Yesterday, Chris Bowers noted how the conservative blogosphere seems to have a disproportionately large influence on the mainstream media, as well as results in Google News.
For a long time, I have hoped that the progressive blogosphere would eventually emerge as an important cornerstone of a new progressive media empire that would not only serve as a counterweight to the Republican Noise Machine, but would even come to surpass the efforts of the right. To this end, I have written numerous posts, essays and articles lauding the growing influence of the progressive blogosphere, including the report The Emergence of the Progressive Blogosphere for NPI that I co-authored with Matt. However, after sepnding most of the day compiling research for another project I am working on, I stumbled across some rather disturbing data that indicates the progressive blogosphere is making few, if any, real waves when it comes to influencing the content of the MSM.His proposed solution:
There are probably at least 15-20 people who are trying to live as full-time progressive bloggers in America, and many more progressives with good blogs who would like to make blogging their full-time occupation. While these people are experiencing rapid audience growth, not only do many still have a difficult time making ends meet, but they are clearly struggling to make real waves within the national political discourse. (Hell, even I had to use Google News for this study instead of Lexis-Nexis, to which I should really purchase a subscription). To put this as bluntly as I can, progressives will not be able to break the conservative governing majority over the long term, no matter how narrow it may be, unless we can turn around the rapidly deteriorating media climate in this country. In order for progressives to change the deteriorating media climate in this country, it will be absolutely essential for the new progressive pundit class, which is to be found primarily in radio and the blogosphere, to be funded and cross-promoted.Now, while I find the call for developing progressive think tanks to be laudable -- and hardly unique -- I feel that Chris perhaps is missing something essential about the progressive movement and how it is complemented by the internet medium.
This is adapted from my response there....
It takes work to pay attention
Ann Coulter makes news, for example, by calling for the murder of journalists and other outrageous statements.
Is that influence? Perhaps she's marginalized herself, but there's no question that conservative voices, no matter how wacked, get access to the cameras and newspapers and skew the debate way right of the mainstream public. They provide simple, simplistic sound bites, playing right into the medium. (And the medium is the message, right?)
What's the message of the internet medium?
Here's something I've noted in my own stats: Links from the biggest sites above, with the exception of Atrios, seem to generate precious little traffic. Sites like Daily Kos are so insular, even a FP mention will generate only a few curiosity hits, while a casual oh-by-the-way link in a modestly trafficked site could generate hundreds of hits. (Now, before the army of consent descends upon me claiming I'm simply attacking Daily Kos, let me say categorically that I'm not. Sure, I have my issues with the site and some personalities there, but this is about the greater "progressive blogosphere" as a whole, which is orders of magnitude larger. Having the biggest blog on the internet is great for the vaguely Democratic/progressive/liberal causes, but it's not enough. The internet rewards internetworking, not just isolated size.)
This is not a new criticism: The big sites tend not to link to the smaller sites. The "Top 100" pay attention to each other, but the real strength of the progressive blogosphere is in the thousands upon thousands of very sharp smaller blogs out there. (Where would many sites be without Peter Daou constantly linking out to mid-sized sites?)
The internet rewards communities across websites. The internet rewards conversations between websites. The internet rewards relevance, which is measured by in-content links from other sites of relevance. This is the state of SEO today.
And blogrolls are mostly ignored by the search engines now -- certainly deprecated. The relevance comes from in-content linking. And there's precious little of that from the big blogs because everybody's looking one way, and the big bloggers don't see the smaller sites behind them.
With all the heated debates on the left-of-right perspectives of the major issues, it would seem that there's plenty of opportunity to link out -- to post a dissenting opionion, for example. But unfortunately there seems to be a mindset on the part of many big bloggers that dissenting opinions should be ignored rather than engaged, preferring to do their part to help a website drift off "in obscurity." If we cannot embrace the dissent within our vaguely-defined "ranks", then how can we expect more progressive influence? If we're so busy ignoring each other, then how can we expect others to pay attention?
Changing this paradigm may not affect how the MSM treats the blogosphere, but it WILL affect how Google News treats these hits. I have some email alerts for Google News, and in the results I'd say 2/3 are mainstream news sources and 1/3 are conservative sites (like "LifeNews"). Every now and then a liberal voice comes through, but that seems very rare in my experience. (Does Google News have a political bias?)
But here we are, some 7+ years (?) since the Cluetrain started, and we who are most advantaged by these trends collectively continue to fail to appreciate it, and act upon it.
Cross-linking helps. And that takes effort, work, time. But with money or not, people already are blogging the heck out of the topics of the day from a progressive perspective. The real question, perhaps, is not whether they should be paid by a thinktank, but rather why so many excellent voices languish in obscurity, ignored not just by Google News and the MSM but by their peers. Thoughts?