Aristocratic Left Wing Blogosphere Imploding?

Almost exactly a year ago, myDD’s Chris Bowers had a provocative essay entitled, “Aristocratic Right Wing Blogosphere Stagnating.” I analyzed it here. The basic thrust of the piece was that,

The left-wing blogosphere is beginning to decidedly pull away from the right wing blogosphere in terms of traffic. This is largely a result of the open embrace of community blogging on the left and the stagnant, anti-meritorious nature of the right-wing blogosphere that pushes new, emerging voices to the margins.

In many ways, that trend has continued, with many more lefty sites moving up the political blog rankings, especially in terms of traffic. Sites like John Aravosis’ AmericaBlog, which had similar traffic to OTB’s at the time, are now getting 100,000 daily uniques. And it’s still on BlogSpot, too!

In the past few days, though, the down side of the communitarian nature of the Left Blogosphere is becoming apparent. Jason Zengerle has an excellent piece at TNR detailing how much power Bowers, Jerome Armstrong, and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga have over their liberal brethren through their “control of the purse strings,” especially the Advertising Liberally BlogAds network. Drudge Retort’s Rogers Cadenhead laments getting thrown out. Then again, Max Sawicky notes that he has had many a spat with Kos and is still in and getting ads. Josh Trevino and Glenn Reynolds have more.

Overall, the boost to traffic numbers, and thus ad revenue, that the intermingled nature of the Left Blogosphere is undeniable. It does seem to come at a price.

Moreover, this would seem to undermine the idea that the Right Blogosphere is “top down” and the Left Blogosphere is “bottom up.” Indeed, the opposite would appear true. While running afoul of a Glenn Reynolds or Michelle Malkin could theoretically mean they won’t link you (although, often, the opposite is true) there is really no power structure on this side of the aisle. One can scarcely imagine John Hawkins, who administers the Conservative Blog Advertising Network, issuing dictats and expecting compliance. The independence of right-leaning blogs might mean less traffic synergy but it does confer substantial freedom of expression.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    Well said.

    It should also be said, however, that the left is clearly playing the Johnny come lately to the party. And, that, whereas they managed to show up in that Chile, they still, quite clearly, don’t understand the dynamics of what it is they’re dealing with.

    I suspect and suppose that at least part of this issue is the mental disconnect between the usual suspects on the left in blogdom, and the usual suspects on the left end of the political spectrum outside of the blogging world. Let’s face it, they’re not even speaking even close to the same language.

    We can speculate all day about why that might be. But in the end, I think we will end up forced to conclude that the reason for the disconnect is the degree of isolation and echo chamber isn’t found among the elite left , in the sphere, for many of the reasons that you describe.

    It’s that degree of isolation that causes so many leftists sites to get so heavy on the hit charts. The far left crazies are simply not getting anybody else to say what they want to be said. And so, they become increasingly isolated in their point of view.

  2. Bithead says:

    Other thought occurs; this degree of isolation and top down mentality would certainly explain the rather laughable reaction we noticed to the Kos/MyDd Payola story.

    Clearly, what happened there, was the upper end of the leftsphere was now suddenly suspect, and the lower levels of this multilevel outhouse known as the left side of the sphere, suddenly found that their direction had been cut off. Finding no external direction available, and torn between loyalty and logic, the results were akin to hat of throwing a stick of dynamite into a pan of hash. Things started flying all around that kitchen. It was particularly messy, and still is.

  3. Mark says:

    And it is also why the lefty blogs is more of an echochamber.

  4. Ugh says:
  5. Bithead says:

    How much acid does one need to drop, to be able to complain that the ‘New Republic’ doesn’t lean left far enough,a nd indeed is merely another tool of the right?

    How many joints does Kos have to smoke, to aver that he is at the political center?

    (Shake of the head)

  6. McGehee says:

    How much acid does one need to drop, to be able to complain that the �New Republic� doesn�t lean left far enough,a nd indeed is merely another tool of the right?

    How many joints does Kos have to smoke, to aver that he is at the political center?

    Answer: None. He’s nucking futs, but he comes by it honestly.

  7. ICallMasICM says:

    ‘Itâ??s that degree of isolation that causes so many leftists sites to get so heavy on the hit charts. The far left crazies are simply not getting anybody else to say what they want to be said. ‘

    That and it’s kind of the opposite of the Ann Coulter truism about the popularity of talk radio on the right. The left side of the blogosphere appeals to many with a lot of time on their hands and a tendency to bitch about how bad things are.

  8. Truthteller says:

    Your premise is entirely flawed. If you actually look at traffic for the big liberal sites, they are largely downward or stagnant for the last year. And, if you actually analzye the stats for a blog like DKos, you will find the visitor time is quite fishy indeed. Hype.

  9. tkd720man says:

    Hate to violate your echo chamber here, but your comparison of Bowers’ statement from last year with the “purse strings” article is rather suspect.

    Bowers was writing about content production, and in many ways the issues he raised had as much to do with infrastructure as anything (DKos, for example, uses a technology that allows users to write their own diaries, which make up the most substantial portion of the site’s content, whereas Powerline users only read what its owners publish – thus the “bottom-up” from DKos and the “top-down” from Powerline). What he said then is still true today. Can a Powerline user write his own story that might appear on the front page of that blog? Is Markos the only person who can publish to the front page of DKos, where everyone has the pleasure of either taking his words at face value or leaving? No on both counts.

    What you’re currently arguing is that Advertising Liberally, which networks numerous blogs together, is a form of editorial control that Markos uses whenever he pleases. Although evidence that this is the case is dodgy at best, as you readily admit, the very fact of Bowers’ analysis being true (which it is) makes this a non-issue.

    Precisely because the left blogosphere has a “bottom-up” structure, Markos CAN’T compel liberal bloggers to write what he pleases. You can go over to DKos right now and post a diary on the hitpieces that Zengerle is writing about Markos, and he will be powerless to stop it from making the recommended list. The man has no power except to ask his friends not to blog about the issue – even if they agree not to bring it up, the issue can still be discussed on the left blogosphere because it’s out of their control.

    Similar action is impossible on the right blogosphere. At best you can e-mail Michelle Malkin, Powerline, Glenn Reynolds, etc. individually, and hope that one responds by discussing it. If they don’t, then you’re SOL.

    The point is this: the right blogosphere consists of individuals who set up shop with their megaphones, and if you visit them then the only thing you can hear is their voice. The left blogosphere consists of communities of people who gather in forums and discuss amongst each other, and if you go to their forum you can hear any one of a thousand different voices.

    The most control that Markos has is that he can ask his friends not to respond to certain accusations until he can do so. His friends have the choice whether to do that or not. Beyond his circle of friends, even the purse strings of Advertising Liberally are extremely weak.

  10. “You can go over to DKos right now and post a diary on the hitpieces that Zengerle is writing about Markos, and he will be powerless to stop it from making the recommended list.”

    Kos admirers keep saying things like this, but it’s not true. Moderators have already deleted at least one user diary related to Jerome Armstrong’s SEC woes, as I describe on my blog. The bunker mentality’s setting in.

  11. Lefty Rider says:

    Left blogosphere imploding? Talk about wishful thinking.

    The rights blogs are shrinking, at the same time the lefts are growing.

    The right couldn’t handle the give and take on The KOS website.

    The truth really does have a liberal bias.

    Markos doesn’t tell anyone what to write, or how to write. People just say what they think.