Blogger Arms Race

Responding to a reader suggestion that blogger’s word counts be restricted by government (a rather apples-meet-oranges response to a post suggesting CEO pay be capped) Matt Yglesias only wishes it were so.

Personally, I would love a legal cap on the number of words a blogger is allowed to produce per day. I’m privileged to have a job that I really enjoy. But at the same time, I would prefer to write somewhat less—this pace is stressful and doesn’t leave me as much time to pursue other projects and interests. But though I would prefer to write somewhat less, I have a stronger second-order preference to produce a blog that’s competitive with other major offerings on the internet. And over the years competition between bloggers has led to escalating word-counts. The resulting situation isn’t terrible, there are lots of people you should cry for before you get to me, but basically we bloggers are engaged in a red queen’s race where we all need to keep trying harder and harder just to maintain our positions. A cap would be helpful.

One presumes Matt’s merely evaluating the merits of the outcome and not seriously buying into the idea that blogger word count is a fit topic for public policymaking, so I’ll follow suit.

He’s right that word count — or, more accurately, posting frequency — is a key component to success in the blogosphere.  It’s been that way so long as I’ve been at it, which is more than six years now.   Quality matters — cranking out fifteen lousy posts a day won’t draw you many readers — but it’s very hard to get a large readership without a prodigious output. (And, I might add, even with it.)

The acceleration of the trend — of which Matt has been a beneficiary — of magazines, newspapers, and think tanks hiring established bloggers has only exacerbated this situation.  Now, instead of competing for eyeballs against other amateur pundits toiling away in their spare time, there are dozens if not hundreds of full-timers with professional PR teams behind them.

It’s also why solo blogs are giving way to group blogs and why blogging magazines like Huffington Post and Pajamas Media are springing up.

Absent government intervention — which, for the record, I oppose — I see no way out.  Since most of us read other blogs via RSS feeds, blog aggregators, or links from other blogs, the guy posting a few times a week is likely to get pushed further off the radar screen.

Photo by Flickr user Sue Richards, used under Creative Commons license.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media, , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor 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:

    I wonder, though if Yglesias’ attitide isn’t symptomatic of something deeper. He’s apparently found his saturation point, and doesn’t want anyone with a higher saturation level to be more successful than he is. When he feels he can’t compete, he’s most pleased to see a rule limiting competition above his level.

    Now, I admit there’s a lotta potholes along this road. But in the end, that IS what we’re talking about. Something of a pattern, here.




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  2. Welcome to the world of competitive markets. Every entrepreneur in every field faces roughly the same challenge: success requires a LOT of work.




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  3. Bithead says:

    James;

    I failed to mention, it was your pattern of wording here that tripped my response:

    One presumes Matt’s merely evaluating the merits of the outcome and not seriously buying into the idea that blogger word count is a fit topic for public policymaking, so I’ll follow suit.

    The merits of the outcome. Hmmm.

    That phrase got used a lot when we started talking, on numerous occasions, about equal opportunity vs equal outcome, and the trap of a legislated outcome.




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  4. Perhaps we can combine two of Matt Yeglasias’s really bad ideas:

    A flat cap on words doesn’t really help make the blogosphere more equal, as amateur bloggers are unlikely to reach any reasonable cap. Moreover, professional bloggers are better writers and can use their alotment of words more effectively.

    What we need is a progressive word limit, based on number of pagehits. Bloggers under a certain limit can blog all they want. As your number of pagehits per day increases, you face an increasingly lower and lower word limit.

    Overly popular bloggers like Yglesias will be limited to posting Indapundit-style entries consisting of a link with the word “Heh” after them. I’m sure he’ll appreciate the chance to get off the treadmill.




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  5. Eric says:

    When he feels he can’t compete, he’s most pleased to see a rule limiting competition above his level.

    My god, Bitsy. Do you see a Nazi under every rock? Can’t a cigar just be a cigar without there being some sort of underlying liberal conspiracy or pathology?

