Furthering my increasing disillusionment with British blogging, here are some sobering facts about our circulation.
Only three other political blogs are represented in that league table: Tim Worstall is at (2,689 visits per day) and Anthony Wells’s UK Polling Report (1,254 visits). The top British blog, apparently, is something about Welsh humour (4,793).
To put this in a global perspective, this means Britain’s top political blogger, Worstall, is at 179 in the TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem traffic ranking (which today credits him with 2,330 daily visitors), light years behind the handful of American bloggers at the fat end of the blog readership distribution.
This puts the most widely-read British blogger in a class behind such well-known American outlets as Stupid Evil Bastard and light years away from the “Higher Beings” who have the capacity to shift American political and journalistic discourse. At the very top of the pile sits Daily Kos, gets 387,016 visits per day. Captain’s Quarters, from the other side of the political spectrum, is currently second with 387,016 visits per day.
If we exclude Daily Kos as an outlyer, the next ten blogs, which form the elite of the American blogosphere — and according to one study, account for about 20 per cent of the incoming links — get a mean of around 106,192 visitors per day. Because blog readership has a lognormal distribution that trails off dramatically, a better measure of central tendency of this (admittedly arbitrarily deliminated) set of elite bloggers might be the median, which is 91,027.
If we then do some very, very rough controlling for national populations, we can assume that top ten British blogs should have about 1/5 this if they are to be comparable to top American blogs. This is 21,238 if you’re comfortable with the mean or 18,205 if you prefer the median.
Either way, it doesn’t look good for British blogging.
But even these figures are deceptive. The distribution of blogs’ readerships is lognormal, which means that a few elite blogs have enormous readerships and a long tail of individually insignificant blogs primarily act as eyes and ears for the handful of aggregators at the top. The blogosphere’s effectiveness as a collective form of citizen journalism arises through bloggers’ collective capacity to funnel information from the long tail to the elite clearinghouse blogs.
This capacity improves with absolute numbers, not numbers relative to national population, so all my controlling for national population is pretty generous and pointless. For a nationally-deliminated sub-blogosphere akin to the one in the United States to emerge, a country needs huge Internet-enabled population in absolute terms. Korea and China seem to be the most likely candidates.
Short of an effort to create a pan-European answer to Daily Kos, I’m not sure there is a solution. All I know is that any suggestion that British political blogging will work in a manner similar to the way it has in the United States is wrong. British blogging will be quantitatively (and therefore qualitatively) different. Not necessarily worse — just different. Stop looking across the Atlantic to understand how the blogosphere will work in British politics.
(Anyone interested in how blogging in American politics has worked so far should read the excellent paper written by academic bloggers Dan Drezner and Henry Farrell [PDF].)