The Blogosphere 2.0

July 14th, Bastille Day, will mark my sixth year of blogging and quite a few of you all have been around for the ride. (Thanks!) I've had a comment section for five years, so you all have contributed quite a bit, too. A few years ago, I decided I wanted a hard copy of everything that I've written for posterity. But after copying a few months of posts over to Word, I gave up. It was using up too much paper.

What will happen to all these words in my posts and in the comment sections? Will anyone ever read it? Steve thinks that all these blogs will be most useful in the future for social historians, who will use all these thoughts to document ordinary life. I hope to polish up some of our better discussions and publish them elsewhere. We'll see.

But this morning, I just want to write about how blogging has changed in the past six years.

1. The A-List Doesn't Matter Anymore. I just read a really nice paper that came up with a new method for determining the top 20 bloggers. The problem is that those bloggers aren't nearly as influential as they used to be. Their ranks in Technorati and other lists are artificially high, because they are on the blogrolls of millions of blogs that were begun and quickly abandoned years ago. People used to read the A-list blogs because they were first on the scene to tell us what the hot articles and issues were. But now we get that information from Twitter, Facebook, and Google Reader. Does anybody still read Instapundit? Most of the A-List bloggers aren't all that influential. When I surveyed key journalists about what blogs they read, they rarely pointed to the traditional A-list blogs. They preferred the niche blogs, which brings me to the next topic.

2. It's all about niche blogs. If you have a particular expertise and unique perspective, they you can quickly gain a following. Everyone else is out of luck.

3. Norms and practices. Bloggers have undermined the blogosphere. Bloggers do not link to each other as much as they used to.  It's a lot of work to look for good posts elsewhere, and most bloggers have become burnt out. Drezner and Farrell had a theory that even small potato bloggers would have their day in the sun, if they wrote something so great that it garnered the attention of the big guys. But the big guys are too burnt out to find the hidden gems. So, good stuff is being written all the time, and it isn't bubbling to the top.

Many have stopped using blogrolls, which means less love spread around the blogosphere. The politics of who should be on a blogroll was too much of a pain, so bloggers just deleted the whole thing.

4. Blogger Burn Out. Many of the top bloggers have been absorbed into some other professional enterprise or are burnt. It's a lot of work to blog. Most bloggers, and not just the A-listers, spend 3-5 hours every day blogging. That's hard to maintain, especially since there is no money in this. They used that time to not only write their posts and monitor their comment sections, but to read and foster other bloggers. Blogging survived based on the goodwill and generosity of others. It's probably no coincidence that every blogger that I've met face-to-face is an extraordinarily nice person. But it's hard to volunteer that much time over a long period of time. The spouses tend to get annoyed.

5. Reader burn out. You all are not clicking on the links like you used to. I'm not really sure why. In the past, if I was linked to by a big mega blogger, it meant 10,000 new readers in one afternoon. Now, a link by a mega blogger sends over a couple hundred readers. Readers are probably tired out of trying new stuff. Maybe we've sent you to too many crappy places over time and you're sick of it.

6. MSM yawns. All those articles in the NYT and the Wall Street Journal about blogging helped to drive much of the enthusiasm going among bloggers and readers. People really felt like they were part of something important. Blogging is no longer the cool, hot thing.

7. Huffington Post. It has sucked up all the readers. And HuffPo isn't a proper blog. It is run by people who don't link to other bloggers and do not get the old ways and norms that greased the system in the old days.

8. Twitter and Facebook. I don't really need to explain this one.

9. Link Monitoring. In the past, I could easily figure out which blogs had linked to me and then send them a reciprocal link. For whatever reasons, Google Blog and Technorati aren't picking up the smaller blogs, and I have no idea who's linking to me.

So, blogging has changed a lot in the past six years. It's still an excellent medium for self-expression and professional networking, but it will no longer make mega-stars. It's actually a good thing that the hoopla has died down. No one should spend that much time in front of a computer. The expectations were unrealistic. Use your blogs to target particular audiences and have a clear mission, and you'll get a following. Blogging should be the means to another goal — a rough draft for future articles/books, a way to network with professionals, a place to document your life for your children, a way to have fun. Those are very real and good outcomes of blogging and that's why I'm continuing to keep at.

