Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Whither the conservative blogosphere? Or, do you have to be "big" to make a difference?

If you're looking for something interesting to read today -- and for whatever reason you care about bloggers, blogging, and the state of the political blogosphere -- check out this post by John Hawkins at RightWingNews: "The Slow, Painful Coming Death Of The Independent, Conservative Blogosphere." Key passage:

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.

This is purely anecdotal, but in my early days as a blogger, several years ago now, I actually made quite a few friends in the conservative blogosphere. No, we may not have agreed on anything, but there was mutual respect, I think, some of them were willing to link to me as a thoughtful liberal, as I often made a point of linking to a handful of conservative bloggers I thought were worth reading, like Ed Morrissey (now at Hot Air, then at his own place, Captain's Quarters) and a few others you can find in my blogroll over on the right sidebar.

Indeed, I sometimes found these conservatives more willing to link to a smaller blogger like me than the liberals/progressives with whom I had a lot more in common politically. This is something I and many others have been critical of for years -- the reluctance, or perhaps refusal, of some liberal/progressive A-listers to link to smaller liberal/progressive blogs. It's why many of us get involved with the annual Blogroll Amnesty Day, when we encourage blogs to link to smaller blogs. If only the A-listers would get involved and do that more frequently than they do. (Though, to be fair, I have been fortunate to have received kind and generous support, in terms of links but also in terms of friendship, from a number of liberal/progressive A-listers, like Steve Benen, Kevin Drum, Glenn Greenwald, and the good people at Crooks and Liars, where I'm now in the rotation doing the daily round-up that focuses on links to smaller blogs.)

But now, I wonder. Maybe the conservative blogosphere really isn't what it used to be. Maybe it's all about the A-listers now, with little regard for the small, independent blogs that really make what we love so much, a blogosphere full of diverse, interesting voices, so dynamic.

If you really have to be "big" to get noticed, or to make a difference, or just to be anything anyone cares about, the shark may well have been jumped. Which would be a real shame. Because without denying the importance of many of the A-listers all across the spectrum, we don't want blogging -- or shouldn't want it, if we care about its democratic ethos -- to turn completely into a haven for an exclusive new media elite that shuts everyone else out, establishes its parameters, and becomes its own self-regarding establishment.

I'm not saying that what is apparently happening on the right is also happening on the left. Sure, it helps to be "big," but there's still room for the rest of us, and I think it's essential that we, from the A-listers on down, do everything we can to make sure we don't lose what made blogging so great in the first place.

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