The Great Unread

Prelude

Once upon a time there was an island named Blogosphere, and at the very center of that island stood a great castle built of stone, and spreading out from that castle for miles in every direction was a vast settlement of peasants who lived in shacks fashioned of tin and cardboard and straw.

Part one:

On the nature of innocent fraud

I’ve been reading a short book – an essay, really – by John Kenneth Galbraith called The Economics of Innocent Fraud. It’s his last work, written while he was in his nineties, not long before he died. In it, he explains how we, as a society, have come to use the term “market economy” in place of the term “capitalism.” The new term is a kinder and gentler one, with its implication that economic power lies with consumers rather than with the owners of capital or with the managers who have taken over the work of the owners. It’s a fine example, says Galbraith, of innocent fraud.

An innocent fraud is a lie, but it’s a lie that’s more white than black. It’s a lie that makes most everyone happy. It suits the purposes of the powerful because it masks the full extent of their power, and it suits the purposes of the powerless because it masks the full extent of their powerlessness.

What we tell ourselves about the blogosphere – that it’s open and democratic and egalitarian, that it stands in contrast and in opposition to the controlled and controlling mass media – is an innocent fraud.

Part two:

The loneliness of the long-tail blogger

The thing about an innocent fraud, though, is that it’s not that hard to see through. Often, in fact, you have to make an effort not to see through it, and at some point, for some people, the effort no longer seems worth it. A few days back, the blogger Kent Newsome asked, “Who are the readers of our blogs?” His answer had a melancholy tone:

The number of bloggers competing for attention makes it seem like the blogosphere is a huge, chaotic place. But it only seems that way because we have all ended up in a small room at the end of the hall. When people refuse to converse with me or go out of their way to link around me, it hurts a little. Until I remember that while they aren’t listening to me, no one in the real world is listening to them either …

Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy writing. But sometimes it feels vaguely depressing to write something, put it up and wait anxiously for someone to reply via comment or link.

A handful of people responded to Newsome’s post, among them the long-time blogger Seth Finkelstein. Finkelstein’s tone was much darker. You sensed not only the resignation but also the bitterness that is always left behind when a fraud is revealed:

To be more personal here, I wrote because:

1) I was suckered into the idea that blogs were a way to “route around” media power, and to be HEARD.

2) I had delusions of influence.

3) The random-payoff of attention makes it seem far more effective than it actually is.

4) It’s painful to admit that you’ve wasted so much time and effort and pretty much nobody is listening.

Blog evangelism is very cruel, as it preys on people’s frustrated hopes and dreams.

My blog is read by a few dozen fans … I’ve come close to shutting it down at times, and will finally reach the breaking-point eventually.

The powerful have a greater stake in the perpetuation of an innocent fraud than do the powerless. Long after the powerless have suspended their suspension of disbelief, the powerful will continue to hold tightly to the fraud, repeating it endlessly amongst themselves in an echo chamber that provides a false ring of truth.

Part three:

How to get a link from an A Lister

I met Seth Finkelstein recently. We had both been invited to participate in a day-long conference about “hyperlinking” at the Annenberg School in Philadelphia. The conference’s first panel was moderated by Jay Rosen, a journalism professor at New York University who also writes the popular blog Pressthink, which has the following tag line: “Ghost of Democracy in the Media Machine.” During a brief Q&A session at the close of the panel, a woman in the audience expressed frustration about getting bloggers like Rosen to link to her site. She asked the professor if he had any suggestions. Rosen said that the best way to get a link from him is to write a post about one of his posts. He carefully monitors mentions of his work in other blogs, he said, and he frequently provides links back to them, at least when they have some substance.

Rosen’s answer could not possibly have been more honest. The best way, by far, to get a link from an A List blogger is to provide a link to the A List blogger. As the blogophere has become more rigidly hierarchical, not by design but as a natural consequence of hyperlinking patterns, filtering algorithms, aggregation engines, and subscription and syndication technologies, not to mention human nature, it has turned into a grand system of patronage operated – with the best of intentions, mind you – by a tiny, self-perpetuating elite. A blog-peasant, one of the Great Unread, comes to the wall of the castle to offer a tribute to a lord, and the lord drops a couple of coins of attention into the peasant’s little purse. The peasant is happy, and the lord’s hold over his position in the castle is a little bit stronger.

“Ghost of Democracy” is a wonderful term. It perpetuates the innocent fraud even as it exposes it.

Epilogue

One day, a blog-peasant boy found buried in the dust beside his shack a sphere of flawless crystal. When he looked into the ball he was astounded to see a moving picture. It was an image of a fleet of merchant ships sailing into the harbor of the island of Blogosphere. The ships bore names that had long been hated throughout the island, names like Time-Warner and News Corp and Pearson and New York Times and Wall Street Journal and Conde Nast and McGraw-Hill. The blog-peasants gathered along the shore, jeering at the ships and telling the invaders that they would soon be vanquished by the brave lords in the great castle. But when the captains of the merchant ships made their way to the gates of the castle, bearing crates of gold, they were not repelled by the lords with cannons but rather welcomed with fanfares. And all through the night the blog-peasants could hear the sounds of a great feast inside the castle walls.

95 Comments

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95 Responses to The Great Unread

  1. Gorgeous writing Nick.

  2. Perhaps for people who are using blogging as a way to route around old media, sure, your low readership may be disappointing. But I, and most of my friends who blog, are only trying to route around sending mass emails to family and friends. Or sending letters to the editor. Or participating in discussion boards. In that context, 50 people reading my blog seems quite gratifying.

  3. Thanks for the, err, link :-)

    Some other people’s writing in a similar vein which I recommend:

    Jon Garfunkel on The New Gatekeepers – “I will argue here that gatekeepers are inherently needed by the architecture of the blogosphere”, and Promoting Women Bloggers.

    Shelley Powerssome of my best friends are Z-listers“, and good girls ask nicely

    Dave Rogers on the

    “con” in

    “Markets Are Conversations”

  4. Why do you blog, Nick?

  5. I’ll second Ezra’s comments and note that the desire to be linked to, or to have boosted traffic numbers, is an answer in need of a question. Namely, “and then what?”

    This is not to excuse the nature of the A-List popularity machine. Some of it *is* fairly innocent, I’ll note, as I am unsure that Heather Armstrong strongly encouraged nearly everyone to associate being fired for blogging as being “Dooced” – with a link to her site for context, of course. Not to rip on Dooce; I don’t read it myself, but I don’t advise anyone not to. But I am inclined to say that X number of references to that site are essentially “unearned”, if you follow me.