UPDATE: More commentary from other oldie bloggers: Matt Yglesias, Megan McArdle, Kevin Drum, Russell Arben Fox, Adam Kotsko, (I hope I haven't guilted people into linking to me.) Manifest Destiny, Ezra Klein, (Not that I'm above using guilt. I'm Catholic. I do it well),

UPDATE2: Ezra Klein says, "I still miss Steven Den Beste, though." All those laughing at that statement have been around the blogosphere too long.

He also writes, "The place has professionalized." It has for a handful of people. And that's a good thing. We're all happy that you all have a larger stage for your work and are getting paid.

But it's not just that. The intense inter-linking that occurred in the past has slowed down for a variety of reasons. As a result, the blogosphere is less hierarchical. There are a great variety of communities, but they aren't really aware of each other. That may not be a bad thing; it just is.

UPDATE3: Home town boy, Tyler Cowen, responds. And so does Jacob Grier. And thanks to RealClearPolitics. The Daily Kos, oh my! Linda's Women's Issues Blog approves.

UPDATE4: Interesting commentary from PopMatters. Also, American Power

UPDATE5: My post on blogosphere 2.0 has gotten a lot of attention over the past
few days. I'm a little embarrassed that I managed to garner so much
attention by employing guilt. More comments from Dan Drezner, In The Agora, and  History News Network.

UPDATE6 (9/11/09):

Wow, this little post that I wrote in 20 minutes went big time. It was just translated in Romanian. And just today from the Atlantic,

But is this really true? Among some of the biggest bloggers, this
notion is increasingly seen as suspect. In early July, Laura McKenna, a
widely respected and longtime blogger, argued on her site, 11D,
that blogging has perceptibly changed over the six years she’s been at
it. Many of blogging’s heavy hitters, she observed, have ended up
“absorbed into some other professional enterprise.” Meanwhile, newer or
lesser-known bloggers aren’t getting the kind of links and attention
they used to, which means that “good stuff” is no longer “bubbling to
the top.” Her post prompted a couple of the medium’s most legendary,
best-established hands to react: Matthew Yglesias (formerly of The Atlantic, now of ThinkProgress), confirmed that blogging has indeed become “institutionalized,” and Ezra Klein (formerly of The American Prospect, now of The Washington Post)
concurred, “The place has professionalized.” Almost everyone weighing
in agreed that blogging has become more corporate, more ossified, and
increasingly indistinguishable from the mainstream media. Even Glenn
Reynolds had a slight change of heart, admitting in a June interview
that the David-and-Goliath dynamic is eroding as blogs have become
“more big-media-ish.” All this has led Matthew Hindman, author of The Myth of Digital
Democracy, to declare that "The era when political comment on the Web
is dominated by solo bloggers writing for free is gone."

I've got to run out and meet the school bus, so I'll have to add more later. Wow. Still blushing.

UPDATE7 (9/21/09):

Over the weekend, Michael Berube and LizardBreath commented on my post on how blogging has changed. Both made excellent points.

writes that my post was linked to and read, because I'm in the orbit of
A-list bloggers due to my ancient status in the blogosphere.

says blogger burn out is a huge factor, which means that group blogs
are the only way to go. He also points out that the Koufax awards,
which were an excellent means of bringing up new, excellent blogs, died

I started revising that post over the weekend, and their comments were hugely useful.

UPDATE8 (9/22/09): The view from the long tail: Curtis Schweitzer.

UPDATE9 (7/10/10): I tinkered with this post and turned it into an essay. Here it is:
Download McKennaBlogEvo. I wrote a bit about this revision, and Henry Farrell responded to it.


