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Day of the blogger

By John Hawkins
web posted September 15, 2003

"Eye on the Left: How significantly did the events of September 11th and the recent war with Iraq impact the general public's view of blogs and bloggers?

John Hawkins: Perhaps more journalists and a few more hard core news junkies discovered blogs because of 9/11 or the war in Iraq, but I don't think 99% of the public knows we even exist yet. The blogosphere is still growing and our day will come, but we're still small fish in a big pond right now." -- From an interview with me by Eye On The Left

Last week, one of my readers who was deeply concerned because he believes Russia is sliding back towards totalitarianism, asked me to write about the subject because he thought I could get the word out to the Bush administration. While I was deeply flattered by that, I didn't have the heart to tell him that I sincerely doubt that there's anyone in the Bush administration reading my blog. Heck, I'm guessing that there isn't anyone in government at all, anywhere, and I'm talking all the way down to the assistant to the assistant to the assistant dog catcher of Podunk county Arkansas, reading my blog. That may surprise some of you because you think I'm one of the bigger right-of-center bloggers. That's true, I am. But that's like being one of the hottest prospects in all of AAA baseball. It's not bad, but it still isn't the major leagues.

In reality, there aren't a lot of "high impact" blogs out there that actually have the sort of influence that say a Mona Charen or Thomas Sowell does. In fact, once you go beyond The Corner, Instapundit, Kausfiles, Little Green Footballs, Andrew Sullivan, & Talking Points Memo, few bloggers have the power to impact the news cycle…and no those, "Wow, there are bloggers talking politics on the web, how cute" articles that you see every so often in newspapers don’t count.

Instapundit.comBut there are two blogs out of that “high impact” group that I find to be of particular importance: Instapundit & LGF. I say that because neither Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit or Charles Johnson at LGF was a journalist, well known writer, had any real name recognition, or big money behind them that helped make their blogs into successes. Yet, according to Alexa (a website ranking service), Instapundit (rank #7,785) is bigger than Patrick Buchanan's The American Conservative (rank #10,843) & Little Green Footballs (rank #13,538) has a bigger audience than powerhouse lefty mag Mother Jones (#14,408)."So what,” you say? What does that prove? Well, it proves that there are one-man shops on the web that can now pull in the same sort of huge audience that only magazines with large staffs and even larger budgets could in the past.

Furthermore, these top blogs are only the tip of the iceberg. Other one-man shops on the net that have been around a little longer actually dwarf even the top blogs. For example, Fark, an offbeat news site run by Drew Curtis, only pulled 50,000 pageviews in all of 1999. But today? Fark racks up more than 5 and a 1/2 million pageviews per week. But even Fark pales in comparison to the power of the Drudge Report, another solo project, that in the last 24 hours had 6,501,467 "visits". To understand how truly awe inspiring that number is, just keep in mind that Bill O'Reilly's top ranked cable news show, The O'Reilly Factor, is only pulling roughly about 2 million viewers per night right now. So If Matt Drudge can pull 6 million "visits" per day, why can't Andrew Sullivan or Mickey Kaus do the same thing in a few years? The honest answer is that it's entirely possible that they can and as they grow and link other bloggers, it's also quite likely that the blogosphere itself will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. The 6 "high impact" blogs I mentioned earlier in the piece could easily become 12 blogs in another year. Then 24 a year later, 48 after another year, and....well that may be as high as it goes since the world can only take so many people incessantly blathering about budget numbers and whether or not greenhouse gasses are going to cause the planet to become a bit warmer than we'd like 50 years from now.

But then again, why shouldn't there be 50, 100, or even 200 big name bloggers down the road given that the potential of the blogosphere has barely been tapped? Think about it; politicians and newspapers have recently started creating their own blogs and are introducing more readers to the blogosphere. More mainstream publications are being introduced to blogs and are sending new traffic our way. Journalists and editors are starting to realize what an incredible resource the blogosphere is and personally, I'd be surprised if we didn't see more bloggers recruited to work with the big boys. After all, why pay some editorial writer who may not be actually drawing anyone to your paper ***cough, cough, Maureen Dowd, cough, cough*** when you can have a blogger who has proven they can draw an audience writing for you instead? Then you have to consider that as the economy starts to turn around and advertising dollars start to come back to the web, running a popular web page may start to become more like the profitable enterprise it was for so many website owners before the dotcom bubble burst. You also have to remember the number of people on the Internet is only going to continue to grow which means that millions of potential new readers are coming online every year. Last but not least, don't forget that the blogosphere has been growing steadily without all of these other factors contributing to its growth.

If it sounds like I'm predicting that there will be numerous blogs that are as powerful as the major papers and magazines in the future, that's because I am. If you don't buy into that, I understand, because at first, I didn't believe it either. When I switched RWN over to a blogging format, I thought blogging was a passing fad and I didn't think the blogoshere could make a lasting impression. But after watching the steady growth of blogopshere and watching bloggers effect the news cycle (something ex-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott could tell you all about), I've decided that I didn't give enough credit where credit was due. Bloggers aren't heavy hitters yet, but then neither was Rush Limbaugh in the early eighties or Fox News back in 1996. It's going to take time, but I'm confident that the day of the blogger is going to come.

The author, John Hawkins, runs Right Wing News, a conservative blog.

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