The future of blogs

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Wish I could've been there. It was a big New York City blogger party Friday night, organized by Karol Sheinin of Alarming News, and there were a lot of smart, witty bloggers there that I met during last summer's Republican National Convention.

One of those smart, witty bloggers who was there is blogger and radio talk show host Kevin McCullough, and he had a conversation with fellow smart, witty blogger Scott Sala of Slant Point about how the blog world has changed since the frenzy leading up to last year's elections and what it means for the future of blogs:

I could feel Scott's pain when he said it, "It's like people are now reading the four or five big blogs and since the bigs aren't linking to us anymore - it's made me try to redefine my niche."

So what did he do - he started something brand new, more focused, more directed. (Urban Elephants) It's a complete start-over in Scott's case... but it has a specificity to it that makes it a great product for a more defined audience.

And in the end - I believe this is what will happen in a way that is not dissimilar to what happened to broadcast media. More channels brought more opportunities to target viewers. The more specific a channel is the more its audience relates to it in a strongly personal way. (This is why - all talent elements being equal - a talk radio station - will do better with a local talent as opposed to someone syndicated.)

I think Scott's observation about finding a niche is exactly right. My traffic is actually up over last year, thanks in part to the Tulsa Whirled's short-sighted decision to threaten me over linking to their website. I think most of it, though, is because there's a lot of room for growth in the niche I occupy. I mainly write about Tulsa, and there are a lot of Internet users in Tulsa that are just starting to discover blogs. My blogging and my political involvement gave me enough local visibility and credibility to give me opportunities on the radio and now as a columnist in an alternative weekly, which raises my visibility further and brings more people to the blog.

It's funny: I don't regularly read most of the big blog dogs that Kevin mentions in his entry. I used to, but it seems that ever since I created a special sidebar section for "News Blogs, Frequently Updated" I stopped checking them as often as before. Instead I find what they're saying via the lower-ranked bloggers that I read more often. I find myself more often exploring the sites of other bloggers who have linked to me, or who have written on some of the same topics, or bloggers that I've met in real-life, like Kevin and Scott and Karol.

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» Fuuture of Blogs from Don Singleton

Michael's site is the main one I go to for Tulsa News, although I do check TulsaBloggers as well Read More

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Mr. Snitch! said:

I've experimented with many categories of subject matter in the nine months I've been blogging. At the top of the blog food chain, as it were, it can be interesting to pick up on a subject that's being followed by the higher-traffic bloggers and add whatever it is I have to add. In that mode I act as an editor, taking bits from them and remixing. I seem to go into this mode when the issues are national (Katrina, elections and so on). That stuff tends to drive short-term traffic.

I also have developed a routine for skimming the web to find the pages that are getting a lot of attention that day (in terms of both traffic and new links). That's how I found the kids' game you tried out.

I also write about my immediate locality (Hoboken, but not Manhattan so much - it's kind of overcovered). As you have discovered, when one writes about a locality one knows, all Internet roads go through you (unless you're writing about a big, well-covered city such as San Francisco or New York).

I write about things that interest me, and maybe no one else. This is my lowest priority, although it's not as if I don't indulge it.

The common thread in all but the last choice of subjects is determining the interests of the reader and serving him/her. I try to write to what people are looking for.

I don't understand the mentality of writing about left/right political battles to the exclusion of everythiing else. It did drive a lot of traffic to a lot of blogs during the last presidential race, but naturally when the race is over, traffic falls off. Same with an Instapundit hit - after the reader has read what they came for, they take off.

What many blogs don't understand is that one wants to build a readership, not 'get hits'. There's a reader who comes because (s)he's looking for somethiing in particular, and then there's a reader who comes by because you have a reputation for delivering something they value.

I think there's value in going after those Instapundit-type quick hits. The traffic that shows up is coming to an open house, and a tiny fraction of them may return. But care should be taken to also build one's own base audience, and not simply depend on 'links from Glenn'.

The most powerful driver of long-term returning traffic is coverage of local interests. In many parts of the country, the local paper is dead or dying. Readers are going online, and although the papers have developed web presences, they still don't deal with the 'net very well. This is even more true for their relationship with bloggers (I know you are all too aware of this).

And it's not as if the papers are going to come 'round, either. I have corresponded with a number of bloggers who have tried to explain to the local media what's likely to happen in the near future (I expect many local papers will simply no longer exist in ten years). The papers see the ad revenue and readership declining, but they are incapable of doing much about it besides applying Band-aids.

The future of local journalism, in my opinion, clearly belongs to Google, Yahoo, Craigslist, and local bloggers. They will constitute the network that carries local news in the future.

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on October 3, 2005 1:48 AM.

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