52 thoughts on “The Blogosphere 2.0

  1. “5. Reader burn out. You all are not clicking on the links like you used to. I’m not really sure why. In the past, if I was linked to by a big mega blogger, it meant 10,000 new readers in one afternoon. Now, a link by a mega blogger sends over a couple hundred readers. Readers are probably tired out of trying new stuff. Maybe we’ve sent you to too many crappy places over time and you’re sick of it.”
    I hate blind links. I don’t like clicking on anything if I don’t have a fair idea of what is waiting for me there. The thing is, if a given blogger has 10 links a day and each of those linked posts has 10 links, and each of those…Well, the thing gets out of control very quickly.

  2. I will agree on blogging being fodder for future social historians. I have a background in history and archaeology and one thing that we constantly bemoan is the way that emails will change how we research. Currently if you’re writing a biography about, say, the founder of the University of Whatever, and he lived 125 years ago, we use letters (if we can find them) to flesh out his personality. We also use diaries. Deleted emails are going to make the first source very problematic, but blogs may satisfy the second.
    I envision a new specialty in the future if internet archaeologists who literally dig through millions of webpages, blogs, etc to piece together details about people and/or events.

  3. You all are not clicking on the links like you used to.
    That’s because I’ve already bookmarked most of the bloggers the big blogs link to, and I’ll be reading them later.

  4. A question for you – as your kids get older, do you find that you write differently? I seem to have stopped blogging, and not because of any deliberate decision – mostly because everytime I sit down to write, I start wondering, “hmmm…will one of the kids’ online savvy friends find this?” My daughter is almost 10, so I may be premature, but she is starting to demand privacy in all things.
    I’m in no way an A, or B, or C, or even D list blogger. I write for a very small audience: my far-away relatives and a a few far-away friends. I just haven’t figured out a way to frame my on-line rant about something that pissed me off at school in a way that won’t embarass my getting-to-be-pre-teen daughter.
    Or is it my job to embarrass her at this age? : )
    I miss writing about stuff, but I haven’t yet figured out the right balance of what to write and what to keep private. So I seem to have stopped. There must be a happy medium, and I’ll keep looking for it. Until then, I’ve been making all my relatives join Facebook for updates on the kids!

  5. Just for the sake of old-times, I used your blogroll to go to McCardle and saw that she linked to this post, so I went back by her link instead of the back button. (If I didn’t first come here from McCardle, it was from one of RAF’s Harry Potter posts.)

  6. On 5, I wonder how those metrics show up with “miniblogs” like Tumblr and the new (new? I’m not sure) Posterous, which seem to be a lot of reblogging and linking. Of course, I’m not sure of the demographics there.
    For a moment, I pitied those future social historians, who’d have to do the same slogging through years of diaries that I do. And then I realized that all their sources would be pre-archived so that they could use text analysis programs to do the slog without transcribing, and now I sort of hate them in advance a little.

  7. When I only read the bold text, it’s like I’m reading tweets. And then I feel safe from deep thought once more.

  8. Amy P. wrote:
    I hate blind links. I don’t like clicking on anything if I don’t have a fair idea of what is waiting for me there.
    And that is why “Does anybody still read Instapundit?” is a rhetorical question.

  9. Laura, have I actually been blogging longer than you? Weird. I thought you were already around when I got started up, back in the spring of 2003.
    This is a really nice list of the changes of the bast six years, and the consequences of those changes. I agree with all of them, and can relate to most. (I think I’ve been to Huffington Post maybe twice, I’m not a Twitter person, and use Facebook only sporadically.) I think you’re especially on-target with your point about blogrolls. Hardly anyone uses them anymore, yet they were such a crucial infrastructure to the blogosphere, once upon a time. And as for that stuff about the A-list…man, I can’t even think of when the last time I messed around with Technorati or that old Ecosystem list, whatever it was. I still check Site Meter pretty regularly, but that’s more a desire to find out if any weird Google searches have led people to my blog recently than anything else.
    I envision a new specialty in the future of internet archaeologists who literally dig through millions of webpages, blogs, etc to piece together details about people and/or events.
    That’s a cool vision, Mike, and I suspect you’re absolutely correct.
    from one of RAF’s Harry Potter posts
    Still my biggest hits ever, MH. They’ll probably be listed on my blog gravestone someday, if there are such things.
    Does anybody still read Instapundit?
    I ask that question all the time about The Corner.

