Drowning in a Sea of Blogs

Stephen Bainbridge has grown weary of the day-to-day grind of maintaining a blog of political commentary.

With the blogging “market” increasingly crowded, the model of an eclectic, general interest blog is a less viable one. Perhaps more importantly, I’m just getting tired of the punditry style of blogging. I’m not enjoying writing that style as much; for that matter, I’m not enjoying reading other punditry blogs very much these days.

Despite the overall growth of blogs, the increasing dominance of blogs that are the Internet equivalent of talk radio, with their predictable hyper-partisanship, has turned many people off. Steven Taylor, for example, has been having similar thoughts:

While I still enjoy “punditry” (although I prefer to think of it a analysis and commentary) I have for some time felt less and less interested in partisan discussions, per se—something which I engaged in more in the earlier days of this blog. While I remain more than willing to engage in philosophically-based commentary, I find myself less and less “partisan”—indeed, I believe that blogging has made me less partisan (at least in my own mind) than I used to be, even though it initially made me, I think, more-so.

Taylor is dealing with this by striving to be more analytical and listening to sports talk rather than politics on the radio (a move I’ve made myself over the last couple of years). Bainbridge’s solution is to rebrand his site into “a niche blog focused on business law and economics.” That could prove quite satisfying, as he is a genuine expert in that genre, and he can indeed contribute something distinct to the discussion. At the same time, though, that will make blogging even more like work.

Further, as Dan Drezner points out, “half of the fun of this blog is that I can talk about anything that comes into my head.” I’m with him on that even though, like Taylor, “I would far prefer to be taken seriously as an analyst (even if one known to have certain philosophical predilections) than to attract an audience of red-meat devouring partisans.”

To me, the key is deciding what you want your blog to be (or, at least aspire to be) and then accepting the consequences. Being thoughtful and treating opposing viewpoints seriously will get you readers on both sides of the aisle but it will all but preclude building a rabid following a’la Daily Kos or Power Line. There’s simply a much larger audience of people who want to be pandered to and fed a constant message of “Yay, us!” and “Boo, them!” That’s true in talk radio and it’s increasingly true on the blogs.

UPDATE: Commenter RiverRat is outraged by the insinuation that Kos and Power Line are comparable. I merely cite them as archetypes of sites that are incredibly popular and predictably partisan.

DK tends to be more strident in tone that PL, even though the headliners at both sites are lawyers. The PL gang is older and hence more civil; they’re more Dennis Prager than Michael Savage. Still, a look at the posts on the home page makes it clear that they’re cheerleaders for the GOP and happy to villainize the Democrats whenever they can.

UPDATE: Craig Henry nails it:

The polarized nature of political debate, especially in the blogosphere, has exacerbated this problem. Too much of what passes for debate has been thrust and parry between “wingnuts” and “moonbats.”

It is hard to admit mistakes when that seems to confirm the “moonbats” were correct on any point.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies 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. There’s simply a much larger audience of people who want to be pandered to and fed a constant message of “Yay, us!” and “Boo, them!” That’s true in talk radio and it’s increasingly true on the blogs.

    Which explains why Air America is going bankrupt. Talk radio succeeds because it is an alternative to the MSM (which also explains why Air America is failing).

    Reading blogs lets you get as narrow or wide a perspective as you want.

    As far as bloggin goes, I suspect that the pay isn’t that good so you had better enjoy it. While instapundit may be making a reasonable amount selling ads (or at least could be), he could also probably increase his income by the same or more if he left law school and went into private practice. But as my father told me when I was looking at college majors “Don’t pick a career just for the money. Most of your waking hours will be spent on your career, so it should be something you enjoy”. For a blogger, if you aren’t enjoying it, you really need to ask the question why you are doing it.

  2. Anon says:

    Personally, I disappointed that PB has decided to become more narrow. I’m a liberal, but I rarely go to Atrios and never go to Kos, for the simple reason that they are boring.

    The most interesting sites for me tend to be the thoughtful, intellectually honest, right-of-center sites.

  3. RiverRat says:

    Your comparison of Powerline and Kos is risible. Rational passion and thoughtful, well documented opinion vs. the paranoid narcissistic ranting of Kos and his Koolaid Kids.

    You’re challenged to provide some evidence to back up this bovine scat blather.

  4. Tano says:

    Riverrat,

    You must be joking. Although Powerline is more “grownup” in tone, it is far narrower, more disciplined propaganda, and much less honest. Kos is a crowded space with an enormous amount of junk, but a lot of very interesting stuff as well – people (yes, a lot are young and it shows) trying out ideas, and even being self critical.

    Powerline strikes me as the product of dark, cynical spinmeisters, whereas Kos is like listening in to the cafeteria talk in a university – once again – a lot of silly junk and posturing, no discipline, but also a lot of sincere and sometimes very smart attempts to understand the world.

  5. Bandit says:

    listening to sports talk rather than politics on the radio

    ”LOSER”’

  6. AST says:

    I’ve been feeling much like Bainbridge myself. I think that with me it’s the repetition and the regular beat of the attacks on Republicans, the timing of stories in the NYTimes and other partisan news media. A negative charge unanswered is admitted, so the Republicans reply in kind, but then they’re off message. Can we really be so childish and hypocritical as to change our votes on such irrelevant grounds?

    I think also that it’s frustrating to see the qualitiy of the debate, the profanity, the ad hominem attacks, and the smears.

  7. pennywit says:

    I quit blogging for professional reasons, but I also felt some of the same things that you did. I would add that one of the serious downsides of blogging is the “chief cook and bottlewasher” aspect. Do you know how many times I had to log in just to clear out trackback and comment spam? Even the best spamblockers couldn’t take care of it.

    –|PW|–