The Most Popular and Important Force in the Blogosphere

Many would argue that Glenn Reynolds’ InstaPundit is the most noteworthy of all weblogs. The BlogFather has been around since long before “blog” was a household word and bloggers around the world yearn for his linkage. While all that’s true, Dean Barnett argues at the Weekly Standard that, “by almost any measure” The Daily Kos‘ Markos Moulitsas is “the most successful blogger in the business.” It gets double InstaPundit’s traffic and has much more impact on the political scene. I’d note, too, that Kos sells more ads and at higher prices.

Kos also walks a different beat than his conservative counterparts. Most popular conservative bloggers (like InstaPundit, Power Line, and Roger Simon) use their blogs as a platform to discuss not only their political views but anything else that catches their fancy. For instance, Power Line might devote 500 words to celebrating Riche Haven’s birthday or Reynolds might devote half an afternoon to digital photography or nanotechnology. While all of these gentleman are supporters of George W. Bush, none are activists–at least not on their blogs. The prototypical conservative blogger offers political commentary, but that’s where his mission ends. Kos outwardly and unambiguously defines his role differently. He has proudly assumed the task of getting Democrats elected and never denies that he is an activist, not an objective commentator. He has built the Daily Kos community to further that activism with painstaking care.

I’d note that Kos differs from most lefty bloggers in this regard, too. Whatever one might think of the content, DailyKos is much more narrowly focused site than any other “big” blog. In most cases, that guarantees a small readership “niche blog.”

Ten months ago Kos’s ascendancy seemed hardly pre-ordained. On April 1, 2004, Kos responded to the savage murder of four American contractors in Falluja by writing, “I feel nothing over the death of the mercenaries [sic]. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.”

At the time of this outburst, Kos was using his blog as a platform to create advertising revenue and to establish credibility for a political consulting business. His outburst threatened to destroy the budding project.

Immediately Kos’ foils in the conservative blogosphere demanded that the politicians who advertised on Daily Kos remove their ads and disassociate themselves from both the site and its proprietor. One of the first to heed this call was Texas Democrat Martin Frost. His campaign noted its departure from Kos’s site by saying, “There is no place for these disgusting remarks in this nation’s discussion on foreign policy.” Other campaigns followed the Frost campaign’s lead and it seemed like Kos might have been in trouble. But then something funny happened. While politicians distanced themselves from the site, Kos’s fans stayed put. A quick glance at Kos’s traffic figures for April of 2004 shows no drop-off in the wake of Moulitsas’ controversial comments. And since the eyeballs remained, politicians soon returned. Political advertisers who had left were replaced in short order by other office seekers. At first it seemed the entire affair might ruin Kos; in the end it was, as he put it in an interview with the New York Times, nothing more than a “blip.”

Quite right. And, as Barnett observes later, DKos played a not insignificant part in derailing Frost’s run for the DNC Chairmanship and helping Howard Dean sew it up despite huge opposition from the party Establishment.

The whole piece is worth a read, as is a follow-up analysis on SoxBlog.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, US Politics, , , , , , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rob says:

    As far as Daily Kos getting more for ads and having more ad views, I think that can be explained away by the fact that Glenn does not have comments. Daily Kos does. Obviously comments result in a lot of repeat visits to posts meaning higher page view totals. People don’t have much of an incentive to visit Glenn’s posts more than once, unless he updates.

    So really, ad revenue is a poor comparison.

  2. JMOORE says:

    Kos appears to be taking a page out of Karl Rove’s playbook. However, I think Rove perceived something that Kos just doesn’t get. The electorate has been moving, although very slowly, to the right for the past 6-10 years. Therefore, Rove was pandering to the same portion of the electorate as politicians always have…it was just that the electorate is slightly further right. If you take the inverse of that and have politicians pander left while the electorate is moving right, you get the proverbial trainwreck. Kos’s politics may play well amongst party elites, but as we know the electorate is a different story.

  3. Kos’s average visit length is a mere four seconds, according to his Sitemeter. So is Glenn Reynolds’s. OOTB’s is 32 secs. OTOH, my site’s average visit length is 51 seconds.

    Not sure what it means, except that some sites are more glanced at than read.

  4. James Joyner says:

    Yeah–not sure what that means, exactly. My average visit length has gone down as my visits have gone up. I used to average something like 2:24 a visit.

  5. bryan says:

    James, are you getting more search results? Search results would tend to lower the average, especially if they just click and leave.

    As it is, Kos’ “success” is something of a self-defeating kind. People of all stripes travel to Reynolds’ site, sometimes despite his politics.

    Kos, OTOH, doubtless gets most of his traffic from the echo chamber.

  6. Mark J says:

    Also, DailyKos is more of a group blog or community blog than Instapundit, which is largely a Glenn Reynolds production, unless he’s on vacation.