Personal Publishing

The weblog them. The weblog us.

Once more into the breach. We’re riding back into familiar territory, only this time we’re doing it with a different purpose – to provide a different perspective on One Pot Meal’s piece on A-listers and the rest of us.
First the figures. Yes it’s true – some webloggers get more traffic than others. In fact I think it’s quite likely that the popularity of weblogs will follow some kind of weird Power Law – as (it seems) does everything else these days. By this I mean for every weblogger there is who gets a thousand page views a day, there are probably a thousand who get one. With thousands of weblogs being created each and every day (and most of us not reading thousands of new weblogs a day), it seems clear that something is happening along the way… Is it a function of the medium that means that some will be well read and some will be invisible? And did you have to be there at the start to be one of the ‘elite’? Is it a fact of life that some sites will be “popular” while most languish. Have we recreated yet another celebrity subculture?
But what does it actually mean to be popular in blogspace? There are hundreds of thousands of active webloggers across the world. If you cut off the hundred with the most traffic then the rest of us probably get between ten page-views and a thousand page-views a day. It may seem like a radical difference, but what is it compared to the hundreds of thousands that many medium content sites get each day? Or the millions that the world’s most popular sites get? It’s worth reminding ourselves that individually pretty much every single weblogger is effectively invisible to anyone outside our community. Bluntly although I may get a hundred times the traffic that you do, that still might only constitute an extra 990 pages served. That’s a number that would barely register as of interest to any commercial operation. If BBC News lost that many readers tomorrow, it would probably never notice.
So what’s my point? Individually most webloggers are as nothing to the world at large. With the exception of reputation-building experts, weblogs are powerful only in aggregation. But we are powerful, we are impactful, we are important when those clumps emerge – where people agree with one another – when concepts, thoughts, missions, campaigns, disputes, ideas bubble up to the collective frontal lobes of the hundreds of overlapping communities that webloggery constitutes. This is not a medium that’s been built to make some famous and keep others down. The technology defies that kind of elitism by dint of its very existence. And the people who seem within the community to be our ‘heroes’, our aspirational ‘greats’ – well mostly they’re nothing but visible citizens of blogspace – like the people who sit on parish councils, or the people on the PTA or the people who go to book groups. Celebrities? I don’t think so.