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Comments by YACCS
Monday, November 22, 2004

Blogs are more popular than opinion magazines

who knew catblogging could be so popular?

Need some ideas for Thanksgiving? Info on how to cook a turkey has a mondo bunch of links to look at.

I tripped across this site while checking my Alexa rankings, where I found out an interesting fact. Atrios gets one percent of all of Blogspot's hits. Now, that may not seem like a lot, but: There are some 2.8 million blogs. However, 80% (2.2m) have no incoming links; that is, nobody reads them. (Wired, Aug. 2004). Thus there are some 600,000 blogs that are read, but of this, only a few ten thousand have substantial readership.

Blogger has about a million or so users. Let's say that 10 percent have a substantial readership, 10K or more hits a month. By having one percent of the total number of users, Atrios is, by far, the largest single read site in the Blogspot system, and not by a small margin.

As it stands, Kos is in the 4200 percentile of all sites read online, and I think Atrios would fall behind that, slightly.

I came across this while checking my own hits, which came to around 222K for the month. We never had those kinds of numbers at NetSlaves, despite our hard work. Robin Miller, of Slashdot fame, once said to me if you got a million hits a month, you could make some money. Well, I think with blog ads and direct contributions, you could do better with about a quarter of that.

What amazes me is not that so many people read the site, but that readership has increased over that period, and not by one or two percent, either. All of the leftside blogs have had MORE traffic after the election than before.

Why has this site, which is much less complicated and far reaching more successful than NetSlaves, with two books, was? It isn't because I work harder, I don't. I don't get as much publicity. Or do media. I know I'm popular in some of America's newsrooms, but that's not it.

It's simple: you.

Unlike the Netslaves audience, who were techies, the readers here come from a much wider pool of people. And from all manner of backgrounds. And frankly, it's easier to tell people things they don't want to hear when they are willing to listen.

I've seen everything in that EA story repeated hundreds of times. But no one wanted to hear it. They lived in Pollyanna America. A place where hard work would ultimately be rewarded. Where owners could cash in and make money and no one cared. Where owning a BMW was the height of personal success.

What I find ironic is that all those people who wanted to be vulture capitalists ultimately failed. People with far more humane values, like Kos and Atrios, have done amazingly well for themselves. So much so they can live off their writing. A goal which has eluded many, many writers over the years. Blogs, are by far, the most profitable online medium short of porn. With minimal overhead and a lot of work, one can make a profit. Maybe not a living, but a profit. Which is what all these VC loaded companies could never do, with their dreams of empire and captialist success.

Once, only Slashdot had that kind of power online, but as Linux has faded as a techinical issue, partly because of functionality and partly because of the growth of the Internet's users, now that power is diffused. Kos, Atrios and Andrew Sullivan have power online far out of proportion to their staffs.

The next move will be to pay regular contributors for their work, as the profitability grows. Right now, more people read this site than the print edition of any opinion magazine, from the Nation to the The National Review. It is only a matter of time before advertisers realize that their demographics and ad dollars are better spent online on blogs than in print magazines. And my blog is dwarfed by Kos and Atrios.

The next thing which will happen is the demise of Drudge. His rise to prominance only came about because reporters are lazy. But as his competitors like Blue Lemur/Raw Story actually break news, people will find Drudge's agregeation outdated. While agregation has a value, his sensibility was fresh a few years back. Now it's outdated. His layout alone is reader unfriendly. I mean, someone is eventually going to call him on his personal contradictions: a gay conservative man. If he doesn't think the fundies are coming for him, well, he's gonna learn the hard way.

The underlying strength of blogs is not one which is widely discussed, but should be. Blogs are reader and information friendly. The visual language of blogs work for the reader. The main story is in the center, links to one side, each story is seperate and independent. Comments are part of the structure of most sites, increasing interactivity. Drudge creates a visual mess which works against the reader. Someone who follows the visual language which works, the site architecture which works, is going to displace him.

Blogs are successful because they are simple. Complexity works against making money. The more you have to do, the more that can go wrong. Blogger is simple, and it allows the writer to concentrate on writing, not coding and servers. Part of the reason so many sites failed is that they had no idea on how to create compelling content. They paid money, but their idea of content was ususally repetative and lame. Covering the world of breakfast cereal?

The reason so many dotcoms failed was simple. VC's invested in their clones. Most would have made more money by finding a young furniture store owner in East Palo Alto and giving him $100K to expand. They would have been repaid and had a stable investment. Giving those brats millions was dumber than going to Vegas. Because all they did was live large and play at business.

I doubt Kos and Atrios woke up one morning and said "shit, blogs will make me rich". See, they had something to say, the fact that it became a business was well, if not accidental, not the driving force in their plans. They have never said they wanted to dominate the market, or become a market leader. Atrios knows what that means, because he's an economist, but in no way was it part of some plan to get him a BMW and a trophy wife.

In the end, the dotcommers had a passion for money, for living like rock stars. People like Reynolds and Sullivan, and Kos and Atrios have actual beliefs they want to share. I find Reynold's beliefs odious, but that doesn't mean he's not a smarter, harder working person than 50 dotcom assholes. I don't much like what he stands for, but he never screwed workers out of a payday to stick the money in his pocket. Andy Sullivan never lied to investors while breaking labor law.

As much as I disagree with their politics, their ethics are about 100 times higher than the dotcom people who pissed away billions.

That should indicate how little I think of dotcom people.

But in the end, the reason blogs work and dotcoms failed was simple: Dotcoms played by the old rules and offered up bland, familiar content. Was Suck ever more than snide and snarky? Was E Village ever interesting. Did any of the content plays have one second of compelling, interesting content?

People who've read me for a long time know I was a longtime Salon critic. I now have a great deal more respect for their work. Why? Because for three years, they ran silly articles on sex and culture and treated their news reporting as an afterthought. The quality of their work improved when they cut the bullshit, stopped the pseudo-porn and wrote seriously and from the left. They dumped the righty columnists when they realized subscribers weren't going to pay for David Horowitz, Andy Sullivan and Camille Paglia. And that they had to actually have journalism standards which mattered.

Slate has never really made the leap to popularity, but their Washington-centric work does get noticed.

But the fact is that the blogs introduced, sharp, opinionated, factual writing to the internet. Something that Slate and Salon, with their editors didn't have. They had the facts, but they didn't have the passion.

The reason people read blogs is not that we're right all the time, but that we're human, that we're real people behind the words. We're not auditioning for high paying media jobs as pundits, but saying what we think. I find it odd that more people read me than the New Republic, but then, to be honest, I'm more interesting than they are. They don't have food articles.

posted by Steve @ 12:13:00 PM

12:13:00 PM

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