[T]he gap between what doctors do and what they know responds to incentives: Doctors in the fee-for-service private sector are closer in practice to their knowledge frontier than those in the fixed-salary public sector. Under-qualified private sector doctors, even though they know less, provide better care on average than their better-qualified counterparts in the public sector. These results indicate that to improve medical services, at least for poor people, there should be greater emphasis on changing the incentives of public providers rather than increasing provider competence through training.
Go check out the blog.
Broadband Internet surfers in North America watch two fewer hours of television per week than do those without Internet access, while those using a dial-up connection watch 1.5 fewer hours of TV. The data come from a Forrester Research study released Tuesday that uses what it calls the longest-running survey of its kind, counting nearly 69,000 people in the U.S. and Canada as participants. Broadband Internet users watch just 12 hours of TV per week, compared with 14 hours for those who are offline, according to the study, "The State of Consumers and Technology: Benchmark 2005."
The Forrester page is of little use for those of us who aren't Forrester clients, but if you click on the video, you learn an interesting fact: according to their survey, only 2% of households in the United States read a blog once a week. I should note that my lovely wife has a different answer to the title question -- "it's the time he would otherwise have used to pick up his socks."
A former Boston Herald sports writer, who was laid off in May as part of a string of newsroom cutbacks, now has lost his part-time teaching job at Boston University after posting Web comments about a student, which described her as "incredibly hot." Michael Gee, an 18-year veteran of the Herald, confirmed the incident, but declined comment to E&P Friday. Bob Zelnick, chair of the B.U. journalism department, said he heard about Gee's posting on Wednesday from a university publicist, who had received a phone call about it from a blogger.... The comments, which appeared on www.sportsjournalists.com, but were later removed, included the following: "Today was my first day teaching course 308/722 at the Boston University Dept. of Jounralis (sic). There are six students, most of whom are probably smarter than me, but they DON'T READ THE PAPER!!! Not the Globe, Times, Herald or Wall Street Journal. I can shame them into reading, I guess, but why are they taking the course if they don't like to read. "But I digress. Now here's the nub of my issue. Of my six students, one (the smartest, wouldn't you know it?) is incredibly hot. If you've ever been to Israel, she's got the sloe eyes and bitchin' bod of the true Sabra. It was all I could do to remember the other five students. I sense danger, Will Robinson." Word of Gee's firing, and a copy of his posting, first appeared on www.bostonsportsmedia.net.
Via Over at CNET's new and interesting workplace blog, Paul Festa thinks this is another example of bloggers gone wild -- however, as David Scott points out:
For those wondering, sportsjournalists.com, in a nutshell, is a place where sports desk editors, as well as sportswriters and others, vent over how crummy this paper or that columnist is. It?s also a networking spot to get info on the latest openings and movement at papers across the country. Like most message boards, it serves a purpose and then serves the fellowship of the miserable even more.
Strictly speaking, Gee wasn't blogging -- furthermore, it was a blogger who apparently called him out. [And would you have done the same thing if you had read Gee's post?--ed. Given that Gee posted this in a public forum, yep, you betcha. Er, haven't you occasionally evinced an ocular interest in the fairer sex on this blog?--ed. It's one thing to point out that a public figure has pleasing features when. in part, that's why they are public figures -- it's another thing entirely to publicly make the same point about someone over whom you hold an authority relationship. There are certain bright lines in my job, and that's one of them.]
Andrew, from Salem, Oregon writes: Being the Trade Representative for the United States of America, would you trade a 1909 Honus Wagner for a Yogi Berra Baseball Greats Holo Card issued by Kellogs in the 80's? Rob Portman Is this a trick question? I?m a big fan of Yogi?s, but the answer is no, not a chance. Now do you feel better about me negotiating trade agreements?
Our former nanny, a 26-year-old former teacher with excellent references, liked to touch her breasts while reading The New Yorker and often woke her lovers in the night by biting them. She took sleeping pills, joked about offbeat erotic fantasies involving Tucker Carlson and determined she'd had more female sexual partners than her boyfriend. How do I know these things? I read her blog. She hadn't been with us long when we found out about her online diary. All she'd revealed previously about her private life were the bare-bones details of the occasional date or argument with her landlord and her hopes of attending graduate school in the fall. Yet within two months of my starting to read her entries our entire relationship unraveled. Not only were there things I didn't want to know about the person who was watching my children, it turned out her online revelations brought feelings of mine to the surface I'd just as soon not have to face as well.