    Having said that, what will happen if [blogger] gets more inbound links or higher inbound traffic? Fame? Fortune? Concubines? And as Ezra said, is that everyone’s mutual goal?

    WRT Seth Finkelstein’s quoted comments, I am a subscriber to Infothought (along with 239 of my closest friends, per Bloglines), but the material is er, “niche” content. It’s OK to say the same about my work at ethmar.com, I can take it.

    But like Kent Newsome said, sometimes it’s deflating to cast out one’s pearls and come up empty in the traffic/comments department. I come back to Earth when I remind myself that it’s my personal space to explore the things that *I* want to explore, audience be damned.

    Thus to Kent and Seth, is your primary intent to be viewed as “thought leaders”? I am genuinely curious.

  6. Ethan: In a word, “Yes”. The usual phrase is “public intellectual”.

    I have done much original civil-liberties research, particularly regarding censorware, which I’ve wanted to disseminate.

    I don’t mean the following in a rude way, but as a direct answer to your question: There’s a few common blog-evangelism arguments that come up. One I term “You can’t be read by everyone, so you might as well be happy being read by no-one” (more accurately – a very tiny fan audience). This sets up a straw-man for the evangelist to knock down. All activist, literary, professional, intellectual pursuits are in some sense niche interests, compared to the overall population. But even so, the exponential distribution problem applies within a niche, of a few people getting heard, and everyone else having to beg them to get meaningful distribution.

    Another straw-man is to view a shorthand (“links”) out of context, away from what it’s used to signify, and then ridicule that isolated context. Obviously, pure infamy, or a jillion links from spam-blogs, is not what I’m after. But intellectual influence, including professional recognition, and bluntly, some the monetary opportunities which can flow from that, are very reasonable desires (you don’t think people attend conferences for the wild drunken parties, do you?).

    By the way, that “239 readers” number is misleading. It’s just the number of people who at least have the headlines scroll by. My tracking indicates that far fewer actually *read* the post. This isn’t surprising, but it’s important to keep in mind how inflated those statistics can be (a minor aspect of the blog hype).

  7. Morgan Goeller

    Nick,

    Loved the post.

    Your argument seems to be that the old gatekeepers were bad so therfore all gatekeepers are bad. Although I am no fan of hierarchy, I think that this assumption just ignores how human beings work and think. Our brains naturally classify and connect ideas, and attempt to enjoy the wheat and ignore the chaff. These classifications lead to value judgements, which lead to hierarchy.

    The blogosphere isn’t so much a bastion of democracy as it is a new frontier, where adventures can be had and legends can be made. This means there is great opportunity, but their isn’t infinite opportunity. The laws of physics, humanity, and cognition still apply.

    A comparison might be made with MMORPG’s. The reason why there are very few fully functioning societies in online games is that no one wants to be the peasant. No one really wants to be the person who grinds corn 16 hours a day and goes to bed hungry. Everyone wants to be the hero. And, when you are paying someone else to do the work you certainly can do that. However, when you are going up against a horde of people (especially those pesky well-funded established professionals) then things aren’t so easy.

    As bloggers, we shouldn’t complain when people don’t read our stuff. It is just an indication that something is amiss, either in how we market ourselves or the quality or of our work. Like it or not, a blogger is an information entrepeneur, and the only measures of success are personal satisfaction and delivering consistent results. No one is entitled to an audience, just the opportunity to create one.

    BTW, here is my own plucky little blog on an obscure subject that is just desperately looking for a link from an A-Lister. Oh, woe is me ;-)

    Morgan

  8. Seth, no offense taken (or meant).

    But intellectual influence, including professional recognition, and bluntly, some the monetary opportunities which can flow from that, are very reasonable desires (you don’t think people attend conferences for the wild drunken parties, do you?).

    OK, my follow-up question is, does blogging indeed raise the likelihood of this happening, specifically related to your aspirations? I won’t get into all of the ins and outs of “fame” as applied to “A-List” bloggers, but the matchbook cover version is that many A-Listers thrive on “that which is valued”. I don’t mean this as a put-down. More to the point, this comes down to “tell me how you’re measuring me, and I’ll tell you how I’ll behave.”

    I’ll be honest and note that I’m really not that familiar with the scope and breadth of your interests. If pressed, I’d boil it down to “censorware research” but I don’t know that this does any justice. But I think it is fair to inquire as to whether blogging does in fact further those aims (and by extension, your notoriety).

    Hopefully I left all of the straw in the barn this time.

  9. cmb

    I don’t quite know how you went fron a (great) little book to this sucky rant that has almost nothing to do with that book.

    For the record – I’m just writing this to let you know that random people read your stuff, and they dig it. I’m drifting towards more of an interest in say, solar energy – but your insights into what has been the most important technological field of our times is invaluable.

  10. Ethan, that’s example the point of my comment above, and the bitterness. To some extent, I think I was “taken” by hucksters who prey on people’s frustrated hopes and dreams. I got the impression “that blogging indeed raise[s] the likelihood of this happening”. All the slogans about “route around” the media, “formerly known as the audience”, “now everyone has a printing press”, etc. But as far as I could determine when measured objectively, the effect is extremely marginal if present, and arguably negative for a lot of reasons. And when I said things like that, I’d be told it was all my fault for not believing hard enough, that’s whining, and nobody likes a whiner (i.e., saying “it doesn’t work” shows I have a bad attitude so of course it doesn’t work, just like being skeptical of fairies causes them to disappear, you gotta believe, clap your hands, pay no attention to the venture capital funds behind the curtain …).

    And to pre-emptively answer “Why continue?”, again, the idea is that there’s maybe a lot of psychological reasons in play which are bad, similar to those which drive compulsive gambling or a destructive romantic relationship. That the question “If it’s not good for you, then why do you do it?” often has a complex answer having to do with continued temptation, or the emotional pain of admitting having made a mistake.

    There maybe some truth in the saying that you can’t cheat an honest man, but human frailty shouldn’t excuse the hustlers who exploit it.

  11. Jerry Bowles

    Excellent post, Nick. Fortunately, there is now a cure for the don’t-get-no-readers blues. I call it Riggy Digg Digg.

  12. Sid Steward

    In the domain of software I have found it’s very hard to get and hold people’s attention. Free stuff isn’t enough, even if it’s good. Look at Firefox or OpenOffice.

    I believe marketing is the key — damn the product (well, almost). I suspect that blogs are the same way.

    To help folks with no ad budget promote their blogs, I created a service where you can trade eyeballs with opt-in partners: LinkLike.

