Ed Driscoll

The Multiple Deaths And Long Healthy Life Of The Blogosphere

While Mark Steyn in the Chicago Sun-Times is focusing on the death of Europe, the Chicago Tribune, its cross-town rival, explores the death of blogs. The Trib ends its story on a much more rational note, but first tolls the expected bells of doom:

Gallup finds only 9 percent of Internet users saying they frequently read blogs, with 11 percent reading them occasionally. Thirteen percent of Internet users rarely bother, and 66 percent never read blogs. Those numbers, essentially unchanged from a year earlier, put blog-reading dead last among Gallup’s measures of 13 common Internet activities. E-mailing ranks first (with 87 percent of users doing so frequently or occasionally), followed by checking news and weather (72), shopping (52) and making travel plans (also 52).

If this sounds to you like a perennial theme for big media, you’d be right. Here’s what I wrote for TCS Daily right around this time two years ago, in response to a similar story on CNN.com, back when there were “only” five million blogs for Technorati to follow, as opposed to the 28.9 million they track today:

The Pew Internet and American Life Project, in a study released Sunday, found that somewhere between two percent and seven percent of adult Internet users in the United States actually keep their own blogs.

Let’s examine those numbers a little further! As I wrote on my own Weblog about the story, the numbers tell a very different story than its slant.

According to one study, there are 146 million adult Internet users in the US alone. The article claims that between two and seven percent of those Internet users keep blogs. If we round that number to five percent, it means that there are 7,300,000 Weblogs in the US alone. And that’s a lot of Weblogs!

This is the sort of cynical, “glass half empty/glass half full” story that bloggers love to parse, and many Weblogs had a field day with it. Scott Ott, the humorist whose Scrappleface Website is a Blogosphere favorite (in January of 2003, Ott coined the brilliant “Axis of Weasels” meme that later graced the cover of The New York Post), put things into sharp perspective. In one of his typical satiric news articles, he wrote that if only about two percent of Internet users actually write Weblogs, it means that there are more bloggers writing, than people reading USA Today (whose circulation is 2.6 million), The New York Times (1.6 million) or The New York Daily News (805,000).

Ott doesn’t mention CNN, but since the article most prominently appeared on CNN’s Website, it’s probably worth noting that in the US, CNN’s typically daily viewership is only about 450,000 viewers. (The Fox News Channel, the cable news ratings leader, gets an average of 799,000 viewers during their broadcasting day.)

Of course, if I were CNN, I’d be worried about having, in a manner of speaking, all of my viewers, and then some, owning Weblogs.

Fortunately, the author of the Trib article begins to pull up on the controls about halfway through the piece, but not before more alarm sirens go off:

The pixels hadn’t faded on Gallup’s downbeat report when Slate.com columnist Daniel Grossman chimed in with another requiem, “Twilight of the Blogs.” Grossman says: “There are troubling signs–akin to the 1999 warnings about the Internet bubble–that suggest blogs have just hit their top.” Among those signs: too much corporate money trying to buy into what could be a fad (including Time Warner paying a reported $25 million for Weblogs Inc.). Is too much money chasing not enough revenue? As Grossman aptly notes: “In the end stages of any investment mania, the clueless and the greedy flood in.”

Even if blogging flops as a business and doesn’t attract more readership, many bloggers will still have loyal followings.

That last sentence is exactly right–in fact, it sounds very much like something I wrote last November when Pajamas Media first launched, amidst the height of the bi-partisan epidemic of Pajamas Derangement Syndrome that seemed to sweep through the Blogosphere, during the brief period that PJM was known as OSM:

The funny thing is, living in Silicon Valley, I watched lots of dot.coms crash and burn, interviewed their staffs for magazines, and had lots of friends who had signed up for all-too-brief tours of duty. And my wife has served as attorney for more than a few start-ups. I