The ex-nanny posts her rebuttal, naturally, on her blog, which starts off as follows:
If you have come to this little blog today looking for prurient details of a "nanny gone wild" and another "nanny diary" detailing the sordid life of a family she works for, I am very sorry to disappoint you. Contrary to an essay published in the Style section of the NYTIMES, I am not a pill popping alcoholic who has promiscuous sex and cares nothing for the children for whom she works with. Nope. If you look carefully through my archives, instead you will find a young woman in her mid-twenties who decided to work as a nanny for a year while she prepared to enter the next phase of her professional life; namely the life of an academic pursuing a PhD in English Literature specifically focusing on the Late Victorian novel. But for those of you who dont want to comb through the archives, I will offer a refutation of the salacious, malicious, and really quite silly essay written by Ms. Olen.
I'd tell you to read the whole thing, but it is very, very long. Bitch Ph.D., who knows the blogger in question, posts her own thoughts on the matter:
In the end, of course, Olen's essay really isn't about [the nanny]; it's about Olen. She wanted her nanny to take care of her children, but it seems she also expected her nanny to take care of her.
I will not allow the FEC to chase me from my rights as an independent voice in politics to write what I please and to post what I want based on a silly bit of nomenclature. I understand what... members of the, er, "online magazine community" mean to say with these statements, but I won't surrender to the bureaucrats an inch when it comes to my right to speak my mind. I don't plan on playing silly name games with those who plan on regulating speech for our own good. All that does is play into their strategy of twisting words and meanings until nothing means what it says any more. I won't do it. I won't play along. I won't even do it as a protest, as these bloggers obviously mean it to be.
Ed makes an excellent point. However, Duncan "Atrios" Black makes a persuasive argument about joining the online magazine community:
Since I ceased being a blogger an hour or so ago and became the publisher/editor/chief political correspondent/cat photographer/scifi critic/media critic/missing persons expert/blogger ethics expert/janitor for an exciting new online magazine, my life has truly been transformed. I discovered, in my coupon clipping box, a deed for a 6000 sq. ft. Nantucket cabin. I've been to 17 parties hosted by the charming and delightful Sally Quinn. I've played Bridge with Nedra Pickler, and twister with Candy Crowley and Jeff Greenfield. I've convened 38 panels on blogger ethics, something I never managed to do when I was actually a blogger. My debut appearance on Meet the Press will happen this Sunday.
Make it twister with Salma Hayek, and this would be the easiest call in blog history. Decisions, decisions.... I will humbly leave it to my readers to decide for me. And, no, there would be no swimsuit issue.
[M]y first significant paycheck came from?believe it or not?Hustler, for a story of mine they published in Barely Legal magazine. I wrote it because a friend of mine was interested in getting actual women (as opposed to men pretending to write as women) writing for them. I wrote under the pseudonym Ana Marie Dix.
1) Eszter Hargittai posts a summary of her research into the viability of Cass Sunstein's republic.com hypothesis -- that the Internet fosters cyberbalkanization -- by analyzing link structures in the political blogosphere. Her preliminary findings:
Overall, it would be incorrect to conclude that liberal bloggers are ignoring conservative bloggers or vice versa. Certainly, liberal bloggers are more likely to address liberal bloggers and conservative bloggers are more likely to link to conservative bloggers. But people from both groups are certainly reading across the ideological divide to some extent.
Two other interesting findings: balkanization is not increasing over time, and -- sorry, I can't resist this one -- "We found that about half of the [cross-ideological] links represent what we classify as strawman arguments. The liberal bloggers in our sample are more likely to engage in such cross-linking than the conservative bloggers." 2) Carl Bialik has a great piece in the Wall Street Journal (no subscription required) that looks behind the numbers floated around with regard to the number of blogs out there and how blog traffic is measured. These paragraphs might make some blog triumphalists pause a bit before declaring the death of dead tree media:
Advertisers may not be happy with [standard blog counters], since they count total visits, and not the "unique visitor" figure that is the standard currency for many kinds of online advertising (advertisers don't want to pay twice to reach the same reader). "That's a big issue," Henry Copeland, founder of Blogads.com, told me at a conference last week. "We're very aware that's a flawed number." ...ComScore Media Metrix and Neilsen//NetRatings are the sources most often used by online advertisers to track unique visitors. Neither tracks blogs as a matter of course, though comScore did look up traffic for 13 prominent blogs in April, upon my request (I picked ones from the top of the various rankings). Just five met the company's minimum threshold for statistical significance of about 150,000 monthly visitors. Media and gossip site Gawker had the most, with 304,000 unique visitors. The others that cleared the cut: Defamer (287,000), Boing Boing (250,000), Daily Kos (212,000) and Gizmodo (209,000). Among those that didn't were prominent political blogs Instapundit, Power Line and Eschaton. (I asked NetRatings about the same 13 blogs, and it had reportable data only for Defamer, Daily Kos, Boing Boing and Gizmodo -- and the sample sizes didn't meet standards for statistical significance.) ComScore and NetRatings both recruit panels of online users who agree to install software that monitors their behavior. The companies use sampling techniques similar to those of political pollsters. By point of comparison, comScore says the New York Times's Web site had 29.8 million unique visitors in April.
