Earlier this week, I put out a piece called The Slow, Painful Coming Death Of The Independent, Conservative Blogosphere (Follow-up here).
The post got a lot of traction, a lot of nodding heads, and bloggers are still writing about it. That’s good. But, there were also some weird interpretations and outright missed points. That’s bad and it’s why I decided to do one last post on the topic.
First of all, let me just reiterate, in plainer language, the point of the piece.
Conservatism isn’t going away. Conservative publications on the web aren’t going away. Conservative bloggers aren’t going away. However, the market is forever changing, and the window that was wide open when conservative blogging first started to draw national attention is beginning to slide shut. By that, I mean, there are now a lot less opportunities for people to set up a blog, start writing, get national attention, and turn the tide of politics in America by blogging from their house in pajamas. Put another way, if there was a graph of the future of the national, independent, conservative blogosphere, it would probably be a line that’s trending slightly downward for the foreseeable future. I didn’t create that reality, nor am I pleased about it, since I make my living at the moment as an independent, conservative blogger.
The reason I wrote that post was to note the trend…and it is a trend. Although there were a number of people who disagreed with me, one thing I certainly didn’t see anywhere was a post called, “Why the independent conservative blogosphere has a bright, shiny future full of happiness and sunshine!” Of course, someone will probably write a post like that now and hopefully, it’ll be really good and turn me around on the subject. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.
Speaking of stranger things that could save the independent conservative blogosphere, they could certainly still happen. Maybe the Koch brothers will decide that it’s vitally important to promote independent conservative bloggers and they’ll start handing out grants. Maybe some miraculous innovation will happen. Maybe independent conservative bloggers will be able to report on some major trend that the Daily Caller, Hot Air, and Michelle Malkin won’t talk about for some reason. Who knows? The AM Radio explosion in the late eighties proves that there can be comebacks in particular segments of the market, but that’s very hard to predict with any accuracy.
So, should small bloggers quit? No. I never said that, nor would I want it to happen. If anything, I’ve been one of the biggest public supporters of small bloggers. In fact, other than Instapundit and Hot Air, nobody has pushed out more traffic to conservative bloggers than I have via Right Wing News (RWN has done less of this of late because I farm most of the linking out to my other websites), Linkiest, and of late, Trending Right. Between just those last two websites, I’d conservatively estimate that I’ll push out north of 30,000 hits to conservative bloggers just this week (The percentage of people getting all that traffic who say thank you, permalink, or EVER link back in any way? Maybe 25%? I just note that because it comes to mind when people kvetch that “big” bloggers don’t do enough to help other people along.).
Well, if I don’t want small bloggers to quit, what does this mean?
Bloggers have asked me: So what’s the strategy to deal with this?
Really, it’s simple: Get big or go home.
Find a way to dramatically increase the size of your blog, expand into multiple websites that together are big, hook up with someone who’s already big, or accept that there isn’t much of a future in a small, niche market for you. Maybe that sounds a little grim, but unless something changes, independent conservative bloggers who haven’t already made it big don’t have a bright future.
First, let me note something I thought came across fairly clearly in the original piece, but maybe not: Right Wing News is not “making it big.” It’s bigger than a lot of other sites size wise, but compared to real giants that are out there now, it’s a medium size website. I would consider a “large site” to be 5-10 times the size of RWN.
Next, let me point out that there’s a strange quirk that I’ve run into over the years with SOME (certainly not a majority of) conservative bloggers. It comes up again and again and each time, it surprises, probably because it’s so alien to my way of thinking. On the one hand, people go out of their way to let you know they don’t care if people read what they write or not. It’s sort of a, “I’d like for people to read me, but if it’s 100 or 10,000, I’m fine with either.” Then these same people get bitter because they don’t think they’re being linked enough and because you specifically aren’t doing enough to help them along.
So, this is one of the little buzzsaws from the piece that I ran into. I did make the assumption that if you’re blogging, as opposed to say writing in a diary, tweeting, organizing a Tea Party, volunteering for the local Republican party, doing podcasts, etc., etc., etc., you’re doing it because you want to be read, preferably by increasing numbers of people over time. How many bloggers would keep writing if they knew that their traffic level would NEVER get significantly higher than it is today? My guess is very, very few other than the people who already run the biggest blogs.
The dilemma WE have as independent, conservative bloggers is that unless something changes (God help us all, Obama being reelected in 2012, maybe?), there doesn’t appear to be much of an influx of new traffic coming into the blogosphere. Moreover, with the increasing number of well financed, well staffed, professionalized conservative websites out there and the increasing bite social media is taking out of conservatives’ time, the audiences we have are progressively more likely to bleed to them. That’s where that slowly declining curve I talked about comes from. If you think that analysis is off, great, then give me some solid reasons for it besides “We got moxie” and “My traffic went up last month!”
That begs the question: What do we do about that?
You look at the reality of the situation and you find ways to adjust. Beyond the original suggestions I made, you can write for multiple large websites like Warner Todd Huston. That can get you in front of a big audience each day, even if it’s not at your blog. You can go local, which means trading off a smaller overall audience for less competition. You can try to find a niche and do it better than anyone else so you’ll be the goto website for it. You can come up with some huge traffic draw that no one else is doing. You can go to some of the bigger sites that already have large audiences and ask to write for them. Bloggers still have some decent options; they’re just not the exact same ones people had in say, 2001 or 2002.
Alternately, you can just keep doing what you’re doing and hope I’m totally wrong. Certainly, that seems unlikely, I mean, someone being wrong on the Internet? When has that ever happened before? But, it could be the case.
Personally, I’d like to see everyone on the Right increase his/her traffic, not just because I’m included in “everyone,” but because if there were 100 websites that could conceivably send 1000 people on a link, as opposed to say, 7-8 who can and actually might consider it if you have a good post, it would make building traffic a lot easier. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the direction things are going in. I didn’t make it that way, I’m just pointing it out so that hopefully, it will actually help some bloggers adjust and keep contributing to the movement with their writing, instead of getting frustrated with a lack of progress and giving up one day down the road.