October 12, 2005
Last night, I caught Henry Farrell's thoughtful discussion of how blogging is changing politics. Henry noted that although individual blogs have significantly smaller readerships than most major news sources (such as The New York Times or Washington Post), they have attracted a significant amount of attention in the media and even in political dialogue. Today, a Washington Post article, "Cyber-Catharsis: Bloggers Use Web Sites as Therapy," explores the potentially therapeutic role blogs can have. While the article acknowledges the personal and professional risks of "therapy blogging," it also cites Matt Kirschenbaum and others who note that blog relationships can become "very real" (these "risks" are not unrelated to the Tribblist cautionary tales about academic blogging). Henry's talk and the Post article do bring up some interesting questions about why blogging has recieved so much ambivalent attention from "older" media.
In terms of political dialogue, as Henry noted in his talk, during Senator Cornyn's questions for John Roberts, he apparently cited reaction to Roberts' nomination in the blogosphere. Negative reactions in the blogosphere to Harriet Miers' nomination, especially among conservative bloggers, have also received a lot of attention, even if relatively few people are reading a vast majority of blogs that are out there (including my own). However, as Henry notes, many of the people who are attentive to blogs, including journalists and political actors, can have a major, if indirect, effect on politics.
In this context, I've been interested in the responses to bloging by the two major national newspapers, The New York Times and The Washington Post. Most bloggers know by now that the Times has now walled off its op-ed content, requiring that readers pay a somewhat significant annual subscription fee. The result has been a decrease in the influence of New York Times columnists, at least within the blogosphere (which is only a small corner of the world, of course). By contrast, the Washington Post has used blogging to encourage readership, not only by using Technorati to highlight blogs that are linking to Post content, but also by citing bloggers in their Media Notes Extra section, to which I'm quickly becoming addicted. I probably don't need to develop this line of argument any further, but I have been intrigued by the Post's careful cultivation of an audience of bloggers.
Posted by chuck at October 12, 2005 11:28 AM
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I've been following what the post has been doing with interest too. It was interesting, the first day that I linked to a WaPo article and then, a few hours later, got a hit from the WaPo's page itself. This is, to me, the first legitimate indication that some in mainstream print journalism are interested in fostering a real sense of conversation surrounding their writings. It makes sense to us: If you bring the bloggers in to a comfortable and interesting environment, they'll be more willing to read what you offer and involve you as well.
As far as the "blogging sphere of influence" goes, I think the most interesting and unexpected byproduct of blogging for me (as a largely political blogger) has been the idea that, in whatever small way, I might have a little bit of influence on people who can make a difference. For instance, I know that the chairman of the economics department at Cal-Berkley reads my blog, I know that there is a person in charge of an entire section of the Sacramento SacBee who reads my blog. I'm by no means a widely-read blogger, but that there are people who ARE that are reading me, well, that blows me away.
Posted by: Dylan at October 12, 2005 2:52 PM
I think you're right about the small differences. In Henry's talk, he discussed the link etiquette where bigger bloggers will sometimes promote good ideas from smaller blogs, so that's one concrete example of what you're talking about. I don't know if any journalists are reading my blog, although I was linked on the Atlanta Journal Constitution editorial page for a few weeks.
I've been getting a few hits from the Washington Post Technorati link, which is nice.
Posted by: Chuck at October 12, 2005 4:12 PM
Eek. A 20 minute conversation and it comes down to that. :-)
Posted by: Matt K. at October 12, 2005 10:29 PM
That seems to be how it works. When I was interviewed for The Guardian a couple of years ago, I wrote over 500 words and had a 25-30 word soundbite, tops, in the article....
Posted by: Chuck at October 12, 2005 10:56 PM