1) Crooked Timber has arranged a blog roundtable to discuss Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner's Freakonomics (which is one of my books on the month). Contributors include the regulars at Crooked Timber, as well as Marginal Revolution's Tyler Cowen and the Financial Times' Tim Harford. If nothing else the critiques have certainly impressed Levitt :
I?m not sure whether it says more about my own shortcomings, or the quality of these five commentaries above on Freakonomics, that I gained a great deal of self-awareness from reading them. It was a surprising reaction for me. There have been many published reviews of Freakonomics, and not one of them has given me the slightest insight into myself. Strangely, though, I felt like I understand my own motivations and goals better than I did a few hours ago.
2) I didn't think there was anything more to mine out of the Newsweek affair, but Virginia Postrel proves me wrong. This point is particularly trenchant:
While many Americans believe it's wrong to shock and humiliate Muslim prisoners by violating their religious taboos, very, very few Americans--mostly Muslims, of course--would themselves be horrified by the mere idea of flushing a Koran. And that, I think, is the real bias of the Newsweek report. American reporters, whether secular or religious, simply don't feel instinctive rage at the idea of Koran desecration and, hence, don't expect such reports to generate riots. Diversifying reporting staffs to include more red state types couldn't change that bias. By Western standards, it is, after all, completely idiotic--not to mention highly immoral--to kill people over the treatment of an inanimate object, however disrepectful the symbolism.... With its Western biases, Newsweek thought it was writing about allegations of prisoner abuse, a human rights issue. Its overseas audience had a different reading. The differences between us and them really are bigger than the differences between us and us.
3) Greg Djerejian, back to blogging at Belgravia Dispatch, riffs on a New York Times op-ed by Egyptian scholar and democracy activist Saad Eddin Ibrahim that argues moderate Islamist parties in the Middle East might follow the path that Christian Democrats took in Western Europe. Djerejian's takeaway point:
I believe the Middle East may have passed a tipping point with peoples increasingly demanding political breathing space. We are seeing it in Kuwait, in Lebanon, in Syria, in Egypt, in Iraq, in Iran, in Bahrain. Just about everywhere, really. It is the dominant narrative at this juncture. What responsible actors in the U.S. must do is figure out how best to maximize the chances of these trends taking root over the long-term and in a manner beneficial to the U.S. national interest. We should not recoil in fear, for instance, whenever we hear the word Islamists. If moderate Islamists were to take control in certain countries (though I think their popularity is often overstated) and guide stable polities, this will prove better than secular butchers like Saddam. We must be careful, however, to ensure that foreign influence is wielded in a manner calibrated to not lead to nationalist backlashes or radical Islamist reaction. This is why B.D. is so sensitive to tales of torture, of denigration of Islamic tenets in detainee treatment, and so on. This is not born of squeamishness; but of realism. An important element in securing a long term victory in this struggle against extremist terror is denying the enemy propaganda tools. Where are our fluent Arabic speakers on al-Arabiya explaining what legal reasons compelled us after 9/11 to have a detention center in Guantanamo for fanatical al-Qaeda detainees? Where are our spokesmen apologizing for the death of detainees in Bagram and Abu Ghraib who perished under U.S. custody? Loudly, repeatedly, in Arabic?.... Is it just me, or are we behind in getting these messages out? If so, why?
Read the whole thing.... especially if you've seen the movie Battle of Algiers.
"You should have a blog." Apparently I push my opinions on my friends rather aggressively, because I often hear this remark. Last week, I had my chance. My wife and I agreed to be "guest bloggers" - the online equivalent of what David Brenner used to do for Johnny Carson - for Dan Drezner, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, who runs a popular libertarian-conservative blog, DanielDrezner.com. How hard could blogging be? You roll out of bed, turn on your computer, scan the headlines, think up some clever analysis while brushing your teeth, type it onto your site and you're off. But as I discovered, blogging is no longer for amateurs or the faint of heart. Blogging - if it's done well - has evolved into an all-consuming art.... I did have sympathy for the audience. They expected their usual diet of conservative commentary. Instead, they got a liberal foreign policy expert (Suzanne) and a liberal historian linking to Arts & Letters Daily (aldaily.com) and the History News Network (hnn.us). One Dreznerite vilified me for linking to a piece by the liberal journalist Joe Conason ("Why on earth would you think that gutter-dwelling hack would have any credibility on this blog?"). At one point, Dan took time out from real surfing in Hawaii to post a note informing readers that he had two liberals subbing for him. He must have been watching the train wreck on his beloved blog with horror.... I wasn't the only newcomer to blogging last week. On the ballyhooed "Huffington Post," Gary Hart, Walter Cronkite and David Mamet dipped their toes in the blogosphere as well. I don't know how they'll fare, but I doubt that celebrity will attract readers for long. To succeed in blogging you need to understand it's a craft, with its own tricks of the trade. You need a thick skin. And you must put your life on hold to feed an electronic black hole. What else did I learn by sitting in for Dan Drezner? That I'm not cut out for blogging.
