July 18th, 2011

The narrowing of the blogosphere

John Hawkins at RightWingNews laments the decline of the independent right wing blogosphere. Popular blogs are increasingly bigger and more connected to conventional media, or are group or aggregate blogs. It’s harder for a little guy (such as myself) to get started these days, and most of us who are already established have seen our traffic decline somewhat from a peak of a couple of years ago, or the spike that occurs for the few months before elections. The blogosphere has settled down and filled out, and people have found their niches.

Bloggers talking about blogging are a type of inside baseball, quite intriguing to those involved but perhaps not all that fascinating to the rest of the world. But still, I want to state that I’ve noticed something similar to Hawkins, and I don’t think it’s limited to the right: people’s reading habits have solidified within the blogosphere, and patterns have been laid down that are relatively impervious to change. Also, as alternatives such as Twitter and Facebook have blossomed, there are fewer blogosphere readers in general, especially younger ones.

I’ve also noticed that a lot of the popular blogs feature short and snappy commentary, not longer stuff like mine. In fact, that’s not a new phenomenon; it’s been true from the start. And it makes sense, too. Aside from long-form blog greats Bill Whittle and the incomparable Steven Den Beste (who retired from blogging in the archaic year 2004), most of the really biggees have not been drawn to the lengthy missive (a current exception to this rule is Ace, a master of the long form and the short, with huge traffic.)

Readers increasingly lack patience—especially the young—and to justify asking for a reader’s patience, a writer has to produce quality work. I try for that although I don’t always succeed, but trying for it suits my temperament. It doesn’t suit everyone’s.

In an earlier piece of mine about Den Beste, I quoted him as having written:

I write about something because I’m compelled to, because it’s often the case that if I don’t, then I can’t get it out of my head. Putting my thoughts into print relieves an internal pressure which also isn’t easily described.

And while that isn’t true of me every day, it’s true often enough to keep me going so far, and it’s true about blogging in general for me and for many bloggers with staying power. For us, it’s not a fad.

33 Responses to “The narrowing of the blogosphere”

  1. njcommuter Says:

    I often lurk but I do indeed read. Blog on, intrepid Neo!

  2. Rose Says:

    People are weary of the ongoing national disaster and the perpetual campaign, perhaps, and it is summertime, but all eyes will be on the blogosphere in the coming months.

    This is the battle for middle earth – either we save this country or the world crumbles, and people will have to be engaged.

    I think one reason that traffic is down is that so many blogs do carry the same links and same content, the happenings of the day – and when that happens, it is the comments threads that make the difference, if there is a healthy dialog, you’re poised to see your traffic increase. You, neo, have some of the best in the blogosphere. Intelligent, highly informed, a depth of experience and perspectives… they bring in new information to flesh out the topic…

    Althouse has it, too.

    Don’t worry – and do realize just how important you are. The blogs are the only way to get past the “JournOlists” – it’s not just that it is “conservative” views, it’s that principle over party thing. Hillbuzz has it, you have it, it’s what gives us hope. Things like this matter…

    I don’t know how else to say it, our sanity and our survival depend on it.

    And in the meantime each of us who link to others helps bring in more eyes, opens the door to people in our own communities, be they virtual or real life.

  3. gs Says:

    1. You do a good job. Not all your posts engage my attention. The ones that do usually seem too short.

    2. However, comment sections in the blogs I read have gotten so polluted with nastiness and/or irrationality that I’m seriously wondering whether time spent there is time wasted. The interactivity of the Web is nice, but my time in comment sections might be better spent reading people like Walter Russell Mead and Virginia Postrel.

  4. Bob from Virginia Says:

    Change? I hope not entirely, the blogosphere is where I go to convince myself that I’m not crazy, that others are seeing the same things I am. That it is the rest of the world that has lost its mind.

