Gateway Blogs vs. Destination Blogs

In an ongoing dispute with LGF’s Charles Johnson, Ace coins a distinction: gateway blogs and destination blogs

A lame hat-tip at the end of a post covers one’s ass, I suppose, in terms of attribution, but it fails to do what a proper link is supposed to do: Throw some traffic.

Some blogs are deliberately “gateway blogs,” throwing out traffic wide and far in general furtherance of good-guy blogger boosterism. [Glenn Reynolds’ InstaPundit] is deliberately, and most famously, this kind of blog.

Instapundit looks for excuses to link blogs — not media stories, though he links them too of course; but his primary goal is to call attention to other blogs and “share the wealth.” He has a very good reputation along these lines; the only problem with an Instapundit link is that it doesn’t throw as much traffic as you’d think it would, but that’s largely because he’s linking so many blogs during the day that you’re just getting a small slice of his readers.

Crucially, if a blog mentions, say, a Reuters story, Instapundit tends to link the blog which tipped him, rather than the Reuters story itself; anyone interested in that story, then, has to at least go through the blog to get to the story. They’ll end up at Reuters, but they go through the tipping blog first.

On the other hand, some blogs are very jealous and ungenerous about throwing links and traffic to “competitors.” Some blogs fancy themselves not “gateway blogs” but “destination blogs,” and attempt to set themselves up as the only blog you need to read.

Not a portal, then, but a terminus.

Amusingly, I got the story via Glenn Reynolds.  Who in turn linked Donald DouglasAmerican Power — for simply quoting Ace — who in turn linked Ace.

Conceptually, the “Gateway” vs. “Destination” distinction isn’t much different from the “Linkers” vs. “Thinkers” typology going around back in 2003-2004.  From context, though,  I gather that it’s intended as more of a value judgment, with one being a team player and the other selfish.  Which strikes me as largely unfair.

There’s no doubt that Glenn Reynolds is both a Linker and a Gateway blogger.  While he does plenty of long form writing elsewhere, InstaPundit is the quintessential web log:   a journal of interesting things he’s encountered online with little or no commentary.  Because he was an early mover and is incredibly good at it, he’s far and away the most important gateway/link blog out there, at least in the political space.

But OTB, for example, is primarily a Thinker blog.  That is, our signature posts are analytical or persuasive essays, usually jumping off from ideas or stories seen elsewhere.   So, naturally, we write for the purpose of getting people to read what we have written and to come back often to see what else we have to say and only incidentally to throw traffic to other blogs.   (We do have occasional InstaPundit-style posts intended to throw traffic.  These days, they’re in the “Quick Takes” section.)

In terms of “hat tips,” I use them as they were traditionally intended:  To acknowledge that someone pointed me to a story.   If I’m commenting on, say, some story in the Washington Post or New York Times that I happened to see mentioned somewhere, it would be odd to lead with a link to that person/site.    If, on the other hand, I’m commenting on some idea put forward on some other blog, I’ll link and reference them very early.

It’s true, though, that one’s choice of linking convention matters in terms of traffic.   Had I written this post as “Via Glenn Reynolds and Donald Douglas I see that Ace has coined . . . ,” more traffic would go to Glenn and Douglas and less to Ace.   But the reader is less interested in where I got the link than about the idea under consideration.   And Ace probably “deserves” the traffic for coming up with the idea more than, say, Donald does for being the place where Glenn first noticed Ace’s idea.   And Glenn, well, he doesn’t need the traffic.

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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. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. john personna says:

    Well argued:

    Content Is No Longer King: Curation Is King

    Read more:

    (heh, left with their “read more” because I know you love it.)

  2. James Joyner says:

    Oh, there’s no doubt that curation is hugely important. It has been that way for years, really. It’s what InstaPundit does, of course, but also GoogleNews, Digg, Reddit, Memeorandum, Techmeme, etc.

    That doesn’t mean content isn’t incredibly important. It’s the thing being curated after all! And everyone can’t be in the curation game, either, although even us Content guys provide a curation role. The OTB gang goes through dozens if not hundreds of articles each day, picking the ones to write about.

  3. john personna says:

    I liked that “curation” played into my “ephemera” argument. When there is too much opinion, yes, content becomes devalued, and it takes structure to elevate it.

    FWIW, I like OTB because it’s right-sized. Not too big, not too small. Sorry 😉