1) Some useful links: Here's my explanation for why I invited Greenberg and Nossel to guest-blog. Click here to read Greenberg's Yalta article in Slate, and here to read Greenberg's follow-on post which contains the "moral cretin" comment. Having been in Hawaii and blissfully oblivious to the whole speech, I'm not prepared to comment on it one way or another -- but go read my colleague Jacob Levy's rejoinder to Greenberg and other critics of the Yalta reference in The New Republic Online. 2) For the record: I checked in on the blog/e-mail only once while in Maui (David, I was snorkeling, not surfing), and posted the public service message because I received a few e-mails from readers who were confused about exactly who was blogging. UPDATE: CNN got confused too. 3) My lovely wife, after reading Greenberg's essay, turned to me and asked puzzledly, "there are Dreznerites?" I'll leave it to the commenters themselves to answer that question [If the answer is yes, could you ask them if they'd be interested in buying wildly overpriced danieldrezner.com merchandise?--ed.] 4) I hate to break it to Greenberg, but in my writing experience, the worst invective I've ever received hasn't been from blogging, but from.... this Slate essay on Bush's management of foreign policy. Click here for some of the more amusing responses. 5) And c'mon, David -- my readers are quite familiar with Arts & Letters Daily and the History News Network (neither of which to my knowledge has an explicit or implicit political bias). And I've had a few conservatives question whether I provide a "usual diet of conservative commentary" in my posts (again, see that Slate piece of mine). 5) Finally, I would encourage David not to give up on blogging for the wrong reasons. I agree that blogging is a craft, but not one that requires hobbyhorses, shticks or catchphrases. In my experience, successful political/policy blogging does require an unusual mix of skills:
a) The self-confidence to post about anything and everything; b) The willingness to post admissions of error after screwing up; c) Having the courage to walk away from a half-baked post when you recognize that your thoughts are too inchoate to press "Publish."; d) A very, very good internal editing mechanism [Thank you!--ed]; e) A recognition that blogging is like almost everything else in life -- a skill that improves with plenty of practice; g) A saintly spouse.
Of course, Greenberg is a fellow untenured academic, which presents some perfectly valid reasons for not blogging -- but that's the topic of another post entirely.
LAST UPDATE: Suzanne Nossel posts her thoughts about blogging at danieldrezner.com here. And David Greenberg has asked me to pass on the following missive (after the jump):
I like your blog. It has great information, good stories and lively conversation. We are re-launching our web site with brand new interactive features such as our Jewish LA Guide-- a one-stop web hub for all of our visitors? Jewish needs. To promote and increase traffic to the site, we are sponsoring a give away of an Apple IPod during the month of June 2005. The winner will be picked at random on July 1, 2005. We would like you to consider posting a link to our site or pasting the PR piece below on your blog. I know our site will interest many of your visitors, and nothing will catch their eye faster than a free IPod. As a thank you, we will send you a $10 gift certificate to Starbucks. (emphasis added).
When Melody Townsel, the Texas woman who claims that U.N.-ambassador nominee John Bolton chased her through a Moscow hotel, throwing things at her and "behaving like a madman," first tried to tell her story to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the committee showed no interest. It was only after she turned to the influential far-Left website DailyKos that Democrats on the committee realized Townsel might be a powerful weapon in their campaign to defeat the Bolton nomination.
Read the whole thing (thanks to alert reader R.H. for the link).
This year the combined advertising revenues of Google and Yahoo! will rival the combined prime-time ad revenues of America?s three big television networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, predicts Advertising Age. It will, says the trade magazine, represent a ?watershed moment? in the evolution of the internet as an advertising medium. A 30-second prime-time TV ad was once considered the most effective?and the most expensive?form of advertising. But that was before the internet got going. And this week online advertising made another leap forward. This latest innovation comes from Google, which has begun testing a new auction-based service for display advertising. Both Google and Yahoo! make most of their money from advertising. Auctioning keyword search-terms, which deliver sponsored links to advertisers? websites, has proved to be particularly lucrative. And advertisers like paid-search because, unlike TV, they only pay for results: they are charged when someone clicks on one of their links.
