As I have always been prone to do, I spent much of the morning looking at the Blogads traffic rankings. Adding up the 200 blogs that are concerned with politics and either identify or have been identified with Democrats / liberals or Republicans / conservatives, I found 87 blogs that general fit into the “liberal” category and 113 blogs that fit into the conservative category. However, despite the greater number of conservative blogs, the liberal blogs totaled nearly ten million page views per week, while the conservative blogs managed just over six million. I have been tracking the comparative audiences of the two blogosphere off and on for the past nine months, and this is the largest lead for the liberal blogosphere that I have ever found. In September, the margin in favor of Democrats was 25%. In winter, it was 33%. In the spring, it was 50%. Now, it has risen to 65%. This is particularly amazing, since less than two years ago the conservative blogosphere was at least twice the size of the liberal blogosphere.
So the liberal blogosphere is beginning to pull away from the conservative blogopshere in terms of audience size. At the same time, there appear to be more conservative blogs than liberal blogs. In fact, when it comes to total number, new Republican / conservative blogs might even be outpacing new Democratic / liberal blogs. What could be the cause of this?
Of the twenty-four liberal blogs in the top quintile, Dailykos, TPM CafÃ©, Smirking Chimp, Metafilter, BooMan Tribune, MyDD, and Dembloggers are full-fledged community sites where members cannot only comment, but they can also post diaries / articles / polls. By comparison, there are no community sites among the top twenty-four conservative blogs. None, zip, zero, nada. This is particularly stunning when one considers the importance of the Free Republic community to the conservative netroots. While it would appear that there are hordes of Glenn Reynolds wannabe’s among conservatives in the netroots, Redstate.org sticks out as the only success story for a community oriented blog within the conservative blogosphere. In fact, of the five most trafficked conservative blogs (over 200,000 page views per week), only one, Little Green Footballs, even allows comments, much less the ability to actually write a diary or a new article.
The nine liberal community sites I listed in the paragraph above have accounted for the bulk of the exceptional growth of the liberal blogosphere over the past two years. In the summer of 2003, Dailykos was roughly equal in traffic to Atrios, and had less than half the traffic of Instapundit. However, starting with a large growth spurt following the introduction of Scoop in October of 2003, now Dailykos has grown to three times the size of Instapundit and four times the size of Atrios. Over the past year, Scoop sites Dembloggers, MyDD, and BooMan Tribune have risen from miniscule traffic numbers to top forty, even top twenty, blogs. Over the past two weeks, the traffic at Talking Points Memo and TPM CafÃ© has risen to a combined 1.3 million, making it easily the second most trafficked political blog (comfortably passing Instapundit). In fact, the introduction of the community oriented TPM CafÃ© has more than doubled the traffic at TPM of late. Overall, while both the right-wing and left-wing blogosphere have seen growth in traffic, the truly exceptional growth of many community sites on the liberal end of the blogosphere has made the difference that catapulted the liberal blogosphere from half the size of the right-wing blogosphere in July 2003 to more than 60% its size in June 2005.
Anyone who spends a significant amount of time on Scoop blogs should not have any difficulty figuring out why this is the case. Because of Scoop’s diary feature, it is possible to become at least a semi-famous blogger without having a blog of your own. An entire generation of popular liberal bloggers grew out of the Dailykos diaries and comments: Billmon, Steve Soto, Steve Gillard, Melanie, DemfromCT, DhinMI, Theoria, Tom Schaller, Meteor Blades, DavidNYC, myself, SusanHu, Jerome a Paris, lapin, Maryscott O’Conner, NYCO, Mariascat, and many, many more. I believe that the wave of new talent and fresh voices that the comments and dairy options bring to a blog has been the key factor in the liberal blogosphere outpacing the growth of the right wing blogosphere. Every day brings more reasons to read the highly trafficked liberal blogs. Every two weeks or so brings a new liberal blog from someone who has already become famous as a diarist. Community moderated blogging platforms such as Scoop have provided us with an excellent means of finding new voices, and these are the voices that are generating the accelerated growth in the liberal and progressive blogosphere when compared to the right-wing blogosphere.
By comparison, right-wing blogs have pretty much only one means of finding a new voice in the blogosphere: when someone starts a new blog. The inability to operate within a community must be the primary reason behind the large number of conservative blogs in the second, third and fourth quintiles of the Blogads traffic rankings. In fact, of these 120 blogs, 77 of them are openly conservative / libertarian. There are swarms of new conservative voices looking to breakout in the right-wing blogosphere, but they are not even allowed to comment, much less post a diary and gain a following, on the high traffic conservative blogs. Instead, without any fanfare, they are forced to start their own blogs. However, because of the top-down nature of right-wing blogs, new conservative blogs remain almost entirely dependent upon the untouchable high traffic blogs for visitors. In short, the anti-community nature of right-wing blogs has resulted in a stagnant aristocracy within the conservative blogosphere that prevents the emergence of new voices and, as a result, new reasons for people to visit conservative blogs.
Unless right-wing blogs decide to open up and allow their readers to have a greater voice, I expect that the liberal and progressive blogosphere will continue its unbroken twenty-month rise in relative traffic. Conservative bloggers continue to act as though they are simply a supplement to the existing pundit class, without any need to converse with those operating outside of a small social bubble or any need to engage people within the new structure of the public sphere. In the formulation of Stirling Newberry, they view themselves existing on top of a pyramid rather than in the middle of a sphere. At least when it comes to the national blogosphere, liberals are leaving conservatives in the dust. By comparison, conservatives seem all too happy to continue to cogitate from atop their lofty and increasingly irrelevant perch. That’s fine by me. I hope some things never change.