It is a truth universally acknowledged that the right is better at blogging than the left. We can all think of reasons why – it’s easier in opposition, generally more affluent and more eloquent people, etc etc. But one factor I’ve started thinking about lately is the ‘big fish’ problem. Specifically how it relates to Comment Is Free.
Before I built my onepolitics political aggregation site, I hadn’t appreciated just how much content that one website generated. On a typical day, they publish 10-20 stories, sometimes as many as 30 – and all of them lengthy, considered pieces. The majority of items on the onepolitics homepage are usually from CiF; at certain times of the day or week, it can be entirely CiF.
My theory, still in development, is that Comment Is Free is too big. If you want to read left-leaning blog content, you could start and finish on that one website, and wouldn’t miss much. And if you’re a leftie blogger, getting an item on Comment Is Free would put your rant in front of many times more readers than any solo blog. (I believe it gets something like 400,000 unique users from the UK per month; that puts it well ahead of any pure ‘blog’, although it’s hardly a fair comparison.)
I was interested, in this context, to hear a comment from Slugger O’Toole founder Mick Fealty (hi Mick) – who, of course, manages to blog for both Comment is Free and the Telegraph. Asked about differences between the US, UK and Irish (North and south) blogospheres, he accepted that Slugger may have had a similar effect on blogging in its home patch of Northern Ireland:
In some respects Slugger was ahead of the curve. And it got big – probably almost too big, too quickly. And in some respects, in terms of developing a wider network, and people who would set up their own blogs, I think we may have been a slight inhibitor of growth.
I can’t say I’ve drawn a firm conclusion from all of this, but I’m quite prepared to propose that CiF has had a similarly negative effect on left-wing blogging in the UK. I emailed the Guardian a couple of weeks back, asking if they’d ever done any analysis of their usage patterns, or their position in UK blogging. So far, I’ve had no reply.