Read the whole thing to see how Google is revamping its AdSense feature. This segues nicely into a Mickey Kaus report on a potential change in how ads will be gathered on the blogosphere:
Roger L. Simon and Marc Danziger announced the formation of a new network of bloggers, including some big ones (e.g. Instapundit). They want Lexus ads! And they claim to have the unique eyeballs and high-end demographics necessary to get them. ... This is a potentially big deal....
Simon and Danziger have formed "Pajamas Media," an effort to lay some serious pipe to help the blogging community sell ads en masse to big clients like GM and Amex and ultimately, help the partnership earn enough money to fund a global network of paid newsbloggers - a sort of new-age Associated Press. Danziger (a new-media architect from way back) is working on step one - the development of mechanisms for distributing big-ticket ads to hundreds of participating blogs so that advertisers can reach the blogs' cumulative millions of daily unique users. Meanwhile, Simon dreams of tying together bloggers in every corner of the globe whose local savvy and grasp of the language and politics of their regions will basically beat the holy hell out of any foreign correspondents. Both say they want to beat the [L.A.] Times. Danziger's plan is a good one, provided he can get a solid sales force and reliable tech: it was only a matter of time before someone began to actually build what the blogosphere's been projecting and dreaming of for several years now - a fat pipe for ad money. The ad market is poised to tap into the smart, passionate and micro-targetable audiences of blogs. If Pajamas Media builds the engine correctly (I talked with Danziger for a bit and it certainly sounds like it will) then there's some good cash to be made. Simon's plan is a lot more amorphous - a worldwide network of pundit/reporters whose local smarts and compelling voices beat the news organizations in the ground war and everyone in the battle for mindshare - but it needs a hell of a lot more development. There's a vast gap between responsible reporting and passionate blogging, particularly when the blogosphere, by and large, does most of its reporting by standing on the work already done by the world's, um, reporters.
As someone with more than a passing interest in this proposal, I'm curious to hear from readers whether they think either or both aspects of the Pajamas Media proposal will fly. FULL DISLOSURE: I've been contacted about participating in the proposed syndicate. UPDATE: Roger L. Simon has a post providing some more explanation -- and an open invitation for other bloggers to join in. Meanwhile, Marc Danziger provides a lot more explanation in this post -- including his take on the future of newspapers and blogs:
I think that newspapers - as a model for the kind of legacy information middleman that makes up the media industry - are badly wounded, but I doubt that they will die. But they will go from the 93% of the market for written news - and more important for a certain class of advertising - that they once owned to, say 50 - 60%. And more, they will lose the ability to set prices for advertising in the market, which will make the business model for the newspaper much, much tougher.... Blogs will become another media channel. It will happen in part as top bloggers become media figures themselves (and vice versa); as media companies create or sponsor blogs; as blogs intertwine with 'tentpole' media properties that are somehow related to them (www.cooksillustrated.com and food blogs; www.vivid.com and sex blogs; and so on). But the heart of the blogosphere will be the emergent, fast-changing, unstructured (formally, anyway) world of blogs as we know them. And the questions will be how to build useful interfaces between that world and the highly structured world of advertisers, media consumers, and blog novices while respecting the dynamic nature of the blogs themselves.
Both links via Pieter Dorsman. And go click on Tim Oren's thoughts as well. ANOTHER UPDATE: Looks like Joshua Micah Marshall is also adding some bells and (foreign policy) whistles to Talking Points Memo.
Do you know what’s interesting about comment spam? Nothing, of course. But consider this. No piece of comment spam has ever been able to mimic a human convincingly. It tries, but comment spam is like the aliens among us. They look like us, dress like us … but they also eat the houseplants. In obedience to the iron genre trope that there must be some obvious failure of mimicry that gives away this sinister presence. To read comment spam is to come to awareness that these creatures have travelled a long way to get to our little blue marble floating in space (whether they come in peace, or to breed with the ladies, or because their home planet is tragically polluted.)
Read the whole thing. Refreshingly, after repeated waves of comment spam last fall, I've had to deal with far fewer attempts since the election. The most clever spam effort I've seen simply copied a prior comment from the thread, with the desired URL replacing commenter's e-mail and URL. This is dangerous, because unless the blogger is paying attention it just looks like a random double comment.
