Saturday, December 16, 2006

Blogging -- Right Questions

You have to get some giggles out of this week's hoo-ha about bloggers and bloggers peaking next year. Let us all say it together, that's not so much the wrong conclusion as the wrong question!

Check Technorati to see the frills and fluff associated with the Gartner folk announcing this damned near meaningless and short-sighted "Predict" as they call such. Consider:
  • The BBC initiating its typical and uncritical opinion LITE.
  • Bloggers huffing and puffing about where this is true, not or partially.
Amusingly, the Gartner team came to where years of Pew reports have been, saying that most bloggers do it for awhile and quit. With typical market-researcher hyperbole, Gartner thinks it has suddenly discovered this trend that proves that blogging is on the way out.

The short version from their news release includes:
Blogging and community contributors will peak in the first half of 2007. Given the trend in the average life span of a blogger and the current growth rate of blogs, there are already more than 200 million ex-bloggers. Consequently, the peak number of bloggers will be around 100 million at some point in the first half of 2007.
If you want the detail, the best source at the moment seems to be the article on NewsFactor. Again, Gartner clearly has been reading the same Pew papers the rest of us see. It notes that bloggers tire after about three months and quit, the number of bloggers was doubling every six months and those who were likely to have done it, and even the ultra-light versions like MySpace and FaceBook have maxed out and are dropping. Gartner goes on to predict a drop to 100 million bloggers in 2007 and a core of maybe 30 million who just can't help themselves from posting.

Counterpoints come from folks like consultancy crayon that claims business blogging is just starting. So there.

With the, what, millions, of words spewed on this non-story, we're still waiting for hard research and meaningful questions. The most important is analysis of what effects the political blogs had in the past two-year election cycle.

We expect and at least hope that those studying politics have tried to measure how meaningful blogging was locally and nationally. The shameless self-promoting blogs would have us believe that we were the or at least a key factor in the Dems regaining Congress and in such local revolutions as Deval Patrick winning the governorship here.

Convince me. Show me. I gave up taking important issues on faith a long, long time ago.

Certainly the Pew type researchers can ask the public, which can give indications if not proof. If there's no money to be made in it, the Gartner sorts have no incentive to spend billable hours of consultants' time gathering and analyzing data.

Perhaps this will fall to the sloth-speed academicians. They can go where the races were tight, do content and hit analysis of the political blogs, compare blog comment with MSM articles and reader commentary, and try to find correlations between blog activity and race outcomes.

That would be several orders of magnitude more meaningful than whether America had 30 million or 100 million or 200 million bloggers. This is a quality/quantity thing. One Hummer manufacturer or Courtney Love is plenty, maybe too many. On the other hand, we in New England know we can't have too many ice-cream vendors or brew pubs.

I want to see some figures and numbers on how effective we bloggers were. Some of us can show our hit increases and where the visitors clicked in to see our stuff. We can point to how much money we raised and whether there was a meaningful attendance at a protest we promoted.

Unfortunately, having our new governor say we were important, recognizing us by face and name, and even using a couple of us as clerks in gathering ideas doesn't prove much of anything. Instead, let's hope folk are asking the right questions of enough people and looking at all the data they can to say how potent bloggers were.

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Anonymous said...

I think (OK, anecdotally and locally in my area) that our best contribution is to activating new people to come into the process.

I know for a fact that many people who volunteered for Patrick came to understand what was at stake and what they could do about it through my blog and others. And the sheer number of new folks who came to the caucus or got involved afterwards, both via the blog and from elsewhere, was pretty amazing.

And THOSE people took it to their neighbors and friends and family offline. They made the phone calls and held the signs and planned the events. If there's any major contribution, it was that we were one of the outlets for finding folks who were sick of the same ol' political crap and found out they could get involved.

There were other ways that people got involved of course, but often they were the "standard" ways, with experienced old hats at political activism...unions...Dem town committees...and PACs and the like.

Also, we were talking and debating about the substance of the issues long before the MSM did - IF they even bothered. I think that helped the conversation a little bit.

Now, if only we could get the media business to do their jobs the way they used to...

massmarrier said...

ROTF, Ms. Lynne. I'm the old guy, but you're the one doing the by-cracky-I-remember-when-newspapers-were-newspapers thing.

But you are sooooo right. Almost no MSM folk ask the salient questions. They don't seem to trust that we care or would understand. Maybe the reporters and editors are as dumb or lazy as the TV talking heads. Regardless, we get shortchanged. I do think that having more of us gadflies flitting around and stinging with real questions can do nothing but bring important issues up -- like welts.

Anonymous said...

I also think budgets and bottom lines have cut into newsrooms, and is probably a bigger factor than laziness or bad training on the part of journalists. Though, I once heard Rnady Rhodes describe her experiene with TV news as being filled with vapid, stupid people - hosts and staffs that were completely unschooled in current affairs, something that amazed her every time she was interviewed on TV.

In a world where TV is king, maybe newspapers are taking some of their cues?

Uncle said...

OK, duck! Here's another reprise on the long view.

Each time a new communications medium appears, it is in the interest of the established one(s) to play down the new kid and predict its early demise.

Long before there were blogs to kick around, established broadcast and print media were quick to give maximum play to any story that predicted the early demise of the Internet. Print media used to do the same to television news. Express riders dissed the telegraph. Scribes responded the same way to moveable type. When they invented papyrus, chisellers in stone and clay likely had the same response.


massmarrier said...

LOL, Uncle. Many of the reporters are Gen-X or Gen-Y. I can see them furrowing their unwrinkled brows and saying they weren't alive when there way no Internet, much less no blogs -- as though that excused their own lack of perspective.

This one with blogs has the additional fillip of imitation. The newspaper and TV types are blogging themselves, under duress. Most are terrible at it and it's extra work for no extra pay, but the are under orders.

Far too many of the original blogs were of the I'm-clever or ain't-my-kittens-and-kids-cute variety. These are like the terrifying days of the emergence of desktop publishing. Fortunately, those are the blogs that die, die, die quickly.