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Archive for November, 2004

Shark’s teeth!

by henrycopeland
Sunday, November 7th, 2004

Some of us love shark’s teeth. This week a pile of gravel from the Aurora, NC mine dumped at our local school yielded up a prickly handful. Fossil shark’s teeth photos. We need to get more info here, phone: (252)322-4238. The obsessives gather here.

Foreign Policy: blogs ‘an elaborate network with agenda-setting power’

by henrycopeland
Saturday, November 6th, 2004

Daniel Drezner and Henry Farrell in Foreign Policy

Every day, millions of online diarists, or ‘bloggers,’ share their opinions with a global audience. Drawing upon the content of the international media and the World Wide Web, they weave together an elaborate network with agenda-setting power on issues ranging from human rights in China to the U.S. occupation of Iraq. What began as a hobby is evolving into a new medium that is changing the landscape for journalists and policymakers alike.

The media only need to look at elite blogs to obtain a summary of the distribution of opinions on a given political issue. The mainstream political media can therefore act as a conduit between the blogosphere and politically powerful actors. The comparative advantage of blogs in political discourse, as compared to traditional media, is their low cost of real-time publication. Bloggers can post their immediate reactions to important political events before other forms of media can respond. Speed also helps bloggers overcome their own inaccuracies. When confronted with a factual error, they can quickly correct or update their post. Through these interactions, the blogosphere distills complex issues into key themes, providing cues for how the media should frame and report a foreign-policy question.

Small surprise, then, that a growing number of media leaders’editors, publishers, reporters, and columnists’consume political blogs. New York Times Executive Editor Bill Keller said in a November 2003 interview, ‘Sometimes I read something on a blog that makes me feel we screwed up.’ Howard Kurtz, one of the most prominent media commentators in the United States, regularly quotes elite bloggers in his ‘Media Notes Extra’ feature for the Washington Post’s Web site. Many influential foreign affairs columnists, including Paul Krugman and Fareed Zakaria, have said that blogs form a part of their information-gathering activities.

…the blogosphere serves both as an amplifier and as a remixer of media coverage. For the traditional media’and ultimately, policymakers’this makes the blogosphere difficult to ignore as a filter through which the public considers foreign-policy questions.

…as more Web diarists come online, the blogosphere’s influence will more likely grow than collapse. Ultimately, the greatest advantage of the blogosphere is its accessibility. A recent poll commissioned by the public relations firm Edelman revealed that Americans and Europeans trust the opinions of ‘average people’ more than most authorities. Most bloggers are ordinary citizens, reading and reacting to those experts, and to the media. As Andrew Sullivan has observed in the online magazine Slate, ‘We’re writing for free for anybody just because we love it’. That’s a refreshing spur to write stuff that actually matters, because you can, and say things you believe in without too many worries.’

WSJ: Bloggers face life after the election

by henrycopeland
Friday, November 5th, 2004

In the WSJ, Carl Bialik takes a hard look at post-election blogging. He talks to two happy advertisers.

Brian Clark, who just ordered a bunch of ads for Sharp’s Aquos televisions:

“We think that there’s an interesting opportunity now with the political blogs, if you aren’t taking on the political topic itself,” said Mr. Clark, adding, “We’re looking at this as a way to reach a diverse audience with a product that has nothing to do with politics whatsoever.” Mr. Clark, who calls his company a “new media buzz consultancy,” said readers of all blogs are an attractive audience: “A lot of these people are influencers. They are just as likely to have a blog of their own where they end up writing about something of interest to them.” He likes the political sites in part because post election, “There’s certainly not the competition for the slots anymore.”

And Beth Hirsch, from Audible.com:

“People read political blogs because they are passionate news junkies looking for content and information,” Beth Kirsch, an online marketing manager for Audible, wrote on her own blog about the campaign. “Moreover, blog readers talk to each other and their friends about what they read and see on blogs, and the news media trolls the blogosphere looking for stories.”

