Political Blogs Stagnating?
Chris Bowers has done quite a bit of research and concluded that political blogging has not only reached an apex but may well be in decline in significant ways. While most of his data relate to liberal blogs, it seems quite reasonable to draw generalized conclusions. Has major data points and observations:
- Since September 2005, The Liberal Blog Advertising Network has only increased in traffic by adding new members or by temporary, election related traffic frenzies.
- Late 2005 was also the last time any new progressive political blogs with exceptionally large audiences were founded.
- Both Gallup and Pew released data last year that strongly suggested the daily audience of all blogs had become flat after a long period of uninterrupted growth.
- Current estimates of a daily audience of 4-5 million for progressive political blogs, and an occasional audience of up to 13-14 million for all political blogs, are now appearing in multiple sources.
- The paradigm is shifting toward a more networked, community-oriented model where a much higher percentage of the audience participates in the generation of new content
- Blogging, including political blogging, is still quite healthy, as long as it encourages user-generated content and relies on a group of main writers rather than a single individual. The days when an individual blogger can start a new, solo website and make a big national splash are probably over.
Anecdotally, while OTB’s traffic has spiked considerably through the addition of the side blogs, especially the celebrity site, OTB proper has had relatively flat traffic for well over a year, with occasional spikes surrounding major news events.
A follow-up post discusses the increased barriers to entry and explains why maintaining a quality solo blog is so hard. The bottom line is that there is an incredible amount of quality material being produced out there and it’s therefore harder to compete. The sites that are thriving have either generated a “community” through the addition of reader diaries and/or a steady diet of partisan red meat or provide incredibly unique content, especially videos.
While there’s a lot more quality content coming out on a daily basis than there was four years ago, the top blogs are undeniably becoming akin to commercial enterprises. As Bryan Murley observed on a panel discussion with Steven Taylor and myself some time back, in so doing we’re taking on many of the aspects of the mainstream media. That includes taking on advertisements and the pressure to crank out content with an eye to generating traffic rather than simply writing when it strikes our fancy as it did when we were pure hobbyists.
I agree with Bowers that this likely signals a “transformation” rather than “decline” of political blogging. Still, there’s something lost in the process.