Conservative Blog Sprawl Is A Serious Threat To Progressive Blogosphere Dominance

Last month, I posted an article entitled Aristocratic Right-Wing Blogosphere Stagnating. Among other things, the article noted that while left wing blogs received significantly more total traffic than right-wing blogs, there were actually significantly more right-wing blogs in existence. This article takes a closer look at this phenomenon, which in all likelihood provides the lefty blogosphere with more influence nationally, but allows the righty blogosphere with greater local influence. This is a real problem that progressives should be aware of, and which we need to build infrastructure to deal with.
For starters, I should note that this is the most comprehensive survey I have ever done of blogosphere traffic. This is because I wanted to examine the deeper regions of the political blogosphere--the blogosphere sprawl--rather than just those blogs with the most traffic. For the survey, I looked at the two hundred and fifty most trafficked, politically focused blogs on the Blogads traffic rankings that could be justifiably classified as either "right" or "left" wing. According to my survey, the 103 of those blogs that could best be described as leftist or left-leaning had a total of 10,354,755 page views per week. By contrast, the 147 blogs that could be justifiably classified as "rightist" or "right-wing," totaled 6,833,019 page views a week. This amounts to a 51.5% advantage for the left-wing blogs, which is slightly lower than the 62.7% advantage I found last month. Some of this change can be accounted for more right-wing blogs singing up with blogads since early June. Some of this change has to do with expanding my search from the top two hundred to the top two hundred and fifty. Some of this change also has to do with right-wing blogs very slightly closing the traffic gap on left-wing blogs. I am not sure to what degree each of these three factors played a role.

More importantly, what I did find was an undeniable conservative advantage in conservative blogosphere sprawl outside the top sixty-six blogs. Looking at all 250 blogs in my study, here is how each group of ten breaks down by ideology:

	  Lib	 Con
1-10	   6	  4
11-20	   5	  5
21-30	   7	  3 
31-40	   6	  4
41-50	   4	  6
51-60	   2	  8
61-70	   2	  8
71-80	   4	  6
81-90	   3	  7
91-100	   5	  5
101-110    6	  4
111-120    7	  3
121-130    3	  7
131-140    3	  7
141-150    6	  4
151-160    3	  7
161-170    5	  5
171-180    1	  9
181-190    1	  9
191-200    3	  7
201-210    3	  7
211-220    4	  6
221-230    5	  5
231-240    4	  6
241-250    5	  5
(How to read this chart: there were six liberal blogs and four conservative blogs in the top ten of all blogs, five liberal blogs and five conservative blogs in the second ten of all blogs, etc.)

Of the top sixty-six blogs, thirty-three were liberal and thirty-three were conservative. However, from 67-250, only seventy were liberal while one hundred and fourteen were conservative. That is almost exactly a fifty-percent conservative edge in terms of total number. Even without these numbers, the chart makes it obvious that conservatives dominate outside of the top forty or so.

Now, looking individually at each blogosphere, compare the traffic of each grouping of ten blogs relative to the overall traffic total of their respective ideological blogosphere:

	    Lib      Con
1-10	   69.0%     54.6%
11-20	   14.4%     14.2%
21-30	    7.5%      8.4%
31-40	    3.0%      6.3%
41-50	    2.0%      4.0%
51-60	    1.6%      3.2%
61-70	    1.1%      2.2%
71-80	    0.8%      1.9%
81-90	    0.4%      1.4%
91-100	    0.3%*     1.2%
101-110     NA	      1.0%
111-120     NA	      0.8%
121-130     NA	      0.6%
130-147     NA	      0.7%
(* = 91-103)
(How to read this chart: The ten most trafficked liberal blogs received 69.0% of all liberal blog traffic, while the ten most trafficked conservative blogs received 54.6% of all conservative traffic. The second ten most trafficked liberal blogs received 14.4% of all liberal blog traffic, while the second ten most conservative blogs received 14.2% of all conservative traffic, etc.)

