When Gabe Rivera unveiled his Techmeme Leaderboard a few weeks back, we politically-minded Internet junkies experienced something akin to spending Christmas morning watching another kid open presents. Okay, that’s pushing it. Maybe it’s like comparing your Easter morning haul with a friend who received a Nintendo game, when all you got was chocolate (I’ve forgiven, but never forgotten).
It made sense, though. The bloggers who show up on Techmeme are much more likely to track themselves on that site than are the bloggers who populate Memeorandum likely to watch themselves. Of couse, all tech bloggers are geeks in good standing, while only some of us political types are. So they get the goodies first.
But as expected, Rivera rolled out his Memeorandum Leaderboard, and he did so this week. As he explained, the Leaderboard
identifies 100 of [the most influential political blogs], ranking sources simply by how much they’ve appeared on memeorandum in the past month. It updates every 20 minutes and offers archives of past days. … The memeorandum Leaderboard doesn’t tell the whole story of course. For instance, influential curators of opinion like Instapundit.com don’t figure highly given memeorandum’s preference for longer articles. Yet it remains a handy portal to many of the sources with the greatest role in framing and shaping the national debate.
It’s handy, all right, and it fills a need. Five years ago, in a very different political blogosphere, The Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem was the definitive guide to the top political blogs. But with Rob Neppell (née N.Z. Bear) now focused on other projects, it’s fallen into obsolescence. The Technorati Top 100 was a welcome addition, but its inbound link counts were sometimes unreliable, it never focused on politics per se, and as I pointed out last year, the political blogs have to share the top 100 with many other genres. Since then, Technorati has lost its direction in other ways, and it’s too soon to tell whether founding CEO Dave Sifry’s departure will change things. I’m not counting on it.
So while Rivera’s list is worth analyzing, it should come as no surprise that the analysis so far has come from more tech-centric bloggers. For example, here’s TechCrunch’s Duncan Riley marveling at how important the legacy media remains, especially compared to the ’sphere in which he moves:
According to the list, based on story headlines on Memeorandum the New York Times, Washington Post and AP control over 22.4% of political headlines. The Atlantic Online, The National Review and CNN (twice) also make the top ten, leaving slim pickings for political blogs. … The (perhaps sad) state of the political blogosphere stands in contrast to the tech blogosphere, which dominates the equivalent Techmeme Leaderboard list, holding approx 64% of all spots.
The observation is fair, but I object to the judgment call. For one thing, defining the subject matter of Memeorandum as “politics” is far too narrow. Foreign affairs, U.S. diplomacy, domestic policy, electoral politics and sundry current events make up the subject matter at Memeorandum — a much broader spectrum of news and analysis than what TechMeme covers. Moreover, these subjects often require reporting from around the country and around the world that even in the digital age aged institutions with more resources than resolve continue to dominate. Most of the stories on TechMeme emanate from the Silicon Valley; Memeorandum spans the world at large.
GOP Internet consultant Patrick Ruffini has already taken a crack at evaluating what it says about the Right’s online fortunes. What it says is that Republicans and conservatives need to reinvent their online channels of communication:
Lots of bloggers have been over to Iraq, a commitment which makes the professional activists in the leftosphere look like dilettantes. Guys like Jeff [Emanuel], Bill Roggio, and Michael Yon have been the advance guard for this stuff. But nothing little has been done to institutionalize their work, to create counter-memes by controlling the upstream information flow through a system for nurturing these upstart war reporters. The failure to develop an effective counter-narrative out of Iraq is reflective of the “conservative message machine” and its reluctance to think outside the box.
Myself, I’m still thinking it over. To get started on the process, I separated all the websites on this afternoon’s Leaderboard into a few arbitrary categories and added up the percentages accorded to each. I then created a simple chart with Zoho Sheet (beating out Google Docs by a slim margin and NeoOffice by a much wider one) to visualize the statistical spread. Others will have different ways of breaking this out — and I may have different ways at a later date — but here’s what I came up with:
I should note the numbers taken off the leaderboard do not actually add up to 100%. That’s something I intend to ask Rivera about, and because the Zoho chart rounds them up to reach a sensible 100%, here are the actual numbers as I compiled them:
Liberal Blogs & Websites
MSM-Backed Online Content
Conservative Blogs & Websites
Cable/TV News-Based Content
Primary Sources Online
Hard to Categorize Websites
This dilutes MSM-owned websites only just a bit; as you can see, print and wire-based news stories commanded much, much more attention than websites based on television news, so you can squint and add that back in if you’d like. Add in MSM-created content specifically for the web, and it’s up over 60%. That is also a more arbitrary but, I would argue, more necessary category — “MSM Online” is where I placed any ostensibly non-partisan blog and any non-blog content by more partisan sources. These days established media organizations are creating more and more content for the web, and much of it differs in character from what they publish on dead trees. Liberal and Conservative blogs are more self-explanatory; the hard-to-categorize sites included Drudge Report and The Moderate Voice. The Primary Sources were Gallup, Rasmussen and whitehouse.gov. If anybody cares, I can forward the list as I compiled it. It could probably use some revision, and I certainly reserve the right to have made a clerical error here or there.
I’ll leave you that to chew over for now. I’ll be back with answers when I have them, and with any luck, I will be back inside of a month with a few more thoughts about what all is going on here.
Have PoliticalMavens.com delivered to your inbox in a daily digest by clicking here