    Ideas for keeping myths at bay: write a business plan, set measurable goals and measure your success. Rechart your course to suit. This is really just a page from Nick’s book, er, blog.

  13. Kent Newsome

    Ethan,

    I’m not sure that I know what “thought leader” means, or that everyone would share the same definition. So let me answer you this way.

    What I really want is for my writing and analysis to stand or fall on its own merits- and not due to my relationship (or lack thereof) with the so-called blogging elite. If I am proven an idiot, that’s OK. I’d have no one to blame but myself. But the people who control the small room I wrote about in the text Nick quoted aren’t always willing to engage people who don’t drink from the same kool-aid as they do. It is, I think, a form of position censorship- which is part of why I enjoy Seth’s writing so much.

    I guess to paraphrase an old theory of mine- I just want to participate in the conversation. Whether I become a thought leader or the dunce in the corner is not so much the issue.

  14. Sid Steward

    Maybe blog disillusionment is so bitter because it tugs on the day-to-day illusions we wrap ourselves in. The world is a big, cold place that doesn’t care what I think — regardless of whether I blog or not. Better to not blog so I don’t learn just how small I am. Spend that time with people who I know and love instead. … dang, what am I doing, wasting my time commenting on a blog? I’m outta here. ;-)

  15. Philip Nelson

    Have you ever noticed how many people you read today you hadn’t heard of five years ago? Take you for example. To be sure, link love today is better than a hundred diggs, but over time, will the A listers command the same persistent media power of the big corporations? I don’t think so. New voices will continue to rise to the top and old voices will fade and I think this will happen faster than in times past.

    A hundred and more years ago, people wrote a lot more and it’s how we know them somewhat today. Writing to your community, however small, is just fine with lots of people and has that in common with the massive letter writing style of yesterday.

  16. Philip: That’s what I call the “Fame Is Fickle” argument. Sure, some stars fade, other rise – but who cares if YOU remain in obscurity. You then make something I call the “One Reader Argument”. It’s when somebody says “I’m happy to spend hours and hours writing away if I have just one reader in the whole world, one other soul in the entire universe who finds my expressions have meaning for them. That makes it all worthwhile”. Great! I’m not – I wouldn’t be happy to have just a single reader. I won’t tell you that you’re wrong in your feelings. But don’t tell me I’m wrong in mine.

    Maybe I should write up a blog post about all of these :-(

  17. Kent Newsome

    Once again, I’ll make an analogy to songwriting- something I’ve done a lot longer than blogging.

    When you start writing songs, you’re happy as a clam just to have some words and music you wrote to listen to- maybe play for your family. After a while, though, what was once the joy of creation becomes a longing for the recognition of that creation.

    All the while you see people you knew back when you were starving musicians together begin to get some regional and national cuts- sometimes because they write great songs, but sometimes it’s just because they were in the right place at the right time or became friends with a producer.

    You figure your time will come and so you keep writing. But over time it seems that everyone has had their turn on the merry-go-round but you. Sure, you still love the music, but the failure to translate that love into an audience or some semblance of a living becomes highly frustrating.

    I know guys who are great writers and unbelievable performers- and who used to have record deals and decent press, who can barely feed their families now. Meanwhile some pretty face who can’t play an instument or cobble two chords together is becoming a star because the industry insiders are promoting him.

    At that point it becomes hard to get excited about writing a song that few beyond your immediate family will ever hear.

  18. Chris_B

    Nick,

    Thanks for expressing this so well.

    Its kind of easy to see why so many people were taken in by “blogs” especially the netheads who typically are known as “A List Bloggers”. My bet is that were one to profile them and the smart people who end up in cults, the stats might not be so different.

    Not that smart folks are automatically suckers, but when high ideals are waved in front of them, most of em will indeed roll over like a puppy.

    Its easy to forget that writing is work and doing it regularly and well is alot of work. When some form of compensation is not forthcoming, all but the most fanatical may become disenheartened.

    Lets hope that Jimmy Wales is never thought of as a latter day James Jones, or Dave Sifry as a David Koresh…

  19. Nice one, Nick. Lots of serious comments here, is it okay that the corporate-ships ending made me think of that Monty Python skit in The Meaning of Life?

    http://www.mwscomp.com/movies/mol/jpgs/v-corp.jpg

  20. Kent:

    “you see people you knew back when you were starving musicians together begin to get some regional and national cuts- sometimes because they write great songs, but sometimes it’s just because they were in the right place at the right time or became friends with a producer.”

    I used to be a freelance journalist; I’ve written for something like a dozen different papers, magazines and Web sites. So that’s a lot of doors I managed to get open. I can think of two occasions when something I wrote was accepted on the basis of its quality alone. All the other times, I was taken on because I’d demonstrated that I could deliver something usable consistently and on time (which isn’t the same thing as quality!); or because I knew someone; or because I knew someone who knew someone.

    It’s basic social network behaviour. If you’re an editor (and I’ve sat on that side of the desk too), you rapidly put together a list of people you can rely on. There are times when you need to extend your network, or mend a hole in it (I got one of my writing gigs courtesy of somebody’s maternity leave), but mostly it’s easier to leave it as it is. Unless it’s really outstanding, one good piece of writing isn’t going to cut it – you could have been working on that one piece for six months, after all, or even got someone else to write it for you. A personal recommendation is actually more valuable.

    My point here is that the world already runs, to a significant extent, on backscratches and whuffies: the currency of bloggie patronage. And yet we persist in thinking of blogland as a place apart – and I include myself. I’m not currently looking for any writing work, but if I were I wouldn’t dream of trying to trade on my contacts with Nick, or with any of the other Real Journalists who I’ve encountered on blogs. It would just feel *wrong* – as wrong as BzzAgent or the wine-promotion deal one British blogger set up.

    I think there’s a temptation – encouraged by the ‘innocent fraud’ Nick describes – to treat blogging as a kind of vast RPG, a haven from real life rather than an element of it (World of Blogcraft?). You can do that on a Usenet newsgroup: everybody gets the same audience, most readers are there to write, and the elders of the group discourage me-too posts and advertising. The trouble with taking the conversation onto the Web is that most readers are only readers: as a result, there’s no discouragement of passive adulation or advertising, and no guarantee that most people will get any audience at all. In short, all the real-world mechanisms of hierarchy and exclusion kick in – and beyond a certain point there’s no way to ‘route around’ them.

  21. kmartino

    People blog for different reasons, not only to be influential. Lets set this down as a rule of fact okay? Without acknowledging it, those on both sides of this debate are raising up straw men to knock down.