The conservative advantage in smaller blog traffic is tremendous. In fact, for blogs ranked 67-250, conservatives hold a whopping 1,469,730 to 861,827 weekly page view lead over progressive blogs (70.5%). Even more stunningly, the conservative blogs ranked 67-250 make up 21.5% of all conservative blogosphere traffic, while the liberal blogs ranked 67-250 make up only 8.3% of all liberal blogosphere traffic--a five to two edge in favor of conservatives. Clearly, smaller blogs are a much, much more important part of the conservative blogosphere than they are a part of the liberal blogosphere.

Now, right now you may be asking why this is important. Who cares if conservatives are leading among smaller blogs--that means that liberal blogs have an even larger lead among large blogs, right? While that is certainly true, it is also true that the smaller a blog tends to be, the more locally focused it tends to be. For a party obsessed with running a a fifty-state strategy, and with a midterm election coming up where all politics are indeed local, an edge among small, local, political blogs also means an edge in small, local, political races. While progressives may be taking a decisive edge in general blogosphere discourse, it could also be argued that conservatives are taking a decisive advantage in targeted blogging that will provide them with real, tangible benefits in the 2005-2006 elections.

Pennsylvania is an excellent example of this problem. Philadelphia is arguably the nation's lefty blogging capital. With at least fifteen of the one-hundred and three lefty blogs in this study, not to mention ten of the top fifty most trafficked left wing blogs, you would think that local Pennsylvania blogs are dominated by liberals, right? Wrongo. The only two sites in the blogads traffic rankings that were dedicated solely to Pennsylvania statewide politics were Grassroots PA and Keystone politics, both of which are conservative blogs. Much the same can be said for Politics PA, which does not use BlogAds. Even in a region steeped in popular left wing blogs, conservatives ruled the local political blogging scene. Don't even get Matt Stoller started on the superior strength of local conservative web log rings.

To a certain extent, this is probably the result of several large progressive blogs offering quick and easy ways to take part in large communities, something that is not found nearly as often on large right-wing blogs. Why start a local blog when you can just have a diary on Dailykos? Whatever the cause, however, this is a serious problem that progressives must both accept and face. Certainly there are some very good local lefty blogs communities, but overall local blogging is dominated by conservatives. The Thune bloggers are just one example of the impact this can have on a campaign. If we do not invest our time, energy and monetary resources into building a superior local blog infrastructure to conservatives, the advantage of our overall traffic lead will be significantly muted. It is almost as though Democratic electoral problems with suburbs and exurbs are being repeated in the blogosphere. We dominate the big cities, but are getting whacked outside of them. If we are truly going to build a better blogosphere, progressives must respond to rapidly expanding conservative blog sprawl.

Tags: Blogosphere (all tags)



Think globally, click locally?
So dKos is Manhatten? What is Powerline--the I-4 corridor? Its an interesting analogy. Maybe liberals are inherently more comfortable in diverse settings, whereas conservatives only want to associate with people like themselves and this extends to geography. Maybe its time for MyDD Pennsylvania or whatever. Just like a newspaper with national and local sections. Seems easier than building new sites from scratch. Plus, I feel like there are already too many blogs to keep up with. It would be nice to have it in one place.  
by TJonBergman 2005-07-07 03:03PM | 0 recs
Re: Think globally, click locally?
Booman Tribune, another Scoop site, has begun to try to do what you are suggesting. It has open thread sections devoted to the West, Midwest, South, East, and non-US. It also has a recommended diaries section for just the non-US entries (though no comparable thing for the regions that I have seen). The "world" section has been so successful that it recently spun-off its own blog, European Tribune. I think that extending what Booman has done would be a great idea. It also works very well in the context of one-stop shopping for both your national and local news.
by ltsply2 2005-07-07 03:30PM | 0 recs
So how do we share the wealth?
Thanks for doing this!

I'm a proponent of "smaller is better," and I appreciate the need for promoting local blogs.  Perhaps some of the big blog folks could do like you have done and have a section of the blog roll on state blogs.  And not just Joe or Suzie's blog because they happen to live in state X and have a blog, but blogs that are connected to or committed to a state or local progressive community or perspective.

A modest share of my blog hits come from my listing on MyDD, thank you.  But this is the only blog bigger than a teeny one where I am linked.  I'm not sure that anyone else even has a listing like you have here.

