Thursday, March 22, 2007

Where All the Bloggers At?

I definitely owe a debt of gratitude to the folks at WisPolitics for helping to get my blog some readership. Mine is probably the least-read blog on the WisOpinion "Featured Blogs" list, and my readership has gone even further south since I made a conscious turn toward blogging on policy issues after the November elections.

Here's my monthly SiteMeter count to demonstrate the unmistakable trend:

That jump last spring corresponds with when I was added as one of the "Featured Blogs" on WisOpinion, along with when my posts started to appear on the "Editorial Links" section on a more regular basis. And the relatively small readership I have managed to retain in recent months, I'm sure, is very much due to the continuation of this blog's place on WisOpinion (including they're posting of this very piece).

That said, in spite of all the help WisPolitics has provided me and, surely, many other small-timers in the political blogging community -- who make up the majority of political blogosphere -- I have to question whether the 2nd Annual WisPolitics Blog Summit is really about those same bloggers.

Of course, there is some legitimate debate over who's actually part of "the blogging community" and who isn't. And the lines that define that community, in many cases, are really quite blurry.

But I do think a difference can be drawn between those whose sole (or primary) avenue into the state political discourse is their blog and those who use their blog as more of a supplement to their engagement in state-level politics.

The blur comes in when you consider those whose blog was the main catalyst in catapulting their voice into more traditional media formats like TV, radio, and print, or their influence into areas such as political consulting or high level campaign work (I should add that not every blogger wants to be catapulted).

But, for the most part, a pretty clear divide could be found from asking the simple question: If blogging was outlawed tomorrow, whose voice or influence would be left?

And looking at the list of people chosen to speak at the 2nd WisPolitics Blog Summit, I see only one that probably wouldn't (although I'm sure Jay would continue to have strong local influence, particularly in MPS matters, and he's easily smart enough to get himself a prominent place in state politics without his blog if he wanted).

This is not to say that the summit won't be a beneficial event for bloggers of all shapes and sizes. The panel topics all look interesting and pertinent. Nevertheless, the main discussions that take place on all of them except the last are going to have the distinct perspective of those who really don't need their blogs to have a seat at the table.

It will be interesting to see how the effect of this plays out.


Side-Note: I want to add that the title isn't meant to imply that the participants in the summit aren't really bloggers. As I note in the post, that's a complicated and subjective question. And, in the end, the complete definition of "blogger" is surely broad enough to encompass anyone who, well, takes the time to blog.

Instead, the title comes from my favorite line from the movie Blazing Saddles, which just happened to pop in my head after I read through the summit line-up. Here it is:



Blogger Dad29 said...

FWIW, I think that the readership went down following the close of the election.

Seems as though the political-types kinda lost interest when some questions were decided.

March 22, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I'm sure the election played a role in the drop-off, but I don't think that fully explains the sharpness of the decline. I expected the spikes from September & November to go away, but there also has been some serious erosion of the consistent visits I was getting last May-August when most in the state hadn't yet tuned into the elections. Those who were paying attention last May and June are, for the most part, probably the type who are still paying attention now.

But all that does somewhat buttress my point that policy isn't nearly as enticing as political drama, in spite of the fact that -- I'd argue -- it's more important.

I think if I was hitting the steamy side of the Supreme Court race and the Troha scandals harder, my numbers would have remained higher.

March 22, 2007  
Blogger James Rowen said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

March 22, 2007  
Blogger James Rowen said...

Hi, Seth;

I deleted an original comment due to typos. Sorry.

My point is that policy is very important (most of my postings are about policy, at least as I see it), but it also is not surprising that traffic comes and goes with the news.

I was invited to participate in the bloggers' summit but my schedule did not permit it. I would definitely have attended.

March 22, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment, James. I agree your blog is mostly policy, which is a big reason I enjoy reading it.

I hope this post isn't being read as a complaint about my readership, though. I only started with that piece to explain that, although I think the summit will have limitations due to the selection of participants, WisPolitics has still done more than its fair share for promoting and giving voice to the small-timers in the blogging community, such as my blog.

And I actually find it beneficial that my posts aren't as widely read, at least to a certain extent. That way I think I'm getting more serious readers who have an interest in the policy side of politics rather than those who only follow politics for the same type of (over)dramatic engagement they can get from watching "24" or "Desperate Houswives." And I think that has helped, at least on some occasions, to create far more useful and enlightening comment threads than those I seem to get when blogging about the scandals.

March 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think its XOFFs fault. After the election he closed up shop. He sent a lot of love your way, and you took the biggest hit.

As far as the summit I agree, the only two I'd consider bloggers are Jay and Boots.

If I remember it was local issues not policy that you were going to focus on. It seems to me your posting and your viewers have moved more towards the right.

March 22, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I did want to do more on local policy in the new year -- which I've actually found to be quite difficult, although I'd still like to try -- but my goal on election day was just to get back to policy posts in general.

Moving to the right, huh. Care to be more specific, (just guessing here) Nate?

March 22, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You're good. When I made the comment it was two things I had in mind, those who comment on your blog and some of your recent posts.

When I said right I was certainly not thinking of 'social / cultural' issues but economic ones.

It very may have been less of you going to the right than as you said the issues you chose to blog about. You tend to have far more centrist positions on economic issues as compared to social / cultural ones.

March 23, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The loss of Dennis York is the primary reason I personally do not view the Wisconsin political blogs as much lately. Dennis / Christian was one of the few bloggers who would (a) express truly independent ideas, i.e. not always being tied to one party or one side at any given time; (b) be willing to dish out criticism and accept it at the same time; and especially (c) have a fantastic sense of humor and poke fun at any sitution and especially at himself.

Virtually all of the other bloggers, lefty or righty, are completely the opposite - (a) they can never express an idea not espoused by their chosen party; (b) they have tremendously fragile egos and could never, ever consider that they were wrong about a topic; and (c) they take everything, especially themselves, far too seriously.

March 23, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

I enjoyed the Dennis York blog, too. But I'm not so sure it was independence that prompted the WPRI to hire him (although he's certainly more ideologically moderate than most other conservative bloggers in least he was as the anonymous Dennis York). He's back blogging, too, at Atomic Trousers, although he seems to be saving his political stuff for his WPRI work. The wit is still there, though.

I agree partisanship in the blogosphere is an issue, particularly surrounding elections (which is somewhat natural since elections are about choices, not nuanced positions). But, as I describe here, I'd say it's a premium on reactive writing over reflective writing as much as anything that explains why the local blogosphere often pollutes more than it enlightens.

March 23, 2007  
Blogger Jay Bullock said...

Seth, I've seen the same drop-off in traffic (my graph), though I'll spike again I think because of the election.

At any rate, I think everyone complaining about the panelists at the Blog Summit are thinking too parochially. WisPolitics serves many more constiuencies than just us bloggers, and we shouldn't expect an event they put on to be just for us.

March 24, 2007  
Blogger Seth Zlotocha said...

Thanks for your comment, Jay. My response, which I'm sure you've already seen, is over on your blog

March 24, 2007  

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