    Most people I know who blog don’t care about being influential, they just want a way to be heard by the friends, family, co-workers – their own social community. They want a chance to define who and what they are.

    I’ve heard countless times, from folks, who I’ve tried to convince to start a blog, “I have nothing to say to the world.”

    Fact is, no one knows that, but at least you have an additional way of communicating that acts as a journal, as a memory extension, as a piece of identity.

    Nick, this is a well written piece, poetic even, but I don’t know so much if people fall for the story line of “have a blog, reach millions” anymore.

    I’ve had pretty intense discussions with folks like Jeff Jarvis over the existence of the A-List, usually well supported by Clay Shirky’s piece “Power Laws. Weblogs, and Inequality”.

    Where I’ve distinguished myself is with a nuanced view that people, like you, like Seth, like the great writers he mentions who I read everyday, who I consider friends, don’t want to agree with (understandable since they have purer hearts then mine…)

    Sure the A-list exists. It’s human nature. Within any social system such influence scales emerge. Not only is there an A-List – there are multiple A-Lists within topic spaces.

    And there is nothing you can do about it. Nothing.

    Kent’s piece about equating blogging to songwriting (I play guitar) is apt for a great many people that have some internal drives towards becoming famous or influential (like Seth and like me, but less so). And like any musician, if you have a goal to be influential, you need to do more then practice your art, you need to make a spectacle of it, spread word of it, find people to spread word of it, market the shit out of it. The web changes nothing on that score. It’s hurts the heart a bit if you are an idealist that believes that valuable hard work alone should earn you the influence you desire. But it’s part of our existence. Online and off.

    Those who deny it have something their selling. On both sides of the fence.

    For most people, the vast majority of folks, the A-List issue, it doesn’t matter – it’s about friends, family, co-workers – their own social community. And no A-Lister is keeping me from reaching them. From being heard by them.

    The magic of blogging, and the danger, that is rarely discussed, is that this sharing is done in what danah boyd calls the “super public”. By sharing our passions, concerns, our lives in a public space, the opportunity presents itself that we may be heard outside of our sphere of life. When that happens, sometimes it’s magic. Influence, sometimes follows. But more exciting is that sometimes, even new friendships are made.

    Nuance sucks don’t it? And if your goal is to be influential – it gets you nowhere fast.

  22. People blog for different reasons, not only to be influential. Lets set this down as a rule of fact okay? Without acknowledging it, those on both sides of this debate are raising up straw men to knock down.

    Very true.

    You might draw a rough distinction between private blogging and public blogging. Most bloggers appear to be private bloggers, who don’t seek influence or (more likely) seek it only for a very small audience of friends and family. That’s great. But there are also a large number of public bloggers who do seek influence or (at least) a voice in the public square.

    The question that led to this post (inspired originally by Kent’s question and Seth’s answer) is: Is the blogosphere really a more egalitarian medium than mainstream, traditional media? Needless to say, I have my doubts. In fact, it may well be less egalitarian. I think the underlying technological structure of the blogosphere is a patronage system, and that has also become its default social structure. Also, and this is something I didn’t touch on much, the hierarchy of the public blogosphere is in many ways built on the cult of personality, which is the opposite of egalitarianism (so far as I can see).

  23. I agree. I don’t see why blogging should be any different in this regard than any other creative activity. The egalitarian ethos is a fiction. Sure blogging is democratizing. But having a voice is not the same as being heard. Quality matters. Thank god.

  24. dmr

    I didn’t have much to disagree with in this discussion until the previous comment from Rob Hyndman that “quality matters.”

    The implication seems to be that the inegalitarian nature of the hierarchy is the product of some distinction on the basis of “quality,” and I don’t think that is the case at all.

    Unless one necessarily equates “popularity” with “quality.” Clearly, things that are popular exhibit some characteristic that makes them so, which might be considered as quality of some kind.

    But I think the inegalitarian nature of the hierarchy, whether due to patronage or power laws, actually works _against_ quality, in favor of the merely popular.

    The result is the creation of a mythos, of which the egalitarian blogosphere is but a small part, which is attractive, perhaps idealistic, and unquestionably popular, but demonstrably false and which serves as a barrier to critical thinking or productive discourse.

    Knocking down these fictions, often promoted by nice people who are warmly regarded by large audiences, is nearly impossible. It also, attracts a great deal of negative attention from those who embrace the mythos and the mythologizers; who then proceed to psychoanalyze the critics and dismiss their criticism and arguments on the basis of some mental or emotional deficiency. We are, by turns, bullies, pessimists, angry people, or simply envious of the success of others.

    But don’t try to sell me on the idea that “quality” is the basis for the rank in this hierarchy. That’s simply not true.

  25. I think everything worth saying has been said, but you’ll notice that does not deter me from commenting as well—and therein lies the essence of blogging for me. I want to learn something about myself through the real-time emergence of cognitive processing variations; self-exploration.

    The longer I stay in my head and the more I examine what I am attempting to communicate, the clearer my understanding of what I am about. It’s an exploratory, defining, clarifying and developmental experience.

    Therapeutic? Epiphanal? Cathartic? Your purpose evolves or devolves in relation to its fulfillment as you experience the effects of the act of blogging.

    If your not blogging for yourself, then you have an agenda; now you have become political. You want to influence someone to see you in a particular way. Aren’t I smart, creative, prescient, sensitive, and wise? Want your ideas to command attention?

    Sometimes we just want to connect—to hear someone say, I agree—I believe that also or I feel the same way. For a moment, we may cast off the yoke of alienation, the reality of our insularity in this life.

    There is always somebody behind the scenes applying influence to our perceptions, information and choices. It’s usually power and money that try to slant things to their advantage. It’s a fact of life that can be viewed as a conspiracy if one is predisposed to extremes of suspicion. The “good old boy network” is the way the world works.

    I don’t see a fraud—a sinister betrayal of those with innocent intent; if you want to be famous, then you have thrown yourself into a pretty competitive situation. So don’t be upset if somebody else has found a way to do that. You may just have to resort to Heather Armstrong’s tactics—use foul language interspersed with witty comments about life and a nauseating preoccupation with your 2 year old.

    People probably follow Heather’s life because they have found the intellectual joisting in the political blogs boring and futile. Smart people trying to outthink smart people who are all being manipulated by pandering politicians and greedy businessmen.

    No, I am not cynical. I am resigned.

