October 26, 2004

· Internet

Somehow I missed this, but Jason Kottke made an interesting observation about popular blogs a few days ago:

Out of Technorati’s top 100 most-linked weblogs∗∗, only 16 don’t feature advertising or are otherwise noncommercial:

Scripting News / Doc Searls / kottke.org / Jeffrey Zeldman / The Volokh Conspiracy / Scobleizer / Lileks / Joel on Software / Rather Good / Joi Ito’s Web / RonOnline / USS Clueless / BuzzMachine / Vodkapundit / Baghdad Burning / Crooked Timber

Lots of interesting observations to be made about the commercialization of weblogs…the quick uptake of advertising on blogs, the increasingly false perception of blogs as inherently unbiased by commercial interests (and therefore preferable to “big media”), the continuing shift from blogging as a hobby to blogging for a variety of reasons, the number of weblogs launching lately that have ads from day one, the demographic difference between the typical circa-2002 blogger and the blogger of today, etc.

There’s more discussion about this at his site. I’d also note that of the Top 100, and particularly those in the Top 50, there’s a lot of heterogeneity. Some are run by single individuals (like Kottke.org), some are group blogs (Volokh, Crooked Timber), some large communities (Metafilter) or social movements (Common Dreams), while others are commercial enterprises (Wonkette and the other Nick Denton Mini-Empire[1] sites), and so on. Beyond that, the mix of technology, culture and politics would be worth a closer look, too. I also wonder whether Technorati have changed their criteria a bit: I remember the last time I looked closely at the Top 100 list (a few months ago) the top sites were all from the Suicide Girls porn outfit, but they seem to have largely disappeared from the listing. The presence of sites written in languages other than English, like this one and this one, seems like a new development as well.

To forestall pointless arguments, I should say that I don’t think taking advertising means your content automatically suffers or your character is corrupted by money or whatnot.[2] But there’s a story here about viable organizational models for blogging. I sometimes think CT is just under a daily-visitor threshold that would change the character of the site. It’s not so much bandwidth costs as our relationship to commenters and so on. The software runs at a just-about-acceptable pace, and the comments threads are generally very good. But more visitors would put extra pressure on all of that. We’re still growing, so maybe we’ll see these changes whether we want to or not. Look out for our crossover deal with Burger King. I’m thinking Whoppers flame-grilled on crooked timbers, with Kids’ Meals containing small plastic effigies of Isaiah Berlin and copies of ‘What is Enlightenment?’

fn1. World’s smallest empire?

fn2. Though I do think your layout does: most of the drop-in advertising methods I’ve seen look like crap.

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I am Associate Professor of Sociology at Duke University. I’m affiliated with the Kenan Institute for Ethics, the Markets and Management Studies program, and the Duke Network Analysis Center.



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