Monday, September 27, 2004

Blogging about Blogging

I don't want to spend a lot of time responding directly to Billmon's LA Times article. You can read Kos on it here.

But, it provides a reasonable starting point to discuss a few things. First issue - the blogosphere ain't what it used to be.

Sure, that's true. The Blogosphere, or Blogtopia (yes, skippy!), has been changing rather rapidly ever since I put my shingle out. When I started out being a political blogger was sort of like being an 18th century academic - the idea that you could read/have read everything was not entirely crazy. Back in the day, most such blogs were called "warblogs," named after all the people who went nuts after 9/11 and decided that the best thing they could do for their country in a time of crisis was to sit on their ass and type away. Not too much has changed for most of them, but a lot has changed for the rest of us.

Back then there was a clear hierarchy of bloggers. The Blogger Who Must Not Be Named was at the top of the pyramid, being the only one who got regular substantial traffic. He also served as the "neutral" (don't laugh... okay, laugh) unbiased moderator of the grand blogospheric debate. Think Bill O'Reilly, Mr. Conservatarian Independent. The prominent "liberal" bloggers of the time (approximately) were Matt Welch, Ken Layne, Brian Linse, Charles Dodgson, and Ted Barlow. The Tennessee Voldemort was pretty similar in style to what he is now, though admittedly a little less likely to do things like justify genocide. But, then, the blogosphere was more of a dialogue between the Left side and the Right side. However, admission to the debate required not being an "idiotarian," a wonderful word which said more about the people who used it than the people they hurled it at. Joining this club pretty much involved condemning Susan Sontag and Ted Rall on an hourly basis.

So, people would post their posts, and Voldy would play moderator, linking to arguments he found valid and, at times, declaring a victor. Putting your blog on the map required an approving link from the guy, and doing that required pleasing him somewhat. With one finger on the scales of infinite blogger justice, Voldy controlled the playing field.

Things were a bit more polite then, as long as you were a part of the group of people who thought the biggest threats to the American way of life were Robert Scheer and Edward Said.

When I started blogging, liberal blogs were a small minority, and most of the ones that existed weren't exactly members of the Sublime Order of the Shrill. I started blogging partly as an alternative to yelling at the TV, and partly because I yet again saw another new medium being taken over by the Right. So, I figured I'd add my two cents to the dialogue.

In the early days, I was thrilled to get a couple of hundred hits a day - just about everyone who had a blog was thrilled to get that kind of traffic. Once Tapped and Altercation joined the scene my traffic got a bit of a boost, but IIRC my traffic at the height of the Trent Lott White Sheet Follies, for which I got a reasonable amount of publicity for (including, from such odd sources as Podhoretz), didn't exceed 10,000 per day.

Since then, blogs have proliferated. And, as Kos points out, a lot of them get the wee bit of traffic that we were thrilled to have back when we started. I get email daily from people with new blogs. So, let me give a bit of advice to them:

1) Don't send me an email saying "please link to my blog." I probably won't read it, let alone link to it. There are many reasons for this, a major one being that a hell of a lot of new bloggers burn out rather quickly.

2) If you want an established blogger to link to your blog, the best thing to do is send them the entire content of a post, with a link, that you think that blogger personally might be interested in. Don't set up a spam list and start spamming everyone. It's annoying.

3) Don't obsess about getting on people's blogrolls. You get their attention with enough good stuff, people will put you on eventually. But, that really isn't such an important part of driving traffic your way.

4) Sure it's harder to break into blogging these days. It got a lot harder about 3 months after I started. So, how to do it? Next point...

5) Popular bloggers either a) post a lot, b) have a unique/funny/interesting take on things, c) have been around awhile, d) a combination of a)-c) with a) being the most important. That's just the way it is. Figure out how you can fit into that. Most blogs don't derive their popularity from their "authority," and those that do usually are by people with some credentials. Simply expressing opinions without advancing any kind of new argument isn't a way to differentiate yourself. What I mean is that people may go to DeLong for economics (yes, I'm an economist, but I've never tried to establish myself as an authority here on the blog), and Volokh or Balkin for Law, but I don't think people come to this site for my opinion on issue "X." My take on it, yes, but not simply for "does Atrios think it is good or bad?" because my "authority" as an opinionshaper has any weight. If there's little reason for your opinion to carry some weight, then your opinion isn't going to be enough.

I do make an effort (sometimes) to promote new blogs, etc... But, I can't possibly read all the blogs that are out there. I can't even read all the ones on my blogroll.

Okay, enough blogging about blogging. I hate these posts.