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.

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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. John Burgess says:

    I’m betting on ‘ignorant’ with a strong dose of ‘institutional stupidity’.

  2. Bithead says:

    A small point; With RSS syndication being what it is, it’s getting harder and harder to tell exactly what any site is getting for hits at any given time…

    That said, your’e quite right; there does seem some level of confusion on which blog type to count in terms of political activism. Blogs such as yours…(And to a lesser degree, mine) have a tougher row to how in that we’re expecting to actually make a difference, as opposed to simply being a vanity site, discussing the smallest of habits of the sitemaster. Larger sites, such as your own, perhaps can engage in such things as well…(for example your making the Dean’s list recently… congrats, by the way) though given the traffic you get and the relative level of import, perhaps authors of larger sites feel less free about writing on such matters.

    The point I’m making here is that even within the overtly political sites, there are some differences that defy categorization, thus making the influence of a particular kind of site hrder to track via statistics.

    And even there, there’s issues of deliniation. In my own case, I often toss in elements of my personal life… the new car, or camping being among the more recent… it’s an attempt on my part to project a freindly feel to the reader.

    Finally, Dave Johnson’s point is likely a valid one. And here in the states, at least for now, they can’t employ the method of competition avoidence used by the French press, where for example, it’s against the law for anyone not a ‘professional journalist’ to report acts of violence… though I dare say that our own press is hitting the prayer mats each night wanting just such a law.

  3. Jim Henley says:

    The problem with your prescription, James, is that it excludes my wife’s site about the dogs. We can’t have that.

  4. Anderson says:

    I would comment on this, but it’s Mommy’s turn to use the computer now.

  5. Alan Kellogg says:

    For Ms. Snooty’s information I happen to be a middle aged man who blogs mostly nude. Though with summertime coming on I’ll be going full starkers fairly soon.