    Rose, you are so right, the since 2008 the blogoshere has had the characteristics of a resistance movement, a dirty sweaty underground fighting a glamorous wanna be dictator. Today I read of a multitude of Hollywood’s biggest names showing up for a fundraiser for Obama. The rich and beautiful indirectly proclaiming Honduras has no right to democracy, nor Iran, nor Iraq, it’s alright to insult foreign leaders as long as they aren’t Moslem, spend wildly in a debt crisis and ignore the wishes of the public on healthcare frauds and all the rest. I guess the suave feel the need to band together against the unwashed multitudes. And the only people denouncing the rich and beautiful as vile, as opposed to standing in reverent awe, can be found in the blogosphere.

  5. Drew Says:

    Please keep writing.

    You probably have more traffic than you realize. The various services only capture a fraction of readers.

    I would also like to note that people are totally disgusted with politics at present, and are not devoting as much time to the subject as two, three and four years ago. That will change next year.

  6. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I used to do a lot of long-form blogging, for the Daily Brief, up until the advent of Obama… and then I got diverted into writing and editing professionally, and then into writing historical fiction — with an eye towards educating readers though different means.

    Some of the blogs that I used to follow just up and died, or the bloggers quit and moved on to something else. The big blogs all amalgamated, or turned pro, or both, while The Brief got dropped from Insty’s blogroll. I think we’re only read by a handful of loyalists now. Different focus, different goals.

  7. roc scssrs Says:

    Very glad you have the “fire in the belly,” dear Neo!

  8. Liz Says:

    I’m incredibly impatient in front of a screen. I’ll happily struggle through dense work in a book, but it feels wrong on blogs. I don’t trust someone who can’t control themselves and say no more than is absolutely necessary.

    I also try to read non political blogs and lefty blogs. The non political ones are nice, but it’s hard to keep my composure when the lefty blogs start smearing conservatives.

  9. Parker Says:

    This is the most interesting blog I’ve come across. There is always something interesting and thought provoking. And, I enjoy the diversity of subjects found at neo-neocon. Where else can you find discussions about ballet, politics, opera, movies, and a wide range of social issues?

    Bob from VA says, “…the blogosphere is where I go to convince myself that I’m not crazy, that others are seeing the same things I am. That it is the rest of the world that has lost its mind.”


  10. expat Says:

    Like Bob in VA, I like the community of commenters you have built. Over the past decade, I have needed lots of reassurance that I’m not the crazy one. Besides that, who else could get such an informed and sensible group to debate the merits of jello. These touches help us all keep our perspective. I’ve turned away from some of my former must-read blogs because the commenters seem to rant more than think.

  11. Paul_In_Houston Says:

    Readers increasingly lack patience—especially the young—

    I’ll tell you something else they lack patience for: links. Sometimes I have to use them, and rarely ever see any evidence that anyone has clicked on them.

    As I finally cut loose in my “Vietnam’s most infamous photo” post …

    Be warned; I feel the Mount St. Helens of vents coming on.

    Up in the post, you will see words and phrases in blue, italicized and underlined. They are LINKS to other posts containing essential information.

    How is it that people so lacking in curiosity they won’t even check out a link are even ON the internet?

    Without that info, they probably don’t even know what this post is about.

    I’m venting a bit, because those links are essential to even knowing what this post is about in the first place and, of those who visited, precisely ONE actually clicked on a link (so, if you’re reading this, you know who you are).

    As much as I might like to simplify things by just incorporating those posts verbatim in my own, I JUST CAN’T DO THAT!

    There are these things called copyrights, and it would be just my luck to steal from someone represented by Disney (“We have the meanest junkyard-dog copyright lawyers in the world; they go where Navy SEALS fear to tread. Who do you think really got bin Laden?”). Besides, it just ain’t right!


    (Ok! I feel better now.)

  12. Vanderleun Says:

    Links schmucks… Right not worth the effort. As for reader patience for the long form…. Well, fark em if they can’t take a rant.