In an interview, Ms. Kirsch said, “It was a very effective and successful campaign.” She said she’d be interested in running ads in the future, targeted to blogs’ topics and specific readers. As for the potentially controversial content on blogs, Audible spokesman Jonathan Korzen said, “There are always people who will accuse us of being to the left and right of their political opinions. We hope they will forgive us. We are a retailer, and like any retailer we sell books that speak to the right and to the left.”

So far, seems more like an optimal path than an obituary.

Backlash from the old guard

by henrycopeland
Thursday, November 4th, 2004

Over at CBS Marketwatch, Frank Barnako keeps cheerfully chipping away at what he perceives to be the bloated self-importance of the blogosphere. He baits his lede: No one reads blogs. Oops! I did it again. Better get under my desk before the e-mail flames arrive.

And CNN’s Allen Wastler jumps in with a parody of blogs: “Hi, welcome to my blog, where I’m going to leak my insights and comments about the election (i.e. drivel) onto the Web, diary style, for all to see. You see, I figured I’d join this fad which, for some inexplicable reason, has become all the Net rage. Sort of like chat rooms once were…”

Both cite Comscore data that suggest that blogs (other than Drudge) have far fewer readers than traditional media. “Hey, no one reads blogs — why is everybody so excited about them!?” (Here’s a hint for a journalist looking for a scoop — there’s a cool lede buried in point (c) below.)

Three reasons. Radical influence, radical economics and radical momentum.

a) Influence. Like atom bombs versus conventional explosives, blogs have a vastly disproportionate impact relative to their size. Only 1 American in 10 is an influencer; only 1 American in 100 cares passionately about news and wants to read tomorrow’s news today, rather than last month’s news next week in Time. OK, blogs cater to an elite group, so small someone with a telescope aimed slightly in the wrong direction might claim “no one reads blogs.” But it is the “nobodies” who read everything else. And advertisers would far rather hit an elite, motivated and highly networked group of influencers than a dispersed and disparate muddle of inert nobodies.

b) Economics. Blogs are hugely more economically efficient than traditional media. OK, so NYTimes.com had 944,000 visitors on November 11, while DailyKos had only 86,000, according to Comscore. (Frank cites 260,000 for DailyKos, but let’s stick with the lower number for now.)

A hundred year old institution, with one of the best known brand names in the news business, NYTimes.com The New York Times spends $180 million a year (according to former editor Howell Raines) on its 1100 person editorial staff (according to NYT public editor Daniel Okrent) and publishes ALL their collective output online. At the two year old Dailykos.com, one Markos Moulitsas is responsible for 86,000 visitors. Notice a startling difference in scale of efficiency? Can you say 100 to 1 in terms of headcount and perhaps 500 to 1500 to 1 in expenditure?

Or what about Ana Marie Cox, who professes to blog drunk in her pajamas or less, and had 31,000 visitors on 11/02. Versus NYT.com, that’s a headcount efficiency of 30 to 1, and an efficiency in expenditure that’s 10 to 20 times that.

Put a and b together and suddenly things aren’t looking so good for the old guard are they? Now, consider c…

c) Momentum. What was NYTimes.com election traffic four years ago? According to the Times itself, 1.1 million people, or about 10% more than Comscores estimate for this year. (Update: a NYT staffer e-mails nothing this is not apples to apples: “We had significantly more traffic this election day as compared to 2000… ComScore doesn’t track significant segments of our audience, which is why you are seeing the discrepancy.” I hope for some apples to apples figures for you later.)

Smart journalists (and bloggers) are trying to write about the future — they see a trend and try to extrapolate. You don’t wait ’til your feet are wet to get out of the way of a flash flood. But don’t worry Frank and Allen — no one reads blogs. (I’m sure you are not reading this, right?) Your paychecks are safe. For now.

Update: Also worth reading Steve Hall and Rick Bruner‘s skewering of direct marketeer copy writer Bob Bly’s burp on blogs, which includes his complaint about “the ease with which people can post and disseminate content.”

WSJ chronicles exit poll dissemination via blogs

by henrycopeland
Thursday, November 4th, 2004

WSJ headline: How Insiders Were Fooled: Bloggers Leaked Secret Data Giving Kerry an Early Lead, But Networks Honored Rules

Thanks to lessons learned four years ago when big media made some wrong calls, the average American watching television Tuesday night got a pretty accurate picture of how the election was going.

