February 01, 2004

Readership Analysis, or my numbers for "punditry is not democracy"

I'll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I'll get on my knees and pray
We don't get fooled again

"Won't Get Fooled Again", *The Who*

In honor of "The God That Failed" (whether Howard Dean or blogs), I've done some more readership analysis, for two of my popular posts on those topics.

My item "Howard Dean Is (Was) a Bubble IPO" had reader statistics:

Total specific readers (unique IP's): 91

No referer : 33
wonkette.com : 30
corante.com : 15
and misc sources

The corante.com reference is from posting to the highly-read discussion in "Is Social Software Bad for the Dean Campaign?" and I think that led to the wonkette.com mention on the page "Cliche Alert: HowardDean-dot-bomb"

For Howard Dean, Joe Trippi, and Bubble Valuation, it has:

Total specific readers (unique IP's): 212

No referer: 69
scripting.com: 101
corante.com: 23
and misc sources

Note the bulk of the readership here is basically due to being mentioned by two A-listers, Dave Winer - Jan 30 (not something which "just happened", I took a risk and asked, in reply to a call for comments, thanks Dave), and a (thanks) David Weinberger post.

Thrills. My career as a blog-pundit is obviously being launched.

A few days ago, I was struck by the following JOHO blog / David Weinberger post:

Although many of the guests and Chris himself said that blogs are a grassroots tool open to anyone, the quite reasonable focus on high-traffic bloggers may have led people to think that the blogosphere is a new daily, opinion-based newspaper in which we can read columns by journalists and columnists who have important views that have, on occasion, shaped real world politics. Now, I love the A-List, at least the portion of it I read. And it's thrilling that these are people that we have made popular, whatever the network dynamics are that form A-Lists in the first place. But put 'em together, and the A-List is another daily paper.

Blogging strikes me as more significant than the creation of a competitor to USA Today, albeit one that's fresher, livelier, more personable. Blogs constitute conversations, social networks, and our proxy selves all at once. That's a trio no other "medium" has ever put together and, as Jay Rosen said on Chris' show last night, it's challenging our very model of authority.

Sigh. From down here in the tail end of the power-law curve, it looks like a lot like the same old grind. If you don't get noticed by a gatekeeper, you don't get an audience, except if you're one of the very small number of people who has risen up that power-law curve.

There's similar sentiments in a Leonard Witt / Public Journalism Network Weblog post Are We Developing a Blogger Elite?:

When I tuned into Chris Lydon's Blogging of the President on public radio Sunday night, it was a little like listening to the Sunday Morning Pundits. But instead of the Cokie Roberts, David Brooks, William Safire, Robert Novak, the same old, same olds, we had a new and emerging set of blogger pundits: Jeff Jarvis, Ed Cone, Joshua Micah Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, Atrios . They might have added Joi Ito, Jay Rosen, Doc Searles and the other A-listers, who are now showing up on every conference agenda and on every talk show.

And one proposed solution (heart's in the right place, this is my paraphrase) was that the A-list should, for noblesse oblige reasons, spread around some of the punditry placement to their proteges, in order to diversify the oligarchy a little.

Oh, FEEL THE REVOLUTION! Revel in the challenge to authority, the democracy of "we", the emergent ... pundocracy.

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

By Seth Finkelstein | posted in statistics | on February 01, 2004 11:59 PM (Infothought permalink) | Followups
Seth Finkelstein's Infothought blog (Wikipedia, Google, censorware, and an inside view of net-politics) - Syndicate site (subscribe, RSS)

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Wow. You definitely have reading comprehension issues.

Contrast the same olds...

Cokie Roberts, David Brooks, William Safire, Robert Novak

With your diversity-challenged oligarchy...

Jeff Jarvis, Ed Cone, Joshua Micah Marshall, Andrew Sullivan, Atrios

[For those of you not getting it, there is virtually no progressive thinking represented in the first list, and the second list is not uniform...]

If you're going to whine about being marginalized, might it not be worthwhile to avoid sources which demonstrate marginalized voices finding a venue?

Long live the revolution.