  26. There are basically two rules of blogging:

    1. Nobody is going to read your blog unless there’s something in it for them.

    2. Nobody is going to link to your blog unless there’s something in it for them.

    These two rules apply to us all, A-List and Z-List alike. If you don’t like these rules, you’re better off finding an ecology whose rules you like better. Life is short.

  27. Having argued both sides of the issue, I’m still undecided as to where the blogosphere stands on this. There has been some good discussion (led by Seth and Jon Garfunkel) on the gatekeeping effect that exist in the blogosphere. However, there is also evidence against it.

    Your parable of the traditional media partnering with A-list bloggers does make sense but what happens then? Are the A-list bloggers who have been co-opted by traditional media to be considered still bloggers? Or is blogging just a tool and therefore running under the same approach as the media world in general, with a much longer tail.

    On my blog, I try to start discussion of things that are of interest to me. What I get from blogging is the power that comes from having many people argue multiple side of an issue, allowing me to better refine my own intellectual position on subjects of interest to me.

    The interesting thing is that, for “the great unread” (as you call them), blogging is generally a side activity, with little relation to their primary job. A-list bloggers are people who generally have incorporated their blogging strategy into managing their primary objectives (whether it is to be an influencer or to shill a product or service). Both approaches are OK in my view but both represent different sets of goals. To treat the blogosphere are a single group may be the wrong approach: different bloggers have different goals.

  28. What Hugh said.

    Damn you Hugh, I read every comment waiting to say that, and there you were. :)

  29. Wonderful post, Nick–

    yet as I sit here reading the comments, I’m seeing the same arguments by the same malcontent males and few (if any) comments by any females with the exception of a link to Shelley Powers–as if she is the only female in the blogosphere who has blogged on this topic. (also noted refs to Heather Armstrong and danah boyd–who are also perhaps two of a handful of women bloggers ever referenced by said malcontents.)

    Right there, I think, proves a distinct point that the blogosphere is made up of small groups who are most concerned with acknowledging and promoting one another. And white males love to close ranks around their chosen goddesses ;-)

    The blogosphere is a hierarchy, a meritocracy, a who-knows-who linkistocracy….but, ultimately, it is hardly the open-source utopia that so many would like it to be, or like the general populace to believe it to be.

    Which, quite frankly, they don’t–that’s why so many feel they do not want to participate in it. Just talk to them. They have lives that does not involve obsessive internet socializing.

    But nonsense exists on both sides of the A-list equation. I often get perturbed by the old saw the A-list perpetuates regarding how to get them to link to you, the lonely long-tail blogger. What works sometimes more than linking is going out to the places they happen to be and meeting them. Still, that doesn’t mean they will link to you, but it does mean that they will know who you are (says the veteran of 9 conferences covering tech, journalism/media, and business in a 12 month period)

    Sometimes that, in itself, can open a professional door or two–if that’s what one is looking to get from one’s blogging. But trying to get that simply from blogging, without anything else on one’s c.v. or resume, is a dicey proposition.

    Yet A-listers are, above everything else, human beings, and they respond better to face to face meetings, good conversation, and hearty handshakes just like the rest of the World. They also respond to emails that direct them to pieces that may contain a link to something they have written…

    I find, though, your distinction between “private” and “public” bloggers to be interesting, Nick, but not quite hitting the nail on the head. All blogging is public conversation. The distinction, though, I think, could be better qualified as bloggers who are seeking to pursuade or those looking to relate. Women blog mostly to relate–it’s not necessarily private, as they make friends all over the globe. But their status as A-list, etc. really isn’t all that important(unless it will lead to a book deal.) The pursuaders–or information disseminators) are mostly male, love a good knockdown-dragout debate, and are more concerned about how high their profiles rise because there’s some belief that blogging is the “thing” that will make them something other than ordinary.

    The men, I think, believe more in the hype of blogging than most women. At least they’re more anal about their positions in the Technorati rankings than most women…who seem to be quite comfortable rolling around in the Magic Middle.

    However, those who want to pursuade find ways to do just that…the best way, once again, is by meeting others face to face and cultivating friendships.

    Tristan Louis (who I’ve had wonderful email conversations with about the A-list, and about life) makes a very good point about how many of the A-list put together a marketing strategy before they set out to blog. To add to Tristan’s observation, many of that group also have received help from one another because they know one another (once again, the f2f overrides the virtual)and, IMHO, because what they do is a business decision, they are a group that is different from the rest of us.

    What I do not agree totally with Tristan about is his assessment that the group he says is blogging only as a sideline. Quite the contrary. They may not be as power-driven as the first group, but their blogging is not merely a hobby. Many see it as a stepping-stone to other things–those things are defined differently for each person who engages. I consider myself, and my blogging, more in that group–it has become something I have used professionally, as well as a means to disseminate information *and* to cultivate friendships via my personal blogging.

    I am smart enough, though, to know it won’t bring me riches on its own via any sort of ad scheme. I figured that out years ago when I met my first pyramid scheme…

    BTW, I’ve had many links from A-listers…but because I am in a career transition and do not have “15 (or more) years experience” which seems to be the overriding credential for being an “expert,” or some other solid profession to link to my blogging, I have not been able to capitalize on whatever sort of glory those links might be conferring on me. Hence, I only see those links as friend to friend–or, perhaps some acknowledgement that I’m a potential “thought leader.”

    Still, there are two sources of links that are, for me, just as important as links from A-listers. Those are links from citizen journalism sites and links from other women bloggers. The links from citizen journalism sites–such as Raw Story–mean that some obscure story I’ve linked to is reaching a larger audience. My links from/to other women bloggers means that I am talking about my life in a way that others understand. I am both persuading and relating–and do this to some success by having two separate blogs.

    How many of the men here can claim that distinction?

    Sorry to have gone on a bit here, but, while you said some wonderful things, they got a bit distracted by those who continue to beat the same annoying dead-horse arguments without ever looking at their own whiteguy link prejudices and maudlin hothouse musings.

  30. Hi Nick: It’s your fraudmeister here with a little info for this discussion. The conference was at the Annenberg School of Communication at the University of Pennsylvania, not the “Annenberg Center.”

    Second I haven’t claimed the blogosphere is egalitarian. Maybe others have. I haven’t said it was a pure meritocracy, either. Maybe others have. I have said it’s more open than the access system controlled by professional gatekeepers, and in that way more democratic. I just want to make that clear.

    The question asked at Annenberg was not quite what you said. Here’s what you said:

    During a brief Q&A session at the close of the panel, an audience member expressed frustration about how hard it is to get A List bloggers like Rosen to link to his blog. He asked the professor if he had any suggestions. Rosen said that the best way to get a link from him is to write a post about one of his posts. He carefully monitors mentions of his work in other blogs, he said, and he frequently provides links back to them, at least when they have some substance.