  10. Surely it’s not a coincidence that the heyday of blogging coincided with the most controversial years of the war on terror. People had something to talk about. I spend a lot of time on financial blogs now, which have some of that old energy.

  11. Hey, Megan M. just linked to you. Which I found out, ’cause I only go to Megan’s blog through your blog. So then, I had to come back here. I feel like I’m stuck in a loop :-).

  12. The reason people don’t use blog rolls much any more is that the bloggers don’t really maintain them. What’s the point of using something that will send you to a dead or outdated link?

  13. The reason people don’t use blog rolls much any more is that the bloggers don’t really maintain them.
    Chicken or egg question, mishu. Did they stop updating the blogrolls before or after the norms and means of seeking out blog posts and highlighting the stuff found changed? I don’t know. I know I update mine, but then I consciously kept mine pretty short over the years, so I don’t many people have ever actually used it.

  14. Laura, I think points #1 and #4 are intertwined. The A-listers, and the other bloggers (especially the political bloggers) who are now employed by magazines and think-tanks, have fallen prey to one of the things that made most newspaper columnists so deathly stale: the need to present themselves as Experts on Everything. There’s a modesty to niche-blogging that’s refreshing: I can read about medieval history, or gardening, or book design, or bank regulation, or whatever, without having to suffer through posts on Iranian politics by someone who only started thinking about the subject fifteen minutes ago. Many of those big bloggers don’t poke around the Web as much as they used to, and that’s a shame, because they’re now more likely to become nothing more than the next generation of tedious know-it-alls.

  15. As someone who started blogging back in September 2002, I find some of this list accurate and some less so. I stopped reading InstaPundit in 2003 when it became Nonstop Making Fun Of Hippies and the French (soft targets much?). He’s still a go-to for the kind of people who find making fun of hippies and the French hilarious. In other words, the political blogosphere has become more like politics generally: polarized.
    I think the experience was different for people like me who always had medium-to-small audiences (unless pushed by a link from a much bigger blog, never more than 50 people daily on my individual blog nor more than 500 daily on group blogs). From what used to be my niche, it seems to be much more difficult to get notice as a law student blogger these days — there are simply too many law professors and practitioners who have taken up blogging and who know so much more than you do.
    “But it’s hard to volunteer that much time over a long period of time. The spouses tend to get annoyed.”
    Less of a problem if you marry someone you met through blogging.

  16. Very much agree on the “not linking” thing. There used to be much more of an ethic of community, helping out your fellow blogger. Lots of links, lots of hat-tips.
    Now it’s all about competition. HuffPo, Talking Points Memo, they all just want to be “the best one.” They never link to other people unless they think they have to. Even when they’re totally and blatantly ripping other people off.
    Sad indeed.

  17. 1. RSS feeds.
    2. YouTube.
    3. Bodies break down. Sitting hunched over the computer all day (I wish it was only 3-5 hours!) tends to wear on you physically. Not to mention how wired you get from surfing all day.
    4. Once A-list bloggers were incorporated into the Beltway scene, wasn’t it inevitable that we would become the younger Village? As Izzy Stone knew, it’s a lot harder to criticize people with whom you socialize.

  18. I think the experience was different for people like me who always had medium-to-small audiences (unless pushed by a link from a much bigger blog, never more than 50 people daily on my individual blog nor more than 500 daily on group blogs).
    This describes me well; only a couple of times over the years have I ever had more than 300 distinct visitors in a day, with my usual daily readership of a little less than 100.
    Less of a problem if you marry someone you met through blogging.
    Or if you convert your wife to blogging, which is what I did.

  19. I would say you’ve nailed it. Been thinking much the same over the last few months.
    Just for the record – Insty, Malkin, and Hot Air all get hundreds of thousands of readers a day as do Kos and the other big lefty blogs. Individual bloggers like you and I are definitely a dying breed though. Everything is group blogs now – and I post at 4 of them.
    No money in blogging but there’s a surprising number of websites that will pay for your writing. And many of those are hiring copy editors among other jobs. I make my living online – need to work two jobs to do it – but it can be done.
    Rick Moran

  20. “He’s still a go-to for the kind of people who find making fun of hippies and the French hilarious.”
    Nah. Reynolds is the go-to place if you need the latest on nanotechnology, digital cameras, Amazon sales, and what’s on Pajamas Media. He’s actually mostly turned into a niche blogger with several niches.