Posted by: sean broderick at February 2, 2004 08:24 AM

I lost you somewhere. Everyone in the second list, with the exception of Atrios, is a professional chattering-class pundit. Hardly a marginalized voice finding a venue.

If you're arguing that the group leans a bit more to the left in total, well, this was a public-radio event after all. And on the other hand, Cokie Roberts is not chopped liver.

Let's put it this way - if one has to squint very, very, hard to see the revolution, it can't be much of a revolution.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 2, 2004 08:46 AM

That there's an A-List, i.e., that the curve of traffic falls off steeply, seems to be a fact. Whether its current inhabitants are sufficiently different from the old media pundits is something we could argue about, but I tend to agree with you, Seth.

But doesn't the fact that there are 1M+ bloggers with relatively small readerships constitute a real revolution in both the form and content of media?

Posted by: David Weinberger at February 2, 2004 09:54 AM

No. 99.9% of them are keeping a diary online. There is nothing *wrong* with an online diary. But there is nothing revolutionary in *form* or *content* in it either.

And a large part of the remain 0.1% is people spouting off about what they read in big media (taken here *including* the A-list). Nothing revolutionary there. Instead of doing it in the bar or around the water-cooler, they do it to a few readers. In all these cases - bar, water-cooler, a few readers, somewhere in the entire universe there's a person who wins the right-place/right-time lottery, and something significant comes out of it. But that's like lightning striking, almost all the time people don't get hit by lightning, nothing to see here.

Posted by: Seth Finkelstein at February 2, 2004 10:16 AM

I agree completely. In many ways there is even less diversity among the blogging crowd than in the wider world, particularly on net related issues. These inbred, self-referential blogging circles represent groupthink at its worst. For a rare contrarian voice, check out the Unlimited Freedom blog at http://invisiblog.com/1c801df4aee49232/.

I guess it's just human nature that the first thing people do when faced with a level playing field is to start setting up elites and in-groups. Everyone is equal, but some are more equal than others. The latest manifestations of this effect are the oh so casual mentions of checking out the invitation-only orkut service. Nobody has anything interesting to say about it, they just want to make sure everyone knows that they're well enough connected to get in.

Posted by: Cypherpunk at February 2, 2004 01:41 PM

Seth is right. A blog is one way to publish. It's different because publishing to the web is easy, dirt cheap, and doesn't require persuading someone else to pay you to write.

But, in the end, it's the words that count, not the publishing medium. And the words brought to us by all those blogs are not very revolutionary. Almost all blogs use almost all their wordage talking about the person who's doing the writing. Better blogs, including the so-called A-list crew, tend to concentrate on wrapping clever bits of commentary around links to news and commentary in the mainstream media. (It's a fancy version of what I'm doing now posting this comment.)

It is all interesting, On occasion, it is enlightening and thought provoking. But, it is not a revolution.

Blogging technology does have the potential to allow important, influential and/or interesting people to speak with their fellows without the PR shield that usually surrounds their public utterances. A few politicians, for example, have honest-to-God blogs.

A potent blogging myth is that they are about to supplant mainstream media as a source of news and information. Or at least scare the bejeebers out of "Big Media". Apparently, we are all supposed to recognize the blogosphere's inherent ability to Get Things Right. (For example, President Dean.)

In reality, since very few, if any, blogs actually engage in the activity known as "collecting and reporting news", I fear all we have to look forward to is more and more people telling each other what they think. I don't know what that is, but it sure ain't journalism, or news, or revolutionary.

And don't get me started on memes.

Posted by: billg at February 2, 2004 05:16 PM

Hi Seth and Friends:

Since I helped get this discussion started with my elite post at PJNet.org, I should flesh it out here.

On the one hand, I am worried about a new elite, but most of my energy is spent in thinking about "participatory journalism." As Seth knows from our commentary talks at other sites, I think a revolution is possible. Each of you probably has already done so, but, if not, read the American Press Institute's We Media report.


It is great summary of what's going on with fantastic bibliography links. There are possibilities out there that just amaze me. Each of us is part of that revolution just by keeping the discussion going. Change is being made right here. Seth, you might deny it, but by enabling this discussion you are part of it. Thanks.

Posted by: Leonard Witt at February 3, 2004 11:49 AM