    Jeezuz. Only someone like you with a worldview so prejudiced and jaundiced could even entertain the idea that Yglesias was serious.




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  6. Vincent says:

    “Only someone like you with a worldview so prejudiced and jaundiced could even entertain the idea that Yglesias was serious.”

    While one would hope this is the case, there are plenty of equally obsurd ideas proposed within the blogosphere in which the author is completely serious.

    If one is going to embark upon posting satirical ideas, one would do well to be sure everyone knows they do not really mean what they say. Simply assuming that everyone will realize your posting is so crazy that it must tongue-in-cheek is a bad way to go, because no matter how crazy the idea, there probably IS someone out there who DOES think that way, and the readers have no way of knowing which is which.




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  7. rodney dill says:

    …a reader suggestion that blogger’s word counts be restricted by government…

    A better idea yet would be to apply a similar rule to politicians.




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  8. If one is going to embark upon posting satirical ideas, one would do well to be sure everyone knows they do not really mean what they say.

    As one who has been blogging almost as long as James (two weeks less, or something like that) and with a similar rate of frequency, I can assure you that no matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to make sure that all your readers “get” your tone, or even one’s basic point.

    One can put tags around a post, or not parenthetically that one is joking and people will still not get it. Of course, some readers choose not to get it and their comments are often a reflection of their own POVs, not an honest reading of the post.

    Beyond that, since when do writers always tell their readers that they are being satirical, sarcastic or funny?

    There can be little doubt that Yglesias is being tongue-in-cheek here. There is also little doubt that there are days he would like to write less. That doesn’t make him a communist seeking government curtailment of competition, it makes him human.




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  9. Bithead says:

    My god, Bitsy. Do you see a Nazi under every rock? Can’t a cigar just be a cigar without there being some sort of underlying liberal conspiracy or pathology?

    So, I’m to ignore the pattern fitting so well? On the basis of…. what, exactly?

    Kidding, he may or may not have been. Yet, it seems to me to fit the mindset I’ve always seen him as having, rather well. Given the volume at which your response is delivered, you must think so, too?




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  10. Eric says:

    So, I’m to ignore the pattern fitting so well? On the basis of…. what, exactly?

    Kidding, he may or may not have been. Yet, it seems to me to fit the mindset I’ve always seen him as having, rather well. Given the volume at which your response is delivered, you must think so, too?

    See, this is the part where your blinders mess you up: You want to attribute so much nefariousness and ideological baggage to Yglesias because he’s a liberal, that you can’t even fathom that Yglesias was tongue in cheek. Hence the “Nazi under every rock” quip by me.

    Everything is a self-fulfilling conspiracy with you, Bit. No matter what anyone says (or not), what anyone does (or not), or what happens (or not) in this world, it all just “proves” the conspiracy. Ergo, clearly Yglesias wants government intervention to limit competition.

    And, of course, I’m part of the conspiracy because my “volume” was too loud in criticizing your words. Ergo, the conspiracy exists!




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  11. Bithead says:

    You want to attribute so much nefariousness and ideological baggage to Yglesias because he’s a liberal, that you can’t even fathom that Yglesias was tongue in cheek. Hence the “Nazi under every rock” quip by me.

    No, you’re uncomfortable with the pattern as I mention, being talked about openly. UNderstandable, but hence “Nazi under every rock” quip by you.

    I’ll await your proof to the contrary, but I won’t be holding my breath.




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  12. Eric says:

    No, you’re uncomfortable with the pattern as I mention, being talked about openly. UNderstandable, but hence “Nazi under every rock” quip by you.

    Um… OOOKKKKK. I’m uncomfortable with you bringing this issue up? Oh, yes, I see the logic now: I disagree with you therefore that is proof positive that I’m part of the conspiracy as well.

    Say, Bit, what’s it like to live in a world where everything is black and white? It must be somewhat reassuring to know that the enemy is always out there trying hide the truth or destroy you personally.

    LOL!




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