  13. njcommuter Says:

    This problem with shrinking attention spans must have been going on. In The Crime of Captain Gahagan (from The Paradoxes of Mr. Pond) G. K. Chesteron has Mr. Pond lament “They might have hanged my friend between them […] simply and solely because they will think only in half-sentences. Broken necks, broken hearts, broken lives, and all because they won’t learn any language but broken English. Don’t you think there’s something to be said for that musty old taste of his and mine for that sort of literature that makes you read all that a man writes and listen to all that he says?”

    No, that won’t fit in 140 characters. It shouldn’t. Shouldn’t we treasure the ideas that, however pithily said, are simply too big for those twitter and those twits who sup only on tweets?

  14. Sgt. Mom Says:

    “Shouldn’t we treasure the ideas that, however pithily said, are simply too big for those twitter and those twits who sup only on tweets?”

    *giggle* I know that brevity is supposed to be the soul of wit, but 140 characters is taking it to d**ned far. Yeah, and f**k them if they can’t take a rant. The internet is made for rants! Sometimes, you just have to throw open the metaphorical window and scream into the street, “I’m mad as heck and I can’t take it any more!”

    Seriously, though – I do appreciate the bloggers who have consistently shown how to connect events, thoughts and history, who demonstrate that they are thinking logically and with fearless dispassion … but in a passionate way. I loved Den Beste’s blog, and the way that he thought – the only equal to it in my mind is Wretchard at Belmont Club. And like expat – I come to this internet waterhole for reassurance that I am not the only only one thinking this way.

  15. foxmarks Says:

    +1 on the value of the commentariat here. I wonder if the changer perspective makes it more difficult for inane snarkers to survive.

    If you truly write to get the voices out of your head, doesn’t that mean readership isn’t so important? That’s how I looked at my own postings; it was therapy and thought-practice, so I never tried to build readership.

    The blog I miss most is Backtalk. Engram (the host) set a wonderful example of letting facts guide opinion.

  16. SteveH Says:

    I love that in 3.8 million square miles i can find a kindred soul who speaks my language. Is there anyplace else seperated by 3000 miles that can make that claim besides America? Hell no. You’d be lucky the tribe twelve miles up te road didn’t want to slit your foreign throat.

  17. geran Says:

    the only thing wrong with this site is “art”.


  18. Rose Says:

    It’s also true that people comment most when they disagree. They’re less likely to weigh in with an “amen” – we have to remember to drop in with a “HEY! I agree with you!” Because we forget that you can’t read our minds, and know that we are with you. 🙂

    I learn something here EVERY day, and I love the people here for that. Jus’ sayin.’

  19. Parker Says:

    “the only thing wrong with this site is ‘art’.”

    I beg to disagree. Art spans a wide range of human expression and experience. I read, but don’t comment about ballet & opera because I’m just a farm boy grown old, yet I enjoy reading neo’s writings and the comments posted because it makes me think I should know more about ballet & opera

    “I learn something here EVERY day, and I love the people here for that. Jus’ sayin.’”

    I concur. Neo and the people who post comments here educate me beyond what I could learn on my own. As an example, I give a big cheer to Artfldgr because he/she makes me do research.

  20. jerry Says:

    My wallpaper is the still photo of Alec Guiness as Colonel Nickolson at the end of Bridge on the River Kwai when he picks up his hat and bats away the gravel on it and says “Oh my God, what have I done?” I adopted it about six months into the Clinton admin when I realized some serious political realities and decided that despite voting for Clinton once, I had been a conservative for all my life without even thinking what that meant. Your mini-bio at the top resonated with me as I feel that many of us have an epiphany and cannot go back. For me that means going to the well every evening for sustenance at places like this blog. Keep writing and I’ll keep visiting. Promise.

  21. texexec Says:

    I think two things are affecting traffic right now.

    First, people are worn out with politics. That will change and interest will resume as the 2012 election approaches.

    Second, it’s summer. I have had several businesses on the Internet and traffic/sales always drop significantly in the summer. I guess people get out more.

    Keep up the good work, Neo. I check this site several times a day…it’s one of the best (mostly) political blogs on the Internet.

    Commenters here are good too.

