if you're bored, you're not paying attention

Blogs and fame.

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.


  1. Scot Hacker

    And now that Google has purchased Pyra, we can infer they’ll be giving every one of those 2 mil odd readers a blogger blog to call their own?

    LiveJournal may indicate that it doesn’t matter if you’re in the top 10%. A few ego strokes a week from friends may be all it takes to keep personal blogs humming.

  2. x

    (I am thinking out loud here, I assume you will tolerate that.)I set up a little blogsite based on a whim as an experiment and have had 15,000 hits on it this month. It’s not a top site, but that sure is a lot of traffic for me to study, network with and cull resources from. I think the math is slightly flawed as it ignores the variable rate. Meaning that as those top sites gain more traffic, the little ones do to because they are all inter-related, big ones go down, and small ones get big. So in a way these observations make me say “So?”. It is some what rhetorical, like saying big corporations stand to gain the most money and small business only gets a fraction of that pie.(Wanhh!) First off big businesses often face the same operability and divisability issues that small ones do, so they are not bullet proof, and as we have seen on the economic level those monstor companies sometimes shrink down to nada. While Shawn Fanning’s walk off with 5.1 million and a good job for a good idea.
    Aside from the masturbatory nature of blogs on blogging, if the point is just to say “blogs” are overated. I think that is a little to premature. As we do not yet know what the general market will do with this technology. It could nose dive into obscurity, though it’s not likely. Or it could blow up bigger than projected, which could be a boon for the small guy. However, I do agree that exploitation is a constant factor in all developments. and therfore market cycles could oust the small guys. But that same cycle is what gets me taggin’ your blog, and staring in wonderment at my stats.

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