Newspaper readership and television audiences are on the decline while the popularity of blogs and online news sources has steadily increased. The landscape of the American media is indisputably changing. At this Brookings briefing, members of the "new" and "old" media will weigh in on the ever-evolving role of the press and the future of journalism. The discussion will focus on new mediums and practices in journalism and what impact these have had—and will continue to have—on the role and credibility of the traditional American media. In keeping with the spirit of this event, the discussion will be webcast and will be "live-blogged" by several prominent bloggers. Panelists will take questions from the audience and via e-mail following their remarks.
The panelists include Jodie T. Allen (Senior Editor, Pew Research Center), Ana Marie Cox (Wonkette.com), Ellen Ratner (White House Correspondent, Talk Radio News Service), Jack Shafer (Editor-at-Large, Slate), and Andrew Sullivan The livebloggers other than myself are Juan Cole (Informed Comment), Ed Morrissey (Captain's Quarters), Laura Rozen (War and Piece), Ruy Teixeira (Donkey Rising), and Josh Trevino (Redstate.org). Be sure to tune in tomorrow. UPDATE: My live-blogging post is here.
1) Gallup has a new poll on blog readership entitled, "Blogs Not Yet in the Media Big Leagues." It opens:
Three-quarters of the U.S. public uses the Internet at work, school, or home, but only one in four Americans are either very familiar or somewhat familiar with blogs (the shortened form of the original "Web logs"). More than half, 56%, have no knowledge of them. Even among Internet users, only 32% are very or somewhat familiar with blogs. More to the point, fewer than one in six Americans (15%) read blogs regularly (at least a few times a month). Just 12% of Americans read blogs dealing specifically with politics this often. Among Internet users, the numbers are similarly low: 19% and 15%, respectively.... According to a December 2004 Gallup Poll, the percentage of Americans getting their news on a daily basis from the mainstream media is 51% for local television news, 44% for local newspapers, 39% for cable news networks, 36% for the nightly broadcast network news, and 21% for radio talk shows. By contrast, only 3% of Americans say they read Internet blogs every day, and just 2% read politics-focused blogs daily.
Mystery Pollster deconstructs the poll, pointing out:
No, the collective reach of blogs is nowhere near that of television or print media, but focusing on the relatively small percentages misses the rapidly growing influence of the blog readership in absolute terms. The 12% that say they read political blogs at least a few times a month amount to roughly 26 million Americans. That may not make blogs a "dominant" news source, but one American in ten ads up to a lot of influence.
It's also worth comparing and contrasting the Gallup poll with the BlogAds survey. 2) Lada Adamic and Natalie Glance, "The Political Blogosphere and the 2004 U.S. Election: Divided They Blog." The abstract:
In this paper, we study the linking patterns and discussion topics of political bloggers. Our aim is to measure the degree of interaction between liberal and conservative blogs, and to uncover any differences in the structure of the two communities. Specifically, we analyze the posts of 40 “A-list” blogs over the period of two months preceding the U.S. Presidential Election of 2004, to study how often they referred to one another and to quantify the overlap in the topics they discussed, both within the liberal and conservative communities, and also across communities. We also study a single day snapshot of over 1,000 political blogs. This snapshot captures blogrolls (the list of links to other blogs frequently found in sidebars), and presents a more static picture of a broader blogosphere. Most significantly, we find differences in the behavior of liberal and conservative blogs, with conservative blogs linking to each other more frequently and in a denser pattern.
Jerome Armstrong takes this information and concludes, "there's just a lot more coordination through linking among Republican than there has been with Democratic bloggers, at least on the surface of particular URL's." Which suggests to me he didn't actually read the paper, since on p. 10 the authors reject this hypothesis:
Once we remove from our analysis all URLs pointing to political blogs, the liberal and conservative blogs both had an average similarity of 0.083 and 0.087, a difference that is not statistically significant. These results suggest that Although conservative bloggers tend to more actively comment on one another’s posts, this behavior is not accompanied by a greater uniformity in other online content they link to.... Conservative television programs and conservative talk radio have sometimes been perceived to be acting as an echo chamber for Republican talking points. However, we did not find evidence for this in conservative blogs.
Kevin Drum has a better summary, and highlights this interesting finding:
Notice the overall pattern: Democrats are the ones more often cited by right-leaning bloggers, while Republicans are more often mentioned by left-leaning bloggers....These statistics indicate that our A-list political bloggers, like mainstream journalists (and like most of us) support their positions by criticizing those of the political figures they dislike.