Also, I think of Mick Arran's Dispatch from the Trenches.  That dude rocks on labor-related issues; he probably gets fewer hits than I do.

by Steve Hill 2005-07-07 03:15PM | 0 recs
Re: So how do we share the wealth?
I have to throw in a ditto on Mick.  He's actually got a non-labor specific blog as well:  Arran's Alley.

He writes a ton, and it's almost all smart.  Someone should be paying him.

by paperwight 2005-07-07 04:53PM | 0 recs
State party blogs
Do the stats show how well the state party blogs (if any)do in the traffic department?  And is there any info regarding the Repub state party blogs versus Dems?  Would it help if the individual state parties started blogs and if so could that be organized thru DNC?  If so, then possibly the county parties or local politicians might be able to get into the act.  
by Demo Dan in Dayton 2005-07-07 03:38PM | 0 recs
Re: State party blogs
Completely depends on content.  If a state party blog is updated regularly and makes an effort to publicize itself, it can be visited very reguarly.  If it's stagnant, like the Mass Dems blog became, then it won't have anyone looking at it.
by sco 2005-07-08 05:27AM | 0 recs
Re: State party blogs
The NCDP blog is doing a good job.  Schorr Johnson puts up lots of new links and news.  The number of comments is next to none, but the blog is new and they aren't giving up.

They could use the support of other blogs.

by Robert P 2005-07-08 10:35AM | 0 recs
Would it be possible.....
to develope a listing of progressive blogs by local communities and post them in one cental location?  I'm willing to work parts of North Texas.
by pessullivan 2005-07-07 04:23PM | 0 recs
Three Thoughts
  1.  Scoop is a great product, but it creates gated communities.  That's awesome for for those who generate those communities (the early adopters in particular), but it does tend to create a certain amount of insularity.

  2.  Given the community-driven nature of Scoop sites, it seems to me that it's hard to identify which blogs are top blogs on the left.  How would you count all of the diarists?  Group blogs have maybe 10 or 20 contributors.  DKOS has, what, thousands?

  3.  Is BlogAds really the right source?  I have a low-traffic blog (most of the time), and I've deliberately chosen not to seek advertising so far.  I'm lucky, in that the hosting fees have been my only expense, and my life is arranged so that I can cover that very easily while still makeing a decent living.
by paperwight 2005-07-07 04:51PM | 0 recs
Re: Three Thoughts
Paperwight: I second the concern about BlogAds, especially once you get into lower-traffic sites. I write for Obsidian Wings, and we don't do BlogAds, mostly, I think, because the costs are limited (TypePad fees), and why bother? I just checked a few sites I visit at random: no BlogAds on: Legal Fiction, Slacktivist, Pharyngula, Sadly, No!, Here's What's Left, or Beautiful Horizons. There are Blogads on: Majikthise and Rox Populi.

I don't particularly claim that one can draw major conclusions from a sample of eight, but it actually surprised me that the dominance of no-Blogads sites was that large.

So here's a question: is there any reason to think that, of the political blogs ranked, say, 100-500, conservatives would be more likely than liberals to do Blogads?

by hilzoy 2005-07-08 05:50AM | 0 recs
About #3
There may be a reason that left wing blogs are more (or less) likely to sign up for BlogAds than right wing ones (as opposed to running non-blog specific ad services, like the one run by Google, or running no ads at all).  That could produce statstical error.
by Geotpf 2005-07-08 09:38AM | 0 recs
Just a couple of points
Hi- I'm new around here. I have a little bit of experience with the liberal blogosphere because I maintain What She Said! which is a resource for progressive women bloggers. The blogroll lists over 500 progressive women who blog politics, and I recently added a conservative women's list, which is maintained by another volunteer.

 I just want to point out that the blogads listings may not give an accurate, or even representative,  picture of the liberal blogosphere. My empirical data leads me to believe that the Left is about a 5 -1 female to male ratio. Because everyone links to the same few blogs that have been blessed by the MSM, the links aren't really indicative of who people are reading and how often.

I do agree that we need to be more organized. I don't know that much about right wing blogs, but the few I've seen have been crap, or they've been fronts for Republican activist groups or pr firms. I could be wrong, but I haven't seen much in between.