  21. Individual bloggers like you and I are definitely a dying breed though.
    I think I disagree with this. Individual general-interest bloggers–people like me and Laura and whomever else out there is mixing the personal with the political, going the “public intellectual” route–are, if not dying, than certainly not multiplying, and even those of us who continue to trundle along develop our own niches, whether we admit to it or not. But individual bloggers who very specifically target a single, narrow, niche blogging audience? I can only go off the example of the book blogs that my wife thrives in the midst of, but on the basis of those, it seems that individual blogging is alive and growing.

  22. And where the fuck did all the raunchy language, and flagrant self-promotion of the good old blogs go? Well–don’t despair–it’s still happening over on the other side of the tracks–at Bic’s Place. And in a cheesy off-the-shelf Blogger template to boot.
    Check it out!

  23. “I can only go off the example of the book blogs that my wife thrives in the midst of, but on the basis of those, it seems that individual blogging is alive and growing.” Tell me more. Give me some names. I want to investigate.

  24. BTW. I didn’t mean to whine or to guilt the big guys into linking to me. I do alright here. We get about 500 to 1000 on an average weekday. It’s hard to really tell, because people read this blog on Google Reader and that doesn’t show up on sitemeter. When I’m on a tear about a subject and post quite often, my readership increases. But things have changed in the blogosphere quite a bit. The old hierarchical model of the blogosphere doesn’t hold up anymore. There are more insular communities that exist. It some ways that might be a good thing. Maybe it’s more democratic.

  25. Tell me more. Give me some names. I want to investigate.
    Russell sent me here to answer this…
    It really depends on what you want to do with books. There are SO many of us out there who are blogging about books, and we all have our own interests, and its those interests that form into sub communities. There’s the kidlitosphere which I consider myself a part of (it consists of readers, authors, illustrators, librarians and teachers). There’s the romance book blogs (Book Binge is a good example). There’s historical fiction book blogs (can’t think of something off hand there). There’s general adult book blogs (I do some of that myself); the Book Review Carnival is one place to find those. There’s weekly memes (Weekly Geeks is one, but there’s also Library Loot, or Teaser Tuesday, or Booking Through Thursday or Sunday Salon.)
    I think the reason the book blogs are still growing is because 1) we value community — there are more popular blogs, but there’s no real superstars and 2) everyone has their own opinion about books and there’s no real experts, anyone can spout off about what they read.
    For the record, these are the people that the publishers — through Book Expo America — think are the big names.

  26. I dont want to leave a super long reply so quick answer.
    1. wrong. The A list still exists and matters a lot. I wish it didnt.
    2. Absolutely right!
    3. Agree in part but not completely.
    4 and 5 kind of go together and I will suggest this happens more in the political blogosphere than in other communities. You will definitely get an ebb and flow during election cycles and maybe you aren’t doing a good job of cultivating new readers as your old readers burn out.
    One thing you are definitely wrong about is the money aspect. Not saying you are or should be making money but more bloggers are making more money than ever and more bloggers are blogging for a living than ever.
    6. the MSM is on to the next shiny new toy and thats twitter. However blogging is still the center of the new media universe.
    7. agree huffpo isnt a real blog but it is new media.
    8. actually these are important. these two social networks have absorbed people who aren’t really that good at creating long form content but if you do it right, they can drive serious traffic to your blog. You need to evolve your blog marketing strategy if you have one 8).
    9. There are lots of tools out there than can help you do this and they are far more sophisticated than ever before. try Hubspot for starters.
    I wouldnt normally leave a plug but it seems very appropriate for your post. Three years ago I was so sucked in to my political blog that I started BlogWorld & New Media Expo. We will bring more than 4,000 people this year.
    You should definitely come check it out and meet so many of those cool blogger folks. You absolutely nailed on point, just about every blogger I have ever met is super nice in person.
    Blog on!
    Rick Calvert
    CEO & Co-founder
    BlogWorld & New Media Expo