    According to the transcript supplied by Joseph Turow, organizer of the conference, it went like this:

    Question: Hi, I’m Jodi Leib. Jay, you mention that it was difficult to get a link. And I’m wondering– not looking to search engines to get that link, but if you’re requesting a link back from a blog or from any other website, what infor– and maybe all the guys can– approach this from their different perspectives. What is the best way to request a link back to your website?

    There was no expression of “frustration about how hard it is to get A List bloggers like Rosen to link to his blog.” The question was not: how do I get an A lister to link to my blog? It was: what’s the best way to request a link from your site? And it was a woman, not a man.

    Now for the answers…I gave two, separated by comments from others. …What is the best way to request a link back to your website?

    JAY ROSEN: Don’t. (LAUGHTER) That’s– that’s– that’s probably the best way. The– the thing that I was alluding to earlier wi– was reciprocity, right? So at least w– when I blog, and I’ve been blogging for four and a half years– it’s– who I chose to link to is– is my choice. And I don’t– if somebody– link begs, which is what it’s referred to– your (LAUGHTER)– your chances of getting a link are very low.

    On the other hand, if you write about something– that I posted, and if you, as Jeff was saying, if you disagree with me and– and you have a great argument, or if you agree with me and you say great things then you’ll be on my radar. And I’ll start to read you and I’ll pay attention. And over time, eventually I’ll– come to– come to know you, at least through your writing. And eventually I’ll see something of yours that I like or disagree with and I’ll link back to you.

    (Second answer) …Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. People write me all the time and say, “Hey, would you link to my blog?” Often they– offer to link to Press Link in– at their blog. Link exchange.

    And– it’s never worked. I’ve never once responded to one of these– notes because they don’t really make any sense. If I link to a blog that wasn’t in the universe that I’m trying to portray and cover for people, then it would– wouldn’t do them any good and it would undermine the value of my site. Because my site’s about one thing, and it’s only trying to be about one thing. And it doesn’t take in the web as a whole. It doesn’t take in– worlds beyond the press and beyond journalism and its– its implications.

    So– asking for a link in that way never works. The easiest way to get a link from my blog is to write about what I say. And if you write about me, (LAUGH) or Press Think, I will find it for sure. I’ll probably find it very quickly actually, within a day. And I will read it. And if it says something, if it actually makes a contribution that advances the discussion, as opposed to, “Jay Rosen wrote this terrible thing here. Jay Rosen wrote this great thing.” If it says something, most likely I will link to it.

    But in order to do that, you have to know what my blog is about. You have to know the world that it’s– reporting to. So that’s the best way to do it. And when I started, I got people to link to me very crudely by writing about them. And they saw it. And so that’s how you begin.

    Oh, and the subtitle of my blog (which this week just cracks the Technorati top 1,000) is explained here.

    Cheers.

  31. Jay Rosen,

    Thanks very much for the thorough fact-checking. I was relying on my memory, which is something I should have noted. I’ve corrected the school name, questioner’s gender and the reference to “A List bloggers.” I believe, though, that the question was spurred by frustration, and I think my summary of the thrust of your reply is accurate. As I hope I made clear, I think you were just giving an honest answer to the question. The fact is – and this applies to any blogger, not just popular ones – bloggers are very attentive to responses to their posts, and if you want to get noticed and linked to by one of them, the best way to do it, as you note, is to write about something they’ve written. There’s nothing nefarious about that. It’s natural. And that’s the point: the patronage system is built into and amplified by the very linking structure of the blogosphere. (I’m curious if you’d disagree with that.)

    I put you into the A List based on the Blogebrity list, by the way. Lord knows how they came up with it.

    But thanks again for taking the time to correct the record. In the future, I’ll remember: Never quote a journalism professor from memory.

    Nick

  32. kmartino

    Thanks for the reply Nick.

    Egalitarian? Like others here, I don’t think so.

    There is only so much attention to go around and human nature seeks out filters for it. In the blogosphere, well that’s the list of A-Lists, and our personal blogrolls.

    It’s great that Jay responded here (hello Jay), because I can’t recall a thing he’s written to perpetuate the myth of a “flat” blogosphere.

    To be sure – there are folks out there that do. But not him. As you noted in your post Nick – Jay was honest.

    “Power Laws. Weblogs, and Inequality” is still the final word on the subject as far as linking and influence goes. It’s a great piece that is holding up pretty well in light of this discussion.

    Recognizing that as a reality, the question for me has been, how to find interesting voices to read, outside of the usual suspects.

    Ever check out Global Voices?

  33. Nick: Thanks for the response.

    I emphasized two points in my reply. One fit with your pre-existing thesis so you emphasized one, although you mentioned both.

    I said the easiest way to get a link from PressThink was to write about something I had written, and I said, with equal force, make a contribution to the discussion, add something new, insightful, deep, different. You gotta do both.

    In fact, if you did the first without the second, no link. You tell me: Is that how a patronage system works?

    If you did the second without the first (and I saw it, or you emailed it to me, or another blogger I read mentions it…) yes link. Is that how a patronage system works?

    I also said I don’t do link exchanges: ever. Is that how a patronage system works?

    Does Google know (or care) if a blogger makes a genuine contribution to an ongoing discussion, as I do, or are its algorithms silent on that?

    Does technorati count “contributions” (as I do) or links?

    What your idea are missing is the image of the user in the mind of the blogger. What I try in all cases to avoid is a user clicking on a link and thinking, “well, that was a bum steer.”

    One other thing: To me, personally, he who debunks attitudes and ideas to which no people and quotations or links are attached is cheating, intellectually speaking. Most debunkers do this constantly.

    Thus, this, “What we tell ourselves about the blogosphere – that it’s open and democratic and egalitarian, that it stands in contrast and in opposition to the controlled and controlling mass media” is cheating.

    Cheers,

    Your Royal Fraudmeister

  34. I’ve heard that the best authors “write for themselves”. I don’t blog anywhere near the volume that others do (where do they find the time?) but sometimes I think should start all my posts, “Dear diary” over at Polarman

  35. Jay,

    Regarding:

    I said the easiest way to get a link from PressThink was to write about something I had written, and I said, with equal force, make a contribution to the discussion, add something new, insightful, deep, different. You gotta do both.

    In fact, if you did the first without the second, no link. You tell me: Is that how a patronage system works?

