May 23, 2005

Do bloggers create the buzz?

Tom Zeller (in the NYT) thinks bloggers only have much influence to decide what's news when they get their hands on a smoking gun. Thus, Rathergate made bloggers look powerful, but it was really only because of that uniquely bloggable fake document.

So bloggers buzz, but only in that drudgy droning way. We're good for poring over documents -- detail work. The big shaping ideas and sharp insights must come from somewhere else. NYT columnists, probably.

Zeller is reacting to "Buzz, Blogs and Beyond" ("published last week by the Pew Internet and American Life Project and the market research firm BuzzMetrics"), which figured out a way to measure the influence of bloggers on the news agenda.

Is anyone counting the number of articles in the NYT that assert that bloggers aren't as influential as you might think? They can't stop looking at us and talking about us, but they always conclude that we aren't really worth much.


Mark Daniels said...

Of course bloggers have greater impact on people's thinking than the New York Times is willing to concede.

By and large, blogging influence is thus far only of a certain kind. It's influence is mostly on the already-convinced.

Bloggers generally reflect their own partisan or philosophical biases. Even when they do original reporting, as happened with the Rather case last year, they do so from a particular philosophical place.

This same penchant for bias is reflected in their readership. The people who are liberal read liberal blogs and those who are conservative read conservative blogs and find in them confirmation of their own beliefs and ammo for pushing their own positions. There are few blog-grazers who look at the writings of those with whom they're not in basic sympathy.

But even with this, blogging represents a major new force in politics. Though they may not want to admit it, the NYT knows this.

They also know, I think, that big ideas don't only come from their editorial offices. Through blogging, the world is seeing that the emperors of the mainstream media may not have any clothes. They're not as omnipotent or omnicompetent as they have thought themselves to be.

IMHO said...

Just like you do when you're five and like a girl so you tease her, the NYT can't stop talking about bloggers.

A simple explanation but one that makes some much intuitive sense that it illustrates the disconnect from the "intellectually-superior" and the common folk.

Mark Daniels said...

Blast it all, I shouldn't go back and read stuff I've written. I always find mistakes. But since I'm taking the day off and going online in between "chores," I checked on the discussion here.

The second paragraph in my comments above should read:

"By and large though, blogging influence is thus far only of a certain kind. Its influence is mostly on the already-convinced."

I concede that some rare people read blogs of varying philosophical persuasions. But I think that most go to those bloggers who will feed them on their predispositions.

This is akin to one of the factors behind the success of cable and satellite TV and of talk radio. "Block programming," diverse menus of program offerings, is no longer ascendant in the mainstream media. People want their own interests, notions, and prejudices confirmed. We're a lot like the people in the Old Testament who told those pesky prophets that they didn't want to hear them out. "Speak to us of smooth things," they said.

I refuse to read this now. Otherwise I'll be sending in another comment.

MaxedOutMama said...

Whether bloggers have much power to decide what's news will depend on whether the print and air media routinely ignore newsworthy stories or misrepresent them. My experience is that it does a great deal of both.

All one has to to do is to read mil-bloggers and blogs such as the Belmont Club to understand that there is a real hole in coverage and that bloggers are filling it.

And so many stories in the traditional media are covered badly. The Montgomery Public School systems sex-ed curriculum comes to mind. I think the media is acutely uneasy about this new and uncontrolled critical platform. The original stories were laughably inaccurate and biased.

Whether the MSM likes it or not, this forum has evolved and is here to stay.

Ann Althouse said...

Le Monstre: It's a news analysis piece that relies mostly on the study but actually takes a stronger speculative position than the study, which I've read.

Half Sigma said...

A very small number of top bloggers have influence, influence perhaps in excess of what their actual readership suggests.

But the average blogger has zero influence.

Joseph said...

Well said. I don't think bloggers are as influential as they think they are, but the tide is certainly turning. I've talked to fellow bloggers about the future of blogs and I think most of us agree that blogs will become more accepted by the mainstream media as time passes. We seem to disagree, though, on how to speed up the process. I've writen a few columns recently on this very subject, so I won't go into detail here. Let's just say I think the "Us versus them" mentality that a lot of bloggers have is working against them, not for.