  27. Did anybody else notice something in particular about the book bloggers that publishers selected for their panel?
    They’re all women. Is that what you’re looking for?
    As for blogging, I write a fairly new (about 1 year), sporadically updated blog and I find that I’m not very sure what the customs of the blogosphere are. I’m very careful to do hat tips which just seemed like common sense and common courtesy to me. But I can’t do trackbacks – as far as I can tell Blogger doesn’t let me use that type of link in my posts – and I have no idea what if anything would be courteous to do instead. Email the people I’m linking to and let them know I’ve done so? Put a comment on their blog to let them know I’ve linked to them and provide a link to where I’ve done so? Only do either of the previous if it’s a “small” blog? Do nothing?
    That’s a specific example but it makes me wonder more generally if there is (or was) a code of conduct that “old” bloggers know but that didn’t get passed along to newer bloggers.

  28. I suspect this is a pattern of decline across every blogosphere – certainly it happened to the music one that thrived in the pre-MP3 blog era. It will probably happen to the current hot ‘spheres (mombloggers, social media commentariat) too.

  29. It may just be me, but Rick’s comment kind of set my teeth on edge.
    I agree with Elise, Doug; is the particular aspect you’re getting at the fact that women dominate the book blogging world? If so, then it seems worth mentioning that I’m pretty certain Laura herself has blogged on this more than a couple of times before: the fact that stereotypical gender self-segregation appears to take place online as well, with men dominating the political/public-affairs/general-interest blogs, and women dominating blogs devoted to writing and family and other “private” pursuits. (Except that there are, of course, plenty of exceptions to that; in the case of the book blogs my wife points to, there’s the fact that those same women also dominate online discussions about publishing, marketing, and all sorts of other matters relevant to the book “business.”)
    I’m very careful to do hat tips which just seemed like common sense and common courtesy to me. But I can’t do trackbacks – as far as I can tell Blogger doesn’t let me use that type of link in my posts – and I have no idea what if anything would be courteous to do instead. Email the people I’m linking to and let them know I’ve done so?
    Elise, I’m not as technologically savvy (or interested in becoming such) as I should be, and unfortunately my level courtesy waxes and wanes. But for what it’s worth, I’ve never done trackbacks. I do occasionally e-mail people to let them know I’ve linked to them, but usually only when I’ve added something to the discussion I think worth their time or worth commenting on. I do put links to my own posts in comments at other blogs fairly regularly though.

  30. I hope that this post didn’t come off as whining. I was really just responding to an interesting academic paper that I read the night before. On most days, I actually don’t want to be a big blogger. I just want to do my own thing. I have a purposely obscure blog name and it is a low tech operation here. I put no money into professional web design. I have an unusually sane and smart commenters that keep me on my toes and have a good sense of humor. I don’t really want others stomping around my house with their dirty shoes. In the past few months, I’ve been obsessing about a book project. I want to do something that is more polished and more permanent than this blog.
    Thanks, Melissa for the links and the info. Really, really interesting. I love checking out new neighborhoods on the Internet. That’s an impressive group of bloggers there w/lots of mutual linking. It makes a huge difference.

  31. Doug — I thought this was an interesting response to the BEA panel that may address some of the things you noticed. She thinks that the bloggers chosen by BEA were arbitrary, and the whole pursuit of this blogger-publisher relationship is actually pointless. At one point, she writes: “For me, this whole attempt to corral the lit blogosphere is silly and pointless. Every one blogs for different reasons – they have different goals, different aims, different interests.” She later wrote this in response to some of the backlash she got from the previous post. (FYI, Colleen is a major presence in the kidlitosphere — kind of a networking mothering figure — and holds weight with many bloggers. I do read her on occasion, but she’s not on my feed reader.)

