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.