    Absolutely. If I’m one of the Great Unread and I write something insightful, my odds of getting a link from an A Lister are next to zero. If I write something insightful and mention or, better yet, link to something the A Lister has written, my odds of getting that link go up tremendously. (Yes, you could put Z Lister in place of A Lister in that sentence, and it would still hold true.) The fact that the A Lister doesn’t think of himself (or, rarely, herself) as dispensing patronage is worth noting, but is beside the point. The whole dynamic is a patronage dynamic: those without power pay tribute to those in power (in the process strengthening their hold on power) and in return they get a small but meaningful reward that encourages them to continue to pay tributes to those in power.

    Don’t kid yourself: that’s a patronage system that reinforces the power hierarchy.

  36. zeus

    A-lister’s are still viewed as monkeys on bicycles by most media professionals, like the rest of the unread masses.

    http://spacemonkeypants.com/2006/08/01/monkeys-riding-bikes/

  37. Jay,

    As to:

    One other thing: To me, personally, he who debunks attitudes and ideas to which no people and quotations or links are attached is cheating, intellectually speaking. Most debunkers do this constantly.

    Thus, this, “What we tell ourselves about the blogosphere – that it’s open and democratic and egalitarian, that it stands in contrast and in opposition to the controlled and controlling mass media” is cheating.

    Well, there’s sure a hell of a lot of cheating in this world.

    I think the responses to this post show that the idea of the blogosphere being more egalitarian than the mainstream media is quite a strong one. It’s certainly a view I’ve heard (and once had some sympathy for). And the Seth Finkelstein quote in the post itself certainly suggests that he bought into this idea. (Did it come out of nowhere?)

    Back in 2002, Mitch Ratcliffe wrote that “there is a tendency to assume that blogging is a purely egalitarian phenomenon.” He went on to question that tendency, as many others have as well, but the tendency he sensed was real – and remains real.

    A long article on April 15, 2004, in the Christian Science Monitor, refers to “the egalitarian nature of blogs” and terms the blogosphere “a version of Chairman Mao’s ‘let a thousand flowers bloom.'” Did the reporter (Gregory Lamb) pull those phrases out of nowhere, or was he simply reporting the common view?

    In an interview in late 2004, Jeff Jarvis said, “The means of media are now in the hands of the people … So now anyone can control, create, market, distribute, find, and interact with anything they want. The barrier to entry to media is demolished. Media, always a one-way pipe, now becomes an open pool. And, most important, the centralization of media -the marketplace, the network, the monopoly – is replaced by a decentralized universe.” Sounds fairly egalitarian and democratic and open to me.

    In February of this year, Doc Searls wrote, “I have this idea that the blogosphere is the one place in the world — or perhaps an entirely new world, or a part of a new world, created on the Net — where there is no need for class, for caste, for gates or keepers of anything.” An elegant expression of egalitarianism, no?

    From a post on your own blog this past June:

    The people formerly known as the audience wish to inform media people of our existence, and of a shift in power that goes with the platform shift you’ve all heard about.

    Think of passengers on your ship who got a boat of their own. The writing readers. The viewers who picked up a camera. The formerly atomized listeners who with modest effort can connect with each other and gain the means to speak – to the world, as it were.

    Now we understand that met with ringing statements like these many media people want to cry out in the name of reason herself: If all would speak who shall be left to listen? Can you at least tell us that?

    The people formerly known as the audience do not believe this problem – too many speakers! – is our problem. Now for anyone in your circle still wondering who we are, a formal definition might go like this:

    The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.

    Once they were your printing presses; now that humble device, the blog, has given the press to us. That’s why blogs have been called little First Amendment machines. They extend freedom of the press to more actors.

    Now, my hearing ain’t what it used, but I really think I’m picking up some egalitarian vibe there.

    If you’d like more, I’ll give you more. Just say the word.

    Nick

  38. Actually I think you are being crude–very crude–in your use of that particular post of mine, treating a statement about a shift in power as a claim about the equalization of power. Which it isn’t. That post is about a lost monopoly for Big Media, not an egalitarian anything.

    But what I meant is not that there are no such statements floating around, only that you should mention names, and quote what they actually said, and link to it because then we can see in what context these claims were made. Now that you have done so–well, you left out the links–that is no longer cheating.

    And yes, there are lots of cheaters around, by my definition. Now if you will excuse me, I have a drawbridge to pull up, and some peasents to tax to death.

  39. I think you are being crude – very crude …

    Now that you have done so – well, you left out the links – that is no longer cheating.

    Wow. You really are royalty.

    :-)

  40. Jacques Warren

    Arrgh!!! Will we ever accept to die in silence?!

  41. Jay, there is a game I call “A-lister wins” which I believe I have seen you and others play extensively. The game works like this:

    A-lister makes statement which, let us say, is very amenable to being read as a marketing pitch, in a way which implies a certain attractive notion:

    Example: “The people formerly known as the audience [blah blah blah]”

    Z-lister calls A-lister on silliness of statement

    A-lister replies “I didn’t mean [that]” (because, of course it’s not true). “I only meant [different, and – crucially – much more minor, meaning].”

    “A-lister wins” (extend by personal attack or claiming debunker is cheating or using a strawman)

    BECAUSE NO A-LISTER COULD EVER, EVER, BE CAUGHT-OUT UNDER THESE RULES!

    Yes, there is a fundamental logical problem here, I understand that. But do *you* understand the fundamental logical problem if there’s a system where an A-lister is free to make as many deceptive and misleading statements as possible, and then turn around and hypertechnically parse them, or outright deny, and they simply win because they’re the A-lister?

    Second time, for emphasis: I understand the theoretical philosophical issue – Do *you*?

  42. OK. Let me thank everybody for the comments, which are really thoughtful. I’m sorry if that exchange with Jay Rosen got a little shrill – I let the “cheating” thing get under my skin a bit, even though he was making a fair point. I hope I responded to it sufficiently. People can read his post and decide for themselves whether there’s an egalitarian spin to it.

    Some other reponses to comments, from the top.

    Lorenzinho: Thanks.

    EzraBall: Fair point. I didn’t intend to demean the motivations of any bloggers.

    Seth: Thanks for the links. Needless to say, I am far from the first person to point out the hierarchical structure of the blogosphere and how it runs counter to the egalitarian rhetoric.

    Mathew: Assuming you don’t want a glib answer, you’re going to have to wait a while.

    Kent: I don’t have anything to add about the motivations of writers/bloggers beyond what Seth and Kent and others say. Suffice it to say that a statement like “The act of writing should be reward enough” is not enough.

