Clay Shirky observes that the popularity of weblogs follows a power law: A few popular blogs get the most links and the most traffic; most blogs get very little of either. Jason Kottke makes the same argument, with better graphics. Dave Winer, typically, misreads Shirky’s essay (probably because it was too long and used too many big words).
The import of Kottke’s and Shirky’s argument is this: The more weblogs there are, the more unequal the distribution of readers will be. Within the next couple of years, the most popular weblogs will be so popular that they will be, in effect, mainstream media outlets. Meanwhile, the rest of the blog world will form a vast, teeming ecosystem with lots of conversations, but very little individual impact. Shirky wrote, elsewhere: “Mainstream media is not the way it is because it’s run by dolts. Its the way it is because as audiences scale up, center-to-edge connections continue to rise, but edge-to-center and edge-to-edge connections don’t (and can’t).” Kottke concludes:
The thing you can’t get away from is that when there are 2,000 weblogs, getting into the top 10% most-linked is hard, but when there are 2,000,000 weblogs, getting into the top 10% most-linked is very, very hard. And when everyone on earth has a weblog, getting into the top 10% most linked will be very, very, very, very hard.