  22. geran Says:

    too funny!

    “art” refers to the troll that inhabits this site, known as “art-the-f”.

    (Not trying to make fun of u Parker.)

  23. Parker Says:


    Yes, Artfldgr spews out more info than you or I can handle in at a glance, and he makes dots connect that do not always connect, but he’s no troll. Have you checked out his assertions and references? If you do you’ll be surprised at what you will learn.

    PS: You can make fun of me all you wish, my skin is many miles thicker than BHO’s. 😉

  24. rickl Says:

    I remember Den Beste predicting years ago that a few large blogs would end up getting most of the traffic, while many small blogs would fall by the wayside.

    As for “narrowing”: I have scores of blogs in my bookmarks folder, but there probably less than a dozen that I visit regularly. Ironically, Right Wing News is one that I used to read, but haven’t lately. I never had a problem with them; it’s just that there are lots of good blogs and only so many hours in the day.

    Besides blogs, there are are also “forums”. Some examples are AR15.com, NASASpaceflight.com, and Market Ticker Forum. The nice thing about the forum structure is that it allows members to post their own original content, or link to other articles and sites that interest them. Other members can then offer their comments.

    The three I mentioned above are pretty large forums, which are focused on guns, spaceflight, and economics respectively. There are also smaller ones. I have no idea how many of those there are. One that I frequent is It’s About Liberty. There are only about 20 or so active members. It’s sort of my “home base” on the internet. If I’m surfing and find something interesting, I’ll go back and start a thread linking the article or blog post. There are categories for politics, economics, science & technology, entertainment, recipes, etc. I like the forums because it allows me to play at being a blogger without the bother of running my own blog.

    Recently, a commenter here linked to this XKCD map of the internet. It is kind of disconcerting to find that not one of the sites I frequent is even mentioned on it. Both blogs and forums are very small portions, and are dwarfed by Facebook, which I’m not involved with. It’s distressing to see how small the “conservative blogosphere” is.

    But maybe the small blogs and forums, with only a few dozen readers each, can still play a role in spreading information and knowledge. Their cumulative effect may turn out to be important. At least I hope so.

    Dan Riehl also offers his thoughts on this topic.

  25. DHZw Says:

    Tony Bennett has said that he just kept doing the same classic songs until he came back into fashion.

  26. MaryinOh Says:

    To this day, i can’t remember how I found you Neo.
    But like many who comment here, I was searching for the other side. Not just the side that the lame stream was giving. I wanted to become informed. I started to educate myself. I’ve read many of the books you have suggested. So this has become my classroom of sorts. I’m so much a newbie to all of this, but I trust what I read from you and you make it all make sense.
    Thank you.

  27. JohnC Says:

    Personally, I like the rundowns on candy corn and jello.

    Thanks for everything you do Neo! You help me sort out key political issues and personalities and you lead me to think about and appreciate other things in the world. I like the forum you’ve created. It’s nice to have you here. So, please don’t leave. When will we be able to buy your book??

  28. uncleFred Says:

    Since their beginnings, bloggers have challenged the dominance of the main media for the hearts and minds of their audience. Because of the overwhelming concentration of the left in traditional media, we see this more clearly in the spectrum of conservative thought than any other. While it may be less blatant, the battle goes on in all other areas of the media.

    The drop in blog traffic is a transient phenomenon, which as others point out will pass as the political season of 2012 moves center stage.

    The “narrowing” of blogs is not a transient. Being on the front lines of a massive cultural change is demanding. The fact that readers may directly provide feedback to writers in the very forum which they write, makes this a more demanding space than prior media. Once old media realized that bloggers were successfully competing with them for their audience and advertisers the battle was fully joined. So bloggers burn out. I remember with great sadness the day that Den Beste announced that there after he would only blog anime.

    It is harder for good blogs to “break out” and get noticed. Certainly, but as you say Neo – you write for yourself as much as anything else. The blogosphere has another aspect. Quality blogs eventually get found, and when they do they prosper.

