Yet More on the Two Spheres
by Chris Bowers, Fri Jun 17, 2005 at 03:14:04 PM EDT
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.
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.
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:
- Raw Story, founded in February of 2004, has traffic equal to Instapundit (right now, actually more), which was founded before September 11th.
- Americablog, founded on April 23, 2004, has traffic equal to Powerline, which was founded on May 25, 2002.
- TPM Café, founded on May 27, 2005, has traffic equal to Michelle Malkin, which was founded last June.
- Crooks and Liars, which opened on August 7, 2004, has more traffic than Andrew Sullivan, which is several years old.
- BooMan Tribune, founded on March 11, 2005, has more traffic than Hugh Hewit, which started in January of 2003.
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.
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.