  32. Great post.
    “What will happen to all these words in my posts and in the comment sections? Will anyone ever read it?”
    I have just wound up my blog, and although I haven’t deleted the archive, I have taken it offline for work reasons. I now have the dilemma of what the hell to do with the archive. I don’t want it to disappear altogether, but then again… argh. Of course what will happen is that it’ll sit on a dusty server for a few years and then blink quietly away as a result of some upgrade or other. A bit like the box of old essays that sits in a cupboard until you move house and throw it out.

  33. Yes, that they were all women is what I noticed. Thanks to everyone who’s chimed in. I’ve got a lot of thoughts on the subject (mountains, molehills, noted) but the better half is in Baku right now, so they will have to wait until the kidlets are down for the night.

  34. Back in the early 1990s, when I worked with a large, independent bookseller (now, sadly, out of business, but our rough peers included Powell’s, Tattered Cover and Elliott Bay), one of the worst tendencies of the publishing business was how it seemed to increasingly resemble the movie business. I’ve been out of publishing and bookselling for more than a decade and a half, but still read a certain amount about it at the margins. My impression is that publishing has continued to get more like movies. And that’s bad. (“Bad like slugs are bad,” my friend Margaret would say, because they are you know.)
    I seem to recall Neil Gaiman writing about how important it is for his books to have big sales the first week or two they’re available, so that the buyers at B&N and Borders will keep them prominently stocked. When even Neil blessed Gaiman talks about the need for a “big opening” (and uses the movie terminology), several somethings are seriously wrong with publishing. If the predominant sales model has become a big (or even moderate for the mere mortals of the mid-list) splash in the first two weeks after the pub date and then sloping off steeply, then the publishing industry is, to use the technical term, fucked. Because the way of the big splash is the way of hype, the way of ever-increasing marketing wattage, the eternal pursuit of the next big thing. But when you look at the books that turn out to be the perennials, the ones that actually pay the bills of the industry year in and year out, precious few of them started with a big splash.
    I think that Colleen Mondor is making a similar point in her first post (thanks for the pointer, Melissa). Publishing needs less hype, among other things. But the panel as described seems to have been about how to link book blogs into publishing’s existing understanding of creating buzz and translating that into sales immediately after the pub date. I think that Mondor gets this part exactly right: “projects that involve both new and old books, that exist solely to celebrate reading – they aren’t about bestsellers or building buzz. … They are about the big picture – the long term vision of getting more people excited about reading and book groups and about finding good books regardless of when they were written and all of this is something I frankly don’t think the industry has been considering for way too long.”
    So the panel seems to have been about how to join the machinery of hype. Sometimes that’s fun — I’m still quite pleased to have an advance reader’s copy of a Carl Sagan book that’s personally inscribed to me. I don’t think anyone would argue that joining the hype is all there is to the literary blogosphere (there probably won’t be a better time to note that the tagline for my group blog’s internal mailing list is “putting the ogosph into blogosphere”, which I would be too modest to point out if I had come up with it), but Mondor appears to have drawn quite a bit of fire for pointing out that that is what publishers are most interested in.
    None of this necessarily has a direct bearing on the all-female composition of the panel. But I would be betraying all the times I pointed out to my former employer in Germany that an conference invitation list that was 80 percent or more male was no way to run a railroad if I didn’t at least note that there are potential problems with an all-female panel as well. All the more so since a friend in NY media has told me on more than one occasion that “men don’t read.” It sure sounds like a situation decades ago with the pronouns reversed. (The geographic concentration of the publishing industry is also problematic.)
    This is the paragraph that should be the punchy conclusion. It isn’t, though. Publishing appears to be a bigger mess than it was when I went in a different career direction. I don’t know if the trends can be fought, or whether the people who would be doing the fighting even see them as something to battle against. I’d like to think that Mondor’s call for finding and celebrating good books no matter when written, and for ignoring the lust for buzz, would resonate among the independent people of the book blogs. But that’s not really the way to bet, is it?

  35. I read your comment, Doug, and passed it along to Melissa, since your comment is really kind of a response to hers. She thinks that you’re on to something, and we got into a 20+ minute discussion riffing on your “men don’t read” point. So your comment was put to good use, fear not. (It’s not the sort of answer that creates hits, I know. But you see, I have had to learn to console myself with such paltry rewards, since my own posts are so atrociously long they usually kill any possible discussion thread before you get beyond my introductory paragraph.)

