Open Thread: Traffic at Major Political Blogs is Down (via Bloggasm); does that mean anything?

First, the numbers, which I think are self-explanatory and can be given a pretty obvious explanation for the most part (we’re not in an election cycle, blah blah): May ’09 political blog readership 53% lower than in Oct. 08.

Now what I want to know is what any of this means, if anything. I’m tempted to say the usual “well, it’s obvious that what political blogs do is repeat themselves incessantly, so why wouldn’t they be subject to sharp drop-offs in traffic?”

But I think we can go further than that: What would a political blog that was consistently engaging look like? Would it feature any news at all? Wouldn’t it have a way for the readership – not just the news cycle or the wannabe pundits – to set the agenda and get relevant information discovered and publicized immediately?

I dunno. I’m leaving this up here for you to say something, if you want. Some of these blogs are getting hit with 70-80% drops in traffic; that’s just insane. Was anything written there of any value?


  1. I’m reading more political blogs than ever. As a Republican/Libertarian, I am both energized and fearful in our political climate. While I am not a political blogger myself, I frequently post links on Twitter and Facebook.

  2. @Tina – I guess we could extrapolate that several ways. One thing might be: since liberals won, they’ve gotten complacent already.

    But do take a look at the numbers for Republican/conservative blogs – they’re all hurting significantly, save for Instapundit.

    So I’m curious – whatcha reading?

  3. I think that from the perspective of the average American nothing is going on. The only media I’m really exposed to is the internet…a few minutes of radio- a 2 minute trip to work and I hear maybe 3 commercials in the car… and nobody is yelling about anything, nobody is trying to rile up- anything. I know that’s not true, but they are being unsuccessful at drawing people.

    At work the phones play the radio and somebody had set the station to talk radio AM something or other, I don’t know what the local station is with Rush and Sean Hannity, etc, etc, and every time I hear them on it’s disinteresting. I’m not remotely interested in listening to them yell at callers to start with, but they’re talking about nothing. Hours and hours complaining because “Obama is going to ruin the economy in Las Vegas because he said public funding shouldn’t go to trips to Las Vegas”. Yeah, this is only one example, but it’s a completely ridiculous argument.

    That’s the state of things how I see it, but I don’t know what the explanation for it is.

    Maybe liberals are happy and going about their business and maybe conservatives are still antsy about being critical and so there’s just nothing much to read.

  4. I can’t speak to what would make a consistently engaging political blog. The blogs I visit tend to explore a mixture of different genres. The best have a strong philosophical point of view that is applied across a broad range of subjects.

    Take for instance Orrin Judd’s “Brothers Judd Blog”: he covers not just politics, but also fiction, food, philosophy, music, film, etc. He covers these subjects not just as random links but from a strong and unified point of view. He goes through cycles in which he focuses more on politics, and that is when my visits drop off.

    I search for blogs that feature content I haven’t been exposed to, express ideas that I wouldn’t have thought of. I want to read writers who are smarter than me or different from me. Many political blogs are just link dumps and echo chambers.

    This goes beyond blogs though. I subscribe to the Weekly Standard among other print mags, and lately I’ve found myself reading the first paragraph of each article and instantly knowing exactly everything the writer is going to say. Original thinking, finding new angles, challenging assumptions, making deeper connections; these are rare to find in political writing lately.

    The recent news drought may have something to do with it this. With the trouble in Persia and the Korean missile crisis I find myself seeking out more political essays. Maybe the trick is to focus on politics during days of high intrigue, but switch to other interests when news is slow. I don’t know.

  5. One of the biggest problems I see on sites like RealClearPolitics that link to a bunch of articles is that everybody seems to write in a fervor about a single topic for about a week or two. For example, I saw so many articles on Sotamoyor (sp?) in a week span that I was dizzy by the time I was done. Same to gay marriage, which a couple weeks ago was really buzzing around, and Iran, still going strong.

    One can only take so much of this before it all seems the same. My blog itself is very guilty of repetition, but I also don’t call my blog anything high quality. I’m trying to change that, but it takes lots of effort when there are a million other things going on in your life, as you well know.

  6. On the other hand, I do feel like the political climate right now is very terse and high-strung, with lots of exciting things going on. I’d have to disagree with some others in this respect. It might not be as crazy as October 2008, but there is no lack of material for those blogging.

    So in my opinion, I think you are right. There is news — plenty of it — but no sane person is going to revisit old news in the way that they might reread some posts like yours, and, for example, remind themselves of the significance of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address (hopefully that isn’t wishful thinking).

  7. Well, I was searching for an e-mail address by which to get into contact with you, but I can’t seem to find one.

    I have been following your blog for quite some time now, and I actually used to read you over at Substantial. Anyhow, I am currently developing my senior exit project, and I was wondering if you’d be interested in a link exchange (the project is linked).

    Also, feel welcome to participate!

  8. Sorry about that – was away from the computer for a bit — thank you all for a great comment thread.

    I’ll try to get responses and something more thoughtful up soon, thanks again.

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