[So does this mean that Cass Sunstein's thesis about cyberbalkanization is correct?--ed. Not necessarily, for a couple of reasons. First, the authors admit that, "we did not gather the URLs of libertarian, independent, or moderate blogs," though admittedly they are smaller in number. More importantly, the authors collected this data in the run-up to the 2004 election -- an easy case for partisanship if there ever was one. Oh, and a quick tip of the cap to Adamic and Glance for the citation to Drezner and Farrell. 3) As evidence against cyberbalkanization, click over to this petition from bloggers to the Federal Elections Commission. For even better evidence, go sign it.
Reliance on the Internet for political news during last year's presidential campaign grew sixfold from 1996, while the influence of newspapers dropped sharply, according to a study issued Sunday. Eighteen percent of American adults cited the Internet as one of their two main sources of news about the presidential races, compared with 3% in 1996. The reliance on television grew slightly to 78%, up from 72%. Meanwhile, the influence of newspapers dropped to 39% last year, from 60% in 1996, according to the joint, telephone-based survey from the Pew Research Center for The People and the Press and the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Nonetheless, Americans who got campaign news over the Internet were more likely to visit sites of major news organizations like CNN and The New York Times (43 percent) rather than Internet-only resources such as candidate Web sites and Web journals, known as blogs (24 percent). Twenty-eight percent said they primarily used news pages of America Online, Yahoo and other online services, which carry dispatches from traditional news sources like The Associated Press and Reuters. "It's a channel difference not a substantive difference," said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet group and author of the study. "Newspaper executives probably now have to think of themselves less as newspaper people and more as content people." ....Fifty-eight percent of political news users cited convenience as their main reason for using the Internet. This group was more likely to use the Internet sites of traditional news organizations or online services. But one-third of political news consumers cited a belief that they did not get all the news and information they wanted from papers and television, and another 11% said the Web had information not available elsewhere. These individuals were more likely to visit blogs or campaign sites for information. And blogs, Rainie said, likely had an indirect influence on what campaigns talked about and what news organizations covered.
Click here for Editor & Publisher's take on the report. I'm not sure how much newspapers should be panicking in terms of content -- what appears to be happening is that many people have substituted an online version of their newspaper for the print version. Nevertheless, the secular decline is evident, which should scare the business side of the press. The fact that many people are reading even online newspapers through the editorial filter of either an online news page or a blog is what should rattle editors. The actual Pew study can be found here -- and here's a link to Michael Cornfield's analysis of the Internet's effect on the 2004 election. Key paragraph:
The numbers of American citizens who turn to the internet for campaign politics may dip in 2005 and the off-year election in 2006, in the absence of a presidential election. But a return to pre-2000 or even pre-2002 levels of engagement seems unlikely. As broadband connections proliferate and hum, the old mass audience for campaigns is being transformed into a collection of interconnected and overlapping audiences (global, national, partisan, group, issue-based, candidate-centered). Each online audience has a larger potential for activism than its offline counterparts simply because it has more communications and persuasion tools to exploit. This transformation makes life in the public arena more complex.
Essentially, blogging is sampling plus a new riff. Political bloggers take a story in the news, rip out a few chunks, and type out a few comments. Rap songs use the same recipe: Dig through a crate of records, slice out a high hat and a bass line, and lay a new vocal track on top. Of course, the molecular structure of dead-tree journalism and classic rock is filthy with other people's research and other people's chord progressions. But in newspaper writing and rock music, the end goal is the appearance of originality—to make the product look seamless by hiding your many small thefts. For rappers and bloggers, each theft is worth celebrating, another loose item to slap onto the collage. Rap music and blogging are populist, low-cost-of-entry communication forms that reward self-obsessed types who love writing in first person. Maybe that's why both won so many converts so quickly. If you want to become MC I'm Good at Rapping, all you have to do is rustle up a microphone and a sampler. If you want to blog as AngryVeganCatholicGOPMom, bring a computer, an Internet connection, a working knowledge of Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V, and a whole lot of spare time. Although bloggers and rappers are free to write about whatever they damn well please, they mostly talk to each other and about each other. That's partly because it's so easy to communicate with your fellow working professionals. If Nas disses you for not having a moustache, it's easy enough to come right back and tell him you slept with the mother of his child. When Markos from Daily Kos offhandedly admits that he doesn't read many books, Little Green Footballs steps up to hammer the softball. But rappers' and bloggers' self-importance also has something to do with the supremely annoying righteousness that rides along with those who believe they're overturned the archaic forms of expression favored by The Man—that is, whitey and/or the mainstream media. Ninety percent of rap lyrics are self-congratulatory rhymes about how great the rapper is at rapping, the towering difficulties of succeeding in the rap game, or the lameness of wanksta rivals. Blogging is a circle jerk that never stops circling: links to posts by other bloggers, following links to newspaper stories about bloggers, following wonderment at the corruptions and complacency of old-fashioned, credentialed journalism.
