Blogging and Power Laws
The proprietor of Simon World compliled a huge list of blogging tips from his own experiences and those of other bloggers entitled, “Everything you wanted to know about blogging but were afraid to ask.”
This caused Glittering Eye to take a look at the traffic, start dates, links, and professions of the TTLB Top 20.
|1||Michelle Malkin||June 2004||6,171||86,967||Journalist|
|3||Daily Kos||May 2002||5,271||560,636|
|4||Captain’s Quarters||October 2003||4,595||30,947|
|5||Power Line||May 2002||4,078||69,986|
|6||Boing Boing||January 2000||3,890||?|
|8||The Drudge Report||1998||3744||?|
|10||The Volokh Conspiracy||April 2002||2,898||16,317||Academic|
|11||Outside the Beltway||January 2003||2,772||7,623||Academic|
|12||Talking Points Memo||November 2000||2,697||?|
|14||Hugh Hewitt||January 2003||2,446||29,484||Academic, journalist|
|15||The Washington Monthly||August 2002||2,426||45,559|
|16||Mudville Gazette||February 2003||2,296||5,736|
|17||The Huffington Post||May 2005||2,276||?||Journalist|
|18||Andrew Sullivan||August 2000||2,086||30,768||Journalist|
|19||The Evangelical Outpost||October 2003||2,017||935|
|20||La Shawn Barber’s Corner||November 2003||2,008||?||Free-lance journalist|
More than half of the top twenty are professional writers; several are academics; some were celebrities at least to some degree before beginning to blog.
[O]nly two of the Top 20 Ecosystem blogs started after 2003 and both of those were started by people with some degree of celebrity prior to blogging.
ThereÃ¢€™s another little piece of prevailing blogging wisdom that I have serious doubts about: the idea that the most successful bloggers have something unique or fill a niche. With the exception of Boing Boing (and Boing Boing is the oldest by a considerable margin) all of the top blogs comment on news of the day. Sure, they have constituencies and points-of-view. Unique? Hardly. But most have been in their niches for quite some time.
So, here are my tips for becoming a top blogger: be a celebrity academic or journalist and start your blog in 2000 or before. Be outrageous. Attract attention. Throw red meat.
There’s something to these, to be sure. I’ve often noted that, like golf, the key to blogging success is taking it up earlier. And academics have huge advantages in both training and time.
I would note, though, that the coding here is a bit off. While I have a PhD and taught college for a few years, I haven’t worked as an academic during the life of this blog (although one of my co-bloggers does). LaShawn Barber did some freelance writing before starting her blog but didn’t take that up full time until well after the blog was entrenched in the upper reaches of the Ecosystem. Of course, Josh Marshall (Talking Points Memo) and Kevin Drum (Washington Monthly) are journalists who aren’t labeled as such. Drum became a journalist, though, as a result of the success of his previous blog, CalPundit, which was actually ranked higher in the Ecosystem in those days than now.
It’s true, too, that being controversial is helpful in garnering attention. Still, most of the top sites listed are analytical and reasonably fair in their coverage. Very few of them routiely provide much in the way of “red meat.”
The other thing I’d note about the numbers in the table is that blogging was around a long time before 2003. When I started OTB at the end of January 2003, it was ranked in the 700s of the Ecosystem; it’s now #11. While 11 of the top 20 sites are older than mine, that means nine sites have displaced those that once occupied those exalted positions.
It’s not surprising that being around long enough to build an audience would be an advantage in getting linked by other blogs. And there’s no surprise, either, that those who can spend a lot of time reading and writing will have a big advantage over those who can’t. And a nationally syndicated column or a big market radio show can’t hurt, either. But you’ve got to write something that people want to read or they’ll quit coming back once the novelty has worn off.
Hat tip: Watcher of Weasels