Blogging for the Young and Bored
Jennifer Hunter‘s survey of bloggers at the California State Democratic Convention has raised the hackles of a few bloggers. At issue is this passage:
But Sree Sreenivasan, new media professor at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, says the effectiveness of Web sites and blogs as political tools may only go so far: “It’s still a small percentage of people using these technologies.”
Most are young and what Sreenivasan terms “early adaptors.” And, as he concludes, the impact of young voters “is notoriously hard to predict.” It was thought they were going to turn out in big numbers in 2004 but that didn’t happen.
In the end, who has time to blog? After reading four newspapers each day and my e-mails and doing my work, I’ve had it. Blogging remains a luxury for the young — or the bored.
FireDogLake‘s Jane Hamsher, for one, is tired of the “teenagers in their pajamas” myth and points to this from the most recent BlogAds survey results: “The median political blog reader is a 43 year old man with an annual family income of $80,000. He reads 6 blogs a day for 10 hours a week. 39% have post-graduate degrees. 70% have contributed to a campaign.” DailyKos diarist MissLaura points to similar results from a Pew survey.
Seeing the Forest‘s Dave Johnson thinks the persistence of this myth in the mainstream press is a deliberate attempt to sabotage the credibility of the competition. My guess is that, rather than being anything so sinister, this is a function of outsiders still not being able to differentiate blogs from other online venues, let alone influential political blogs from the diary blogs.
I continually see things like Drudge Report, Democratic Underground, Free Republic, and Lucianne referred to as “blogs.” They’re not. If a site does not have permanent archives, arranged in a chronological order, it simply isn’t a blog. Remember, the term is a short form of “Web log,” a running diary of online commentary. Indeed, a del.icio.us page is closer to a blog than Matt Drudge’s site.
Technorati tracks some 70 million blogs, although the vast majority of those are defunct or automated scraper sites set up to generate Google Adsense revenue through mining of keywords from others’ published work. Of the active, “legitimate” sites, most are essentially online diaries, describing what the author had for lunch or watched on television.
The sites that engage in serious political commentary (including humorous satire) are a small fraction of the blog universe. A smaller fraction still have an audience of any consequence (say, 100 unique readers a day). In the context of discussing the influence of blogs on the political process, it is this last group that should be the subject of focus. Lumping them in with the mySpace pages, discussion boards, and personal diary sites is either ignorant, unserious, or dishonest.