If we could organize the liberals into a functional web that can effectively "blogswarm" a given issue, we'd have tremendous influence in media and in government. If you look at the various special interests, we outnumber the Right. The liberal blogosphere theoretically should attract women, gays, blacks, Muslims, Pagans, Buddhists, and any other minorities you can mention as well as most moderates or centrists.

The Right appeals primarily to the very wealthy, and  white evangelicals. Sorry to use such sweeping generalizations, but my point is that solidarity is the key to everything. Even factoring in all the over-lap and exceptions, we should still easily have a numerical advantage.

We've let our diversity work against us. If we splinter into single issue groups, we're buried. It's that simple. Not that I'm saying they shouldn't exist, just that when we act, we need to act together. An effectively woven web of divergent causes would be unstoppable.

What do you think?

by Morgaine Swann 2005-07-07 05:19PM | 0 recs
Re: Just a couple of points
The blogads rankigns givbe a very accurate picture of traffic. That is why I use them. That is the purpose of Blogads, as it is the purpose of any advertising agency: to determine who and how many people are consuming what. That the blogads ranking sconform very closely to sitemeter's page view rankings is not a coincidence either.
by Chris Bowers 2005-07-07 05:32PM | 0 recs
Re: Just a couple of points
Chris, it gives a very accurate picture of blogs that use blogads.  When dealing with blogs on the local level, there are likely to be many that do no have these ads.
by sco 2005-07-08 05:29AM | 0 recs
Re: Just a couple of points
Morgaine and others:

To me a critical point is the presence of LOCAL blogs, more than issue (e.g. environmental) or demographic (gender, religion, etc) focused blogs.

Interesting that Chris would post this item today.  Just yesterday a reporter who reads my blog called to talk about the MD blogosphere.  He was very familiar with Maryland political blogs, and pointed out that there were more conservative blogs and that they got much more traffic.

This, in a pretty solidly blue state.  He was asking me why there was such an imbalance here.  I didn't have an answer (except to agree, that my blog can get some pretty light traffic if I'm not out directing people to it--which I do).

One follow up question for Chris if you dig deeper:  Is there a difference between liberal and conservative blogs based on how many of them have some kind of organizational support vs. those that are just maintained by a committed group of individuals.  I wouldn't be surprised if the lightly traveled liberal blogs were more likely to be standalone bloggers, whereas the conservative blogs were more likely to be directed to an audience that was somehow already affiliated with a conservative organization.

I dig this stuff.  Reason number 48 that I love MyDD.

by Steve Hill 2005-07-07 06:59PM | 0 recs
It is up to locals to organize back...
In Montana, our liberal blogosphere is fairly strong, arguably stronger than the conservative blogs. That's partly because we occasionally discuss and communicate backchannel stronger maneuvering. It's partly because the flagship conservative blog recently shut down. And this, of course, is in a red state. One of the reasons we're strong in Montana is that I've gotten a lot of connections in my 2-and-a-half years writing and picked up some national attention. I also work in a relatively concerted way to raise the profile of other liberal bloggers in Montana. This is one of the oldest rules of organizing. We've got to nurture our netroots. If we think we need to do a better job of organizing locals, then we need to start working harder highlighting the very potent local and regional blogs that we've got.
by Left in the West 2005-07-07 07:18PM | 0 recs
Same with the Texas folks
Very organized and effective liberal blogosphere in Texas.

People have to take responsibility for organizing their states. It can be done, and is done. I think Montana and Texas offer two superb case studies in how to get it done.

by kos 2005-07-07 09:49PM | 0 recs
...Also worth noting
Resources like BlogPAC's regional and state-level aggregators are extremely useful on this front. Often, national blogs comment on state-level races, directing people to state-level blogs would be good on those races.
by Left in the West 2005-07-07 07:43PM | 0 recs
Are these numbers meaningful?
I'm not convinced that we can draw such definite conclusions from blogads rankings.  Do they really mean there are more conservative local blogs?  Or do they just mean that right wing blogs are more likely to be ad-supported?  I don't know how to answer that question, but I did quickly look at most of the state and local lefty blogs I tend to read here in Massachusetts, and confirmed that, indeed, none of them have ads:
Blue Mass Group
Frederick Clarkson
The Progressive Blog

All of these blogs mix coverage of national topics with state and local ones, but they are regular sources of state and local coverage for those who read them - exactly the kinds of blogs you're talking about.

by cos 2005-07-07 08:07PM | 0 recs
some attempts
Here are the attempts I have made at filling in the void.