  36. Great post. I totally agree. This phenomenon is also occurring in the sports blogosphere as well.
    I found you through Dr. Drezner’s blog and here is what I said over there regarding linking and blogrolls:
    As a blogger, I’ve found it easier to post interesting links on twitter immediately than to wrap up a bunch of links in a post. Since my twitter followers consist of my blog fans as well as many others, I have more reach there than if I just posted a link dump or included sites in a blogroll.
    What this means however is that I push specific data instead of a whole web site reading experience. I am pushing other blogger’s information instead of their communities. It is somewhat selfish, honestly. But communities have moved from web sites to social networking platforms.
    The love isn’t gone, it’s just moved.

  37. Jordi when you link to things on Twitter where are you linking to?
    To blogs and other long form content right?
    Twitter is a tool for building a social network or community, short updates on your status, or small talk but it is largely a referral tool much the way trackbacks used to work. (it is a real shame people don’t use them the way they used to).
    Just remember often times when people are posting links on Twitter, Facebook, Friendfeed an other places those links are sending people back to blogs.
    Blogs are the destination. Twitter provides the directions.

  38. Rick, the problem is that most blogs in the past didn’t really provide much content. They just pointed to other places to read. And they most often pointed to articles in the MSM. Now people go to Twitter to get their reading pointers. Sometimes they might get pointers to blogs, but usually it’s to an article in the MSM.

  39. Russell – thanks for the info.
    As for not clicking on links, that’s sometimes a bad idea. I’ve run across more than a few cases where a blogger or commenter provides a quote and a link. The quote supports the writer’s point but if you actually click on the link you discover the quote is a small part of a larger narrative that doesn’t support the point at all.
    It reminds me of those movie blurbs that say things like “Reviewer X says this is ‘best movie ever'” but when you read the review it really says, “In a contest for best movie ever, this wouldn’t even make the top 10,000.”

  40. Ummm, not clicking on links much? Lots of folks who read the blogs are going for feed readers, and that’s tougher to get numbers from than through straightforward blogroll links.

  41. oh. long tail time. I got here from corrente, who had linked to wampum, who had linked to crooked timber (with an h/t to susie at suburban guerilla) who referenced this post…

  42. I learned quite quickly that I would never be one of the big players in this space. For whatever reason, my blog has never attracted many followers, and I’ve never really been bothered by that fact….So as the traditional lone-blogger stereotype fades away, I just keep writing here. I don’t see my traffic go up, down, or sideways. It just stays constant, just keeps flowing in at the tiny trickle I’ve manged to eek from the attentions of others….To all the lone bloggers out there, to the rest of you who write because it’s fun, to the other 99.99999% of the long tail: welcome!
    Wow. Curtis’s comment, from the most recent update, just described my blogging career to a T–and probably that of millions of other bloggers as well. Bravo!

  43. Sometimes I think two years of blogging seems like a long time – six years… that must seem more like 20.
    You raise a number of really excellent points in your post. I think one of the greatest changes to the blogosphere, in general, was the sheer proliferation of content. Now it’s like there are too many choices and, as a result, we either go to the biggest names or else to our very specific interests.
    Your post, and other things I read written by bloggers who have been at this much longer than I have, really make me think that I’m part of a newer generation of blogger that inherited a different set of rules and norms. For example, the way that you applied your updates to this post is not something that you see in a lot of posts that I read these days. There seems to be a greater trend in creating evergreen or dateless content, which can help the old seem new again. However, you lose a sense of history.
    Oh, I subscribed, BTW. 🙂

  44. I’ve been blogging “only” 4.5 years. It’s not a big blog, is never going to be a big blog, because the writing’s important, but I just can’t work up the energy even to post links of my blog to Twitter and Facebook. I’m just not a Facebook kind of guy.
    Oh, and for the last 7 months, I automatically get a PDF of my blogs from – try it.

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