spinoff blogs.

Ben P

by Ben P 2005-06-17 04:57PM | 0 recs
Although the data now is slim
I think you are on to something.  I've really enjoyed reading your article on the two spheres and spent some time reading the right wing blog responses.  FWIW your ideas fit very well with the impressions I've had.  That's not of much value as data, I know, but still.

It seems to me that your idea ties in with the left leaning sphere being more pro-science.  The communities of bloggers function, to a large extent, as an internal forum for testing ideas and subjecting them to critical review by a fairly friendly audience before they are put out for more public consumption.  This is in fact very much similar to the way that scientific ideas are first debated within a lab or a close group of colleagues prior to being presented at a conference or in a paper (and I do speak from experience.)  

Having read some of the right wing responses to your post, it is interesting to note the extent to which the right wing disdains this approach.  Indeed, I also note that Bower's preferred metric is how often people track back to his comments.  But that provides no direct critical review.  That is just a measure of how many people liked what you wrote without providing any indication of what were the strengths and weaknesses of your post and how it could be improved upon.  It is that critical review that is essential developing truly valuable ideas.

You are correct to say that the data are still weak, however, I believe that you are on to something here.  It would be worth someone's while to watch the way traffic continues to change, how the communities develop and come up with better metrics for monitoring it.   Keep up the good work.

by 8051FSW 2005-06-17 07:10PM | 0 recs
Trackbacks v Comments
Trackbacks are preferred because they indicated spotlighting. This is perfectly consistent with the right wing's propaganda model.

Comments are disdained because they are not much read. (Hello! wasn't this closely connected to Chris's original point--that it's the interaction from below, creating community, that's the driving force on the left?) This is perfectly consistent with the right wing's disdain for dialogue.

I think their slip is showing.

by Paul Rosenberg 2005-06-18 02:28AM | 0 recs
BRad show Brad show
EXcellent Excellent!!
by turnerbroadcasting 2005-06-17 07:14PM | 0 recs
Left & Progressive Blogs
I really would like to see a concerted effort on the part of leading Left and Progressive Blogs to address the "diversity" issue.  You look at the pictures of our conventions -- forums and all, and yep -- our diversity stands out.  Women and racial and ethnic minorities are included.  But in the Blog World there are simply too many instances where it is nearly an all male club.  Now I realize (and read) women's blogs that assume a particular feminist perspective, but what I don't find is women featured as regulars on the blogs that draw multi-eyes.  I was particularly disappointed with Josh Marshall's line up in this respect.  I am decidedly NOT suggesting that women's issues necessarily come to be featured on Lib and Progressive Blogs -- what I see is a different problem, that of integrating women into all the issues, as regular columnists.  The same thing also goes to other minority classes.  
by Sara 2005-06-17 10:23PM | 0 recs
Re: Left & Progressive Blogs
Good points. There are a lot of said blogs out there, certainly with women, they just haven't been able to "break through" into the most recognizable and most trafficked zones of the blogsphere.

Booman Tribune foregrounds a lot of female voices. As to minorities, I think this is more a problem. I think in part it is a product of the digital divide, but I think there are a lot of African Americans around, I just think the nature of the issues discussed/of the discussion itself tends to skew itself towards the worldview of young to middle-aged white middle class folks. Its definetly something bloggers should be more sensitive of - I do think Chris does a relatively good job in this regard, although he probably could improve in places.

Basically, though, I think a lot of bloggers just operate in a discourse style that is what is most natural to them, and this ends up having a self-perpetuating effect, as those who are most comfortable with the blogosphere's discursive style - that of secular white middle-class males, be they liberal or conservative - stick around, while those aren't don't or don't participate to as great a degree.

by Ben P 2005-06-18 12:47AM | 0 recs
Liberal blogs are more diverse
One thing I notice about the blogs mentioned is that the leftist blogs are very different from each other in both style and content.  The conservative blogs mentioned, those I've looked at anyway, are much less diverse.  Diversity is often derided as a weakness but this is short sighted.  Diversity might be harder to pull off but it is stronger, when all is said AND done.  

It might be added that the right wing has the entire cable and broadcast media but that seems to be losing its audience too.  Maybe it's just because unless you are rich, white and greedy conservatism doesn't have staying power.  

Look at the prices of books on the remainders table and which ones keep their value.

by EnochW 2005-06-18 02:31AM | 0 recs
What's the point?
Seems a lot of the argument comes back to "whos is bigger"?  But how important is that, compared to the ideas discussed and the quality of discussion?

I guess it's too hard to measure the quality of articles and comments.

Too bad there's not a rationality scope that can measure a site's rationality.

by technomage 2005-06-18 04:16AM | 0 recs
Metrics
Quality, by definition, cannot be quantified.  If you could it would be quantitative knowledge.  ;-)

An a priori metric of Rationality could be assigned if one limits the assessment criteria to the correct deployment of Formal and Informal deductive and inductive arguments.  (My consumption of conservative argumentation leads me to predict, due to their habit of ignoring the distinction between the Universal and Existential quantifiers, the conservative blogs wouldn't fare well under this examination.) The suggested procedure would be a tremendous undertaking and the results would be at least 6 months out of date when the study is concluded, intimating it's not worth the effort.  

by ATinNM 2005-06-18 11:49AM | 0 recs
Liberal blogs more important to liberals
In just over 10 years the GOp has not only gotten a semi-permanent grip on the House but also controls the White House, the Senate, the federal courts, and most important of all the traditional media.

Lefties go to the blogs more, at least in part, because afyer the creation of Fox and Fox News and the rightward skeweing of the networks, CNN, and MSNBC, it is simply more needed than right-wing nlogs are.

by David Kowalski 2005-06-18 06:04AM | 0 recs
Raw Story is NOT as blog
Raw Story is a news portal.

If you are going to count Raw Story as a blog, then you also have to count The Drudge Report as a blog.

by Eric Jaffa 2005-06-18 11:50AM | 0 recs
Might have a point here...
Ironically, it is the liberal blogosphere that has adopted the more corporate, top-down approach to blogging: to be heard, you must go to Kos, Atrios, and Josh Marshall...

I agree with his general point here except his wording could've been better. It does seem that in order for a start-up leftwing blog to get traffic, they first have be diarists either here or at DailyKos. Then and only then can the diarist start up their own seperate blog and thus achieve traffic. It's like a meritocracy -- first be diarist, attract a following of sorts, then launch a seperate blog. I find it quite stiffling and unfortunate. Then again, I'm biased -- after 7 years of following my own rules, I don't wanna to be subjected to someone else's (no offense to anyone - it's just conformity has never been one of my fine traits and never will be). If that means my "launch blog first" approach is that much more of a pain in the ass in terms of gaining traffic, fine by me. I'm not complaining about the lack of traffic at my corner of the world. In fact, I'm kind of nervous of gaining a lot of traffic at my blog because I'm afriad I would be put in the position to hammer out alot of material on a consistant basis to justify it. I don't work that way. Billmon and I share one thing in common when it comes to writing: it's both a curse and blessing. On one hand, it's very theraputic but on the other, it can be a big pain in the ass. Writing is like trying to make good food -- if you hurry the oven, the dish is unpalatable.

by Sizemore 2005-06-18 03:48PM | 0 recs
good!!!!!!
The most important thing is a series of development in life, so we must make great efforts to create everything !Yes,I think something has project that !I like it !thank you very much!
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by hexm 2005-09-15 01:38AM | 0 recs

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