But for about seven hours in the afternoon and early evening, several million “insiders” with access to exit-poll data — blog readers, print journalists, TV executives, politicos and their e-mail buddies — had a different impression.

At 1:58 p.m. Eastern time, mydd.com, a political blog, posted exit-poll results from 12 states, with the caution that they were “early numbers.” They showed Kerry with a four-point lead in Ohio and a three-point lead in Florida. At 4:27, the site added another set of numbers, commenting: “Kerry continues to lead Florida overall as well. Again, these are exit poll numbers, so doubt them, but it looks great!”

Slate posted its first results at 3:15 p.m.; earlier, it had posted a long note explaining its decision to publish the exit polls, including a disclaimer about their potential inaccuracy.

“I hope I’ve had some role in killing exit polls,” wonkette.com Editor Ana Marie Cox, one of the bloggers who reported exit polls, said in an interview yesterday. “To the extent that blogs provide people with bad or misleading information, I hope that teaches people not to trust media in general.”

It wasn’t only bloggers that reported exit polls. WSJ.com, the Web site of this newspaper, posted an article between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. saying the early exit-poll data “purported to give Mr. Kerry an early lead in several key states” but raised questions about the validity of the numbers. The article linked to mydd.com, which posted the figures. “To have a story about how the election is playing out on the Web and not mention the exit polls would be a disservice,” said Bill Grueskin, the managing editor of WSJ.com.

Reuters news service ran a story at 6:17 p.m., citing political Web sites and their exit-poll data indicating a strong Kerry lead. Reuters also quoted an article from the conservative National Review casting doubt on the validity of the polls.

BusinessWeek asks, “Blogads — is there life after November 2?”

by henrycopeland
Thursday, November 4th, 2004

In Business Week today, Sarah Lacy gives a good overview of the challenges bloggers and Blogads face right now. To recap what I’ve said several times recently: with the lowest overheads in the media industry, bloggers and Blogads.com are here to stay.

Will post election blogads work for everybody? Absolutely not. But the US advertising market has turnover of roughly $250 billion a year; to keep a lot of bloggers in the clover, we just need to please a tiny portion of the market… folks like Mark Bennett and his clients. Back to BusinessWeek: “Certainly, the role of bloggers in the political season has caught the attention of some ad agencies. ‘Initially it was something we suggested clients try, and I think the results surprised them,’ says Matt Bennett, creative director at San Francisco ad agency Call & Response. ‘Now they’re coming to us and asking us to run a campaign solely on blogs to generate discussion.'”

Signs of the times

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

The first two ads of November 3 are for absinthe and RightWingStuff.




by henrycopeland
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

At 2.17AM EST, Megan McArdle asked: “I’m wondering about all this coverage — who’s still up watching it? I have to be; it’s my job to watch it. But are ordinary citizens still awake right now?”

Here’s the answer: using our servers as a proxy for traffic on the most popular blogs, everyone but Megan, Europeans and insomiacs was asleep. Marked in CST, here’s the final graph for the day on one of our servers:


Comparing the map in 2000 with 2004, it looks like the comparison with Verdun — huge expenditure for minute territory shifts — is apt.

Game over?

by henrycopeland
Wednesday, November 3rd, 2004

Yep, that looks like 1600 CET was the blog traffic high for today (and this year?)

Earlier than I expected, and 20% lower than I feared. Whew. For now, I’m going to get a glass of red wine and a book.


Update: forget the book. I’m watching this CSpan page and this great CNN page. (Click on the state and then click on the county… you can drill right down.)

As I told CBS Marketwatcher Frank Barnako yesterday: this is an “alt-tab election“… certainly for me at least.

WSJ: “With traditional media outlets playing it safe about calling election results this year, Web logs — or blogs — have taken over, reporting everything from voting-booth stories to early exit polls and state results.”

First peak for the day

by henrycopeland
Tuesday, November 2nd, 2004

Looks like we peaked, at least for now, about an hour ago, 1600 CET


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