Political News State by State  

and the blogs by state list:

Let me know about your blogs and what state or county you are in and I'll add you to one of the two areas. is coming along nicely

I'm setting up a top 20 and top 50 as well.

by goplies 2005-07-07 10:31PM | 0 recs
I think that a better way than local blogs is the whole one place for all local politics idea (with the ability to filter by state and user).

Such a system would allow for a lot more organization and ease of use in my opinion.

Ideally also I think that such a system would be good for getting local politicians to post like on dkos.

by sterra 2005-07-08 04:45AM | 0 recs
Re: localpolitics
BlogPAC actually does this state by state, with RSS feeds.
by paperwight 2005-07-08 07:18AM | 0 recs
SoapBlox is now focusing on Local Blogs
SoapBlox is a new software startup that has scoop-like software that is much easier to install and use.

SoapBlox now has four local SoapBloxes in the beginning stages of creation. SoapBlox/Chicago is farthest along in the process followed by OhioWatch and SoapBlox/Colorado. New on the list is AustinInfo.

None of us have blogads yet. But we are definately in the forefront of local blogging. This software was featured in an article here when it was called "jScoop".

I'll alert Pacified the create know about this post and he'll fill in some more info.

by Jeff Wegerson 2005-07-08 08:03AM | 0 recs
Jo Fish had a post listing the young Dems who put up blogs for various Universities and Democrat State organizations.
by Mr Murder 2005-07-08 08:37AM | 0 recs
Blogs vs Diaries
This is just further to my interpretation of Chris' posts on this subject:

Conservatives call them "blogs".
Liberals call them "diaries".

Accepting that this is a gross generalization: Fine.  Who cares?

I think if Chris wants to make this series of posts useful, she needs to explain what the relevant differences are between blogs and diaries.  Chris says that conservatives have superior local skills because their small blogs are locally oriented.  What Chris DOESN'T show is that diaries are not (or cannot be) the functional equivalent of blogs in terms of effects on local politics.

Frankly, until we get some type of analysis of the degree to which diaries do or do not replicate the functions of independent blogs, I really don't see the point of these posts.

by BigModerate 2005-07-08 01:16PM | 0 recs
Conservatives overstated?
I am too electronically inept to find your source data for counting blogs as liberal or conservative, but I propose that there is some risk of inflating the conservative count by including libertarian publications, which you are perhaps not counting as blogs, in the conservative total count, e.g., libertyforall knappster libertyforsale themodernamerican antiwar dot com , even though these are profoundly anticonservative it outlook.
by phillies 2005-07-09 10:31AM | 0 recs
Really to Chris Bowers ...
Chris, you run a really, really great blog.  

Many of us who would be great local bloggers are technically competent, knowledgeable, and we know how to write -- but we still have a big problem. We don't know where to look and how to research the stories we need to post to our blogs.  We need some very practical 'how-to' advice from people like you.  

I would love to see you and a few other successful Liberal Bloggers tell the rest of us how to go about identifying and researching the local issues that we would write about, if we started our own local blogs.

I don't particularly like making an allusion to a "big dummy's guide to Liberal Blogging," but it almost fits here. This is almost what we need.

... Brief, practical advice with links, defining the process you personally go through to identify and research a story you want to write about.

The thing is; it does no good to define an issue like this (Liberals need to start more local blogs) and then not provide some practical advice on how to actually DO this. Your best efforts become nothing more than preaching to the Choir, if you and other established Liberal bloggers can't follow through and tell some of us how you go about researching and reporting your own stories.


by scribble 2005-07-09 11:49AM | 0 recs
Conservative sprawl
Yes I noticed the effort to bring the smaller blogs along, and thank-you Matt.

Here is another progressive source you might have overlooked

I have noticed that there are some pretty good progressive blogs out of South Dakota and Oklahoma,too.

by grannyinsanity 2005-07-09 09:12PM | 0 recs
Re: Conservative Blog Sprawl ...
Super discussion, thank you.
by jonnylee 2007-02-06 11:19AM | 0 recs


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