    Morgan: I agree with your point about hierarchies and gatekeepers (I’ve praised both in the past here), but I disagree with your statement: “As bloggers, we shouldn’t complain when people don’t read our stuff. It is just an indication that something is amiss, either in how we market ourselves or the quality or of our work.” That’s too simple, I think (though certainly quality and marketing matter, and the fact that quality matters is, as Rob Hyndman says, good).

    cmb: You know, I just reread the post, and I really don’t see it as a rant. Lord knows I’ve ranted in the past, but this feels different to me. “Sucky”: I’m not the one to judge. The genesis of this post was kind of unusual, because (unlike most of them) it happened over a fairly long period. It was a few months ago that I heard Jay at the conference, and I said to myself, “Yeah, that’s exactly how it works – and it’s a kind of a patronage system.” And I filed that away, and then I came across Kent’s post and Seth’s response and what struck me was that, amid all the high-sounding blather about blogs, here was something real – a description of a real, and I would guess pretty common, response to blogging that I hadn’t seen expressed before. It cut through a lot of the claptrap. I made a stab at writing something about that, but it didn’t come together. Then I came across this idea of an “innocent fraud,” and that gave me a way to tie together the other two things, which until then I hadn’t seen as being related. I decided to keep the three-part structure just for a change of pace, and then in writing it out I stumbled on the peasant-castle metaphor and decided to push it a little and see what happened. And that was that.

    Philip Nelson: “New voices will continue to rise to the top and old voices will fade and I think this will happen faster than in times past.” I’m not sure it will happen any faster than before – probably, but not definitely – but it will continue to happen. That’s very different, though, from the idea of an open, egalitarian citizen media (as Seth points out).

    Chris B: “Its easy to forget that writing is work and doing it regularly and well is alot of work. When some form of compensation is not forthcoming, all but the most fanatical may become disenheartened.” Yes. Which is why the easy slogans about egalitarianism, while innocent, need to be criticized.

    Phil: Your distinction between the usenet model and the web/blog is right on the money. I hadn’t thought about it like that before.

    dmr: I think that quality matters, but I’m starting to think it matters less in the blogosphere than in, say, newspapers or magazines – because of the mob nature of blogging (with its emphasis on speed over thoughtfulness) and because of the hierarchy-sustaining technologies. Quality and popularity never match up all that well, of course, but they seem particularly weakly correlated in the blogosphere. But time will tell.

    Hugh: The cartoonist as bitter realist. I guess that’s pretty common, actually.

    Tristan: “Or is blogging just a tool and therefore running under the same approach as the media world in general, with a much longer tail.” My guess is that that’s pretty much where it’ll end up.

    Tish: Persuade? Relate? Hell, I just want to argue. Though I guess that proves your point.

    kmartino: You’re right: Shirky’s piece is excellent.

    Thanks again. (And I’m not just being patronizing. Or at least I hope I’m not.)

    Nick

  43. Hazel Motes

    I wonder to what extent the patronage system in the blogosphere would exist if readers actually had to (and could, conveniently) pay bloggers to access their content, and the game wasn’t all about buzz and ads and eyeballs.

  44. Nick…

    If I didn’t enjoy watching boys argue, do you think I’d spend all this time reading you blog?? ;-)

    T.

  45. Brian

    Nick,

    As you indicate, the A-listers are an elite (well, I don’t know how elite they are…) club of solipsistic navel-gazers who spend most of their time refering to each other and boosting the media form they are identified with. You can’t rely on the club to market your message because you are iconoclastic and haven’t (fully) consumed the Kool-Aid. You don’t “fit”. Your potential audience is elsewhere but they don’t know about you.

    Internet exceptionalism be damned — it’s a media form and subject to the same rules as any other media form. In mainstream media advertisers deal with “clutter”, the noise of competing messages, by spending to increase share-of-voice. Raising awareness of you and your blog will require spending some money. I’m always surprised that I don’t see you placing ads on blogs where your point of view would be welcome. Check out Blogads, for very little money you can purchase millions of pageviews on a range of blogs and let an audience in waiting find out about you. And, of course, you need to mention your blog address on every single instance of exposure you get on radio and TV.

    Once your reach has grown sufficiently even the “A-listers” will have to acknowledge you. Don’t look down on marketing your message — in a world of 13 or 40 or 20 million blogs all vying for attention, you have to invest time and money to build audience.

  46. Brian, Thanks. But, believe it or not, this post was not a personal cri de coeur. I’m pretty happy with the size of Rough Type’s readership, which is much larger than I expected it would ever be. It’s tiny compared to the big guys, but it’s huge compared to the average. And that seems fine.

    Motes, Yes, that would solve pretty much everything. But I don’t think it’s going to happen. People have been trained that words are free online, and it’s in the interest of Google and other ad syndicators to keep it that way.

    Another piece by Clay Shirky talks about some of the economic reasons why blogs are (and probably will remain) free. (I’m not sure his closing thoughts are being borne out, though – the cocktail party will go on, but a lot of the popular blogs will end up in publishing empires, and not micro ones, either.)

  47. Nick, I have been blogging for just over a year. For less than $ 100 a year (but plenty of writing time) I have at last check had visitors from 160 countries. I write from a buyer’s perspective and do not mind taking positions on bigger vendors like IBM, SAP, Oracle, Infosys etc. Many of them visit my site many times a day. They may not like what I say but they read it. My consulting business has seen a huge spike as CIOs and their staff see my positions in writing. I have discovered a whole bunch of new professionals – investors, consultants, vendors – who while we argue and disagree are far smarter than me – and I might add my former colleagues at Gartner – and I learn from them each day. That relationship has stretched to meetings in person over port and cigars where we argue some more.

    Who gives a shit about overall A-Lists? It’s the core readership for your domain that each blogger should strive to reach.

    I could not begin to afford a platform that would have brought all this payback for so little investment. You can be cynical. I am eternally grateful to Google, Technorati, Typepad who make this new medium viable and vital.

  48. A transparent — and liquid — market for the ad spaces on single-creator media solves the problem, as adbitrageurs will profit from identifying and helping to popularize undervalued blogs…

  49. Nick:

    Definitely don’t want a glib answer — and I’m happy to wait. For what it’s worth, my answer is at http://www.mathewingram.com/work.

    Mathew

  50. Innocent fraud, pfft. If you’re going to talk about peasants and royals, give props to the originator of the capitalist dialectic, my ole buddy Karl: “false consciousness” is the phrase you’re looking for.