Thursday, May 26, 2005

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What to read about the blogosphere today

Two outstanding contributions about the way the blogosphere works:

1) Eszter Hargittai posts a summary of her research into the viability of Cass Sunstein's hypothesis -- that the Internet fosters cyberbalkanization -- by analyzing link structures in the political blogosphere. Her preliminary findings:

Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.

Two other interesting findings: balkanization is not increasing over time, and -- sorry, I can't resist this one -- "We found that about half of the [cross-ideological] links represent what we classify as strawman arguments. The liberal bloggers in our sample are more likely to engage in such cross-linking than the conservative bloggers."

2) Carl Bialik has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) that looks behind the numbers floated around with regard to the number of blogs out there and how blog traffic is measured. These paragraphs might make some blog triumphalists pause a bit before declaring the death of dead tree media:

Advertisers may not be happy with [standard blog counters], since they count total visits, and not the "unique visitor" figure that is the standard currency for many kinds of online advertising (advertisers don't want to pay twice to reach the same reader). "That's a big issue," Henry Copeland, founder of, told me at a conference last week. "We're very aware that's a flawed number."

...ComScore Media Metrix and Neilsen//NetRatings are the sources most often used by online advertisers to track unique visitors. Neither tracks blogs as a matter of course, though comScore did look up traffic for 13 prominent blogs in April, upon my request (I picked ones from the top of the various rankings). Just five met the company's minimum threshold for statistical significance of about 150,000 monthly visitors. Media and gossip site Gawker had the most, with 304,000 unique visitors. The others that cleared the cut: Defamer (287,000), Boing Boing (250,000), Daily Kos (212,000) and Gizmodo (209,000). Among those that didn't were prominent political blogs Instapundit, Power Line and Eschaton. (I asked NetRatings about the same 13 blogs, and it had reportable data only for Defamer, Daily Kos, Boing Boing and Gizmodo -- and the sample sizes didn't meet standards for statistical significance.)

ComScore and NetRatings both recruit panels of online users who agree to install software that monitors their behavior. The companies use sampling techniques similar to those of political pollsters.

By point of comparison, comScore says the New York Times's Web site had 29.8 million unique visitors in April.

posted by Dan on 05.26.05 at 11:29 AM


I wonder about the idea that the blogosphere doesn't create a sort of balkinization.

At least, it does with me. I refuse to read most of the more conservative blogs, and none of the liberal ones.

The moderate ones, which to me sound like varying strains of libertarian thought, are more interesting, and I find myself reading only those (such as this blog...)

But then, obviously, I could be the proverbial exception that proves the rule.

posted by: Dave on 05.26.05 at 11:29 AM [permalink]

Of COURSE they're watching each other.
What, after all, would they ahve to argue about if they didn't?

posted by: Bithead on 05.26.05 at 11:29 AM [permalink]

"These paragraphs might make some blog triumphalists pause a bit before declaring the death of dead tree media:"

Dead tree media are far from dead. The fact is for the most part bloggers depend on the dead tree media. Don't forget, most of us are sitting around in our pajamas pontificating, not out there tracking down the news.

Two functions of real value that bloggers have brought to the table are first, fact checking news stories, and second, keeping news stories alive long after the dead tree media would like them dead. Think of Dan Rather and Eason Jordan.

Dead tree media can very easily cut into the blogger traffic share by focusing on honest and accurate reporting. It may not have occurred to them, though. They've been busy promoting a point of view.

posted by: Tom Bowler on 05.26.05 at 11:29 AM [permalink]

I would suggest that the data shows that there is a ceiling for political blogs, because (with a few notable exceptions) the most popular blogs are those which allowed for the reader to express his/her own opinions in comments -- and participate in the discussion. But when a blog attracts over 100 comments to a single post before you've seen it, there's not much point in commenting. DailyKos is the only political blog that made the cut, and that is probably because it was the pioneer in "diary" structures, that allow readers to create their own posts....and interact with other readers interested in the topic.

posted by: p.lukasiak on 05.26.05 at 11:29 AM [permalink]

I was just over at and he was actually asking for more cross-connections -- or at least an attack or two from blogs like this one.

Never can tell ...

posted by: Stephen M (Ethesis) on 05.26.05 at 11:29 AM [permalink]

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