    Among quality blogs, long form blogs have an advantage. They do not depend on transient topics or daily contexts, rather they tend to speak to lasting issues. The value of their discussions and knowledge tend to remain over time. They don’t get old. People who discover Den Beste today, find that their time is as well served and their interest as captured today, as ours was seven years ago when reading him was a daily pleasure.

    When I said that the narrowing of blogs is not transient, I did not mean that inevitably there will be only a handful of “large” blogs. There is a winnowing process that is going on. Quality blogs will survive and eventually they will thrive again. The nature of the net, prevents it from being dominated by a few voices. While the path to emergence may be more difficult, the quality voices with staying power, whether old or new, will rise to prominence.

    Yours is a quality blog, which I enjoy quite a lot. I hope that you continue to write.

  29. Darrell Says:

    I think the rise of Facebook has a lot to do with it, a lot of people are getting most of their content through people they know on Facebook, perhaps you should get a neoneocon Facebook page Neo, could drive more traffic and we could all “like” you 🙂

  30. Michael F Says:

    Neocon and all;
    I don’t think that we dedicated bloggers and loyal commentariat realize the significance of what we do. Let me elaborate.
    When I moved to this apartment five years ago, I failed to hook up the television, pick up newspapers, or turn on the radio. Just as thoughtlessly, I dropped a few other mild compulsions or obsessions. I’d entirely lost interest in what was being promoted, like shedding a skin of acquisitive personality. This home-sanctuary and its silence became and remain blessings.
    In late 2008 emphysema and the doctors ended my twenty-year run with a local heavy construction contractor, leaving me with twelve-hour days once filled with the busyness of people, places and events. With nothing to be done, I took to the computer and Internet. “You’re married to your computer!” a woman claimed. ‘Better my CyberBeast than thee, dear!’ I thought.
    About that time, the Conservatives in Canada and the Democrats in the USA were rising toward their present heights (like the blue-green algae in the pond analogy). I rather hoped for the former while vehemently deploring the latter. I’d seen enough before of socialism aka communism-lite.
    In trying to understand the politics of these two contrastive movements (the two faces of politics), I discovered the political blogs, dared to comment when aroused, pegged about fourteen blogs to Favorites for regular review, and actively participated in the second rise and nasty decline of a site called HillBuzz. As a consequence of that meltdown, about a dozen of us fled from that MPDed charlatan to regroup, and regroup again, elsewhere (much wiser but happier).
    Now like SteveH here, I much like that in 3.8 million square miles or more I “can find a kindred soul who speaks my language.” Exactly. On the blog I consider to be home base, I’ve stressed that what we are building is a type of community – a collective of ‘assorted misfits’ of like mind – and it simply does not matter that as individuals with very different lives we live as far apart as eastern Canada and southern California, Florida and Oregon, or Switzerland and western Canada. Today we are of one collective mind on most issues (and circumspect where we disagree); and I suspect this is the point, the reason, for our coming together: to ‘learn community’.
    In this anomic society an individual is virtually powerless politically, and is certainly frustrated. But a dedicated group is able to move to change matters, while coincidently offering essential support for the individual who wants to make a difference. Two among outstanding communities of bloggers-and-commenters are The Tea Party Movement and C4P. The smaller blogs are no less significant as home bases.
    Our Internet blogging communities are changing the way that the political world works, obviously. And it is only one step further to work as collective units to change our culture and society to something better than the current disastrous state.

  31. Sam L. Says:

    I like the long form, and really miss den Beste, because he really was de BEST.

  32. jms Says:

    I understand why Steven Den Beste stopped blogging, and I have sympathy for his situation.

    His retirement left a void in online conservative blogging that has not been filled. From his political philosophy to his mammoth debunking of “alternative energy”, he was doing an absolutely incredible amount of heavy lifting.

    I can only wonder how the world would be different if he had been able to continue what he was doing. Some say that no man is that important, but some are. Were.

  33. Lead and Gold Says:

    The future of blogging…

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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