Friday, June 24, 2005

Voting with the pings 

MOBster Matt Abe is wondering about news that liberal blogs are more popular because they're more like communities.
The "next big thing" in the political blogosphere is already underway in its liberal regions, but apparently not in conservative areas. Liberal bloggers (most notably Daily Kos and MyDD) are leading the way with a new kind of web site that combines group blogging and social networking. The most popular platform for this right now is called Scoop.
The thesis is that new liberal bloggers are found through more interactive platforms, while conservative bloggers find each other only via blogrolls, meaning the top-level blogs carry huge blogrolls and third- and fourth-level conservative blogs suffer from low traffic and have trouble being found. These newer platforms are supposed to be collaborative and reader-driven.

Like conservative blogs aren't?

The thesis fails, I think, on two levels. First, it is quite difficult to tell on community blogs who is good and who is bad if you are an outsider. I spend a good deal of time on bulletin boards and some posters will have credibility versus other posters. But that credibility is only for others who are members in the community of frequent posters (or lurkers, I suppose.) To outsiders there isn't much credibility. What makes a conservative blog fly is its credibility. You acquire it by building a brand. But once established, the brand can be marketed to other readers to expand readership. These are very different marketing tools. And a blogger with his or her own brand has a greater incentive to bring new information to the blogosphere because he or she can profit from it, either through ego from having many eyes reading or through Blogads. (It's noteworthy that most bloggers trying to make a living from their blogs are lefties, who therefore are more aggressively marketing their blogs to advertisers. It's my impression from talking to Captain Ed and Powerline that they do not actively seek blogads, for example; in the latter case it isn't necessary -- being in Time will draw advertisers to them.)

And it's worth noting that we discussed this before last fall during Rathergate. Joe Carter has noted that there is a hierarchy of news, and it may be that interactive aggregators would fit on Joe's third tier than at the level of Powerline or Kos. But the value of these things as I wrote at the time comes from their ability to gather specific knowledge for others to use for their own decisionmaking. Trackback, Technorati and other linking features act as votes that the information at such a place has value. (Even though my trackback is manual, I try to ping whenever I can.) The problem Scoop is that while it allows for voting, it doesn't indicate whose vote it is. Someone with a highly visible and reliable blog leaves a strong mark when he or she tracks back to a third- or fourth-level blog.