Thursday, April 06, 2006

My day at Washington College

Yesterday I got to play the part of a real blogger, and I appeared on a panel about political blogging at Washington College located on the Eastern shore of Maryland. The other panelists were Matt Stoller of MyDD, Steve Clemons of The Washington Note, and Robert A. (not P as in Princeton Professor) George of Ragged Thots. It was a really good discussion, and for once I managed to get through a public speaking engagement without stumbling too badly. There were probbaly 30-40 people in the audience, not bad for a small liberal arts college.

My little spiel dealt primarily with why and how I got into blogging, and my (our) attempts to build a readership. (Read more) I had a bit of a unique perspective as a blogger who writes for smaller blogs (around 100 hits a day for Political Spectrum, 40 for the Cranky Conservative) and also a blog that at the height of the Harriet Miers kerfuffle had approximately 90,000 readers a day.

I detailed my work at Confirm Them and how it was rewarding to feel that my opinions were a) being read, and b) making a difference politically. I do feel that Harriet Miers would be a sitting Supreme Court justice at this moment were it not for the blogs, for talk radio, and for all forms of non-traditional communication. But I also noted I was a small cog in that machine - everyone else there is really an inside player with a lot more information. I'm more like Archie Bunker with a PhD.

Then I got into a discussion about TPS and trying to get the blog more well read. I'm not much for self-promotion, and none of the rest of the folks really have the time or desire to be active promoters. For all of us blogging is more of a hobby than a profession, though I'm probably the one more active in the "blogosphere." Really, trying to get well known in the blogopshere is like landing a job in DC - it's not so much what you know as much as who you know. In terms of the blogosphere it's about connections - getting links from outside blogs and building up a reputation. Unfortunately I don't usually actively seek to get blog links from other bloggers, though I do think bloggers will oblige you more often than not. The only time I ever e-mailed another blogger asking for a link was when I wrote my tribute post to Mike Piazza. Mett Cerrone at MetsBlog obliged my request, and within two hours we had three hundred page views, triple our usual daily amount.

But getting one link is not enough. You really have to build up the blog's reputation. Belmont Club benefitted from repeated links from Instapundit. But we all click on the linked articles on the blogs we read, and how many of us go back to those blogs again? Sometimes we notice that the linked blog has content that we want to check, and they become a regular reading habit. I've discovered all the blogs I currently read only through other blog referrals. But usually I'll click once and that is the last time I see that blog.

Ultimately, a successful blog needs to find a niche. Confirm Them was successful because it concentrated on a single issue. It became the place to go in the blogosphere for judicial appointment news.

But it really just comes down to effort. I love politics, but quite frankly I've grown a little tired of politics, and that adversely affects my writing. It also dampens my desire to be super active. So of course in the midst of this quasi political depression, what do I do? I create another blog. But this blog is a result of a sort of political fatigue. I needed a place where I can vent about other crap and concentrate a little bit less on the political side of things.

The other bloggers discussed the power of blogs and their ability to really effect change. Steve Clemons boasted of his part in squashing Bolten's nomination. But I wouldn't say there was a lot of blog triumphalism. We all noted that we have to police ourselves and make sure the content we present maintains our collective credibility. There is still a presumption out there that there really are no checks in the blogosphere, but that's not really the case. Jayson Blair and Memo Gate are just but a couple of examples of the MSM's own lack of accountability. Good bloggers provide plenty of links to back up their arguments. But there are always going to be individual cases that paint the blogosphere in a bad light, and there will be somewhat of a bias against blogs in the near future- or at least that's what I believe.

Overall it was a nice event. It was cool to meet some more distinguished bloggers than yours truly. Once again we proved that you can put people from different sides of the political spectrum in the same room together and they won't kill each other. I definitely recommend checking out their blogs because there's pretty much something there for everyone.


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