Sampling, cutting, pasting, and then writing a few short words of commentary? That b**ch Levin don't know what the f*** he's talking about. [Fo'shizzle!--ed.] [Did Levin get the "circle jerk" meme from Bill Keller--ed. Beats me. Speaking of Keller, however, Jeff Jarvis has posted his ongoing correspondence with the New York Times Executive Editor. Oh, and Slate has added a new feature, Today's Blogs -- which appears to be a useful compliment to their equally useful Today's Papers feature.] UPDATE: South Knox Bubba has his own retort to Slate.
Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man circle jerk.” “There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices,” he said of blog readers.
Link via Mickey Kaus. Wow, sounds like this Keller guy is a bit of an anti-blog jerk. Wait, it gets worse -- in an open letter to Jeff Jarvis he says that, "bloggers... are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless." (link via Glenn Reynolds.) Now, before anyone gets too upset, bear in mind that the quote I just generated from Keller's letter is not really consistent with the overall tone of his snarky but friendly exchange with Jarvis. Read the whole letter. Let's put that quote in context now:
Can I just state something for the record? While we probably have our differences on the role of the MSM (btw, I personally favor "elite media," at least as it pertains to the NYT) I would like to make clear that I consider blogs relevant and important. I do not hold them in disdain, as you imply. I won't risk embarrassing my favorite bloggers by identifying them (except to say that buzzmachine is bookmarked in my office and at home) but I find the best of them to be a source of provocative insights, first-hand witness, original analysis, rollicking argument and occasional revelation. As I'm sure you will agree, you can also find bloggers who are paranoid, propagandistic, unreliable, hate-filled, self-indulgent, self-important and humorless. (Just like people!)
Sounds correct to me -- I might add that if you take "cable television" or "talk radio" as a media category, the comment still holds. What's interesting about these different Keller episodes is that the Columbia Spectator reporter probably took just the juiciest bit from Keller's comments regardless of whether they were consistent with the overall tenor of his remarks -- whereas Jarvis ("mediaman by day, blogboy by night") reprinted all of Keller's comments, allowing one to judge Keller's argument in toto. Oddly enough, this is undoubtedly one trait that good bloggers share with the New York Times. The Times, as the "paper of record," was very good about printing the full text of important documents and speeches before there was a world wide web. The best bloggers, through hyperlinks, can engage in a similar practice when parsing out someone's comments. Just a thought.
On Thursday, February 10, two national news organizations finally covered the story, but only to declare it overblown. The New York Times posted a wire-service story late in the evening to its Thursday edition, while the Wall Street Journal published an op-ed by Bret Stephens. While he acknowledged that Jordan had used "defamatory innuendo," Stephens wound up decrying the bloggers:
There is an Easongate.com Web site, on which more than 1,000 petitioners demand that Mr. Jordan release a transcript of his remarks--made recently in Davos--by Feb. 15 or, in the manner of Saddam Hussein, face serious consequences. Sean Hannity and the usual Internet suspects have all weighed in. So has Michelle Malkin, who sits suspended somewhere between meltdown and release. There's a reason the hounds are baying. Already they have feasted on the juicy entrails of Dan Rather. Mr. Jordan, whose previous offenses (other than the general tenor of CNN coverage) include a New York Times op-ed explaining why access is a more important news value than truth, was bound to be their next target. And if Mr. Jordan has now made a defamatory and unsubstantiated allegation against U.S. forces, well then . . . open the gates.
The strange and unexpected turn from the Journal signaled what should have been the end of the story, at least as far as the national media were concerned. The controversy seemed about to fade off the media's radar screens altogether--until Jordan suddenly resigned his position at CNN around 6:00 p.m. on Friday, February 11. (emphasis added)
In a blog post on the same topic, Morrissey again complains about the lack of media attention to this story:
Not only did the blogswarm find damning information which the national media could have used all along, but we repeatedly sent the information in e-mails to key people in the media. Instead of acknowledging that function and assimilating the information, the media has circled the wagons around the myth that Eason Jordan simply committed a slip of the tongue at Davos, rather than the documented string of slanders and ethical lapses stretching over more than a decade.
So Morrissey acknowledges that the story was starting to lose steam the day before Jordan left, and that the mainstream media seemed disinclined to pursue the story any further. If the MSM was either not paying much attention or playing down the scandal, why did Jordan choose to resign when he did? There are three possibilities:
1) The mobilized blogosphere is now so powerful that it no longer needs media attention to affect real change; 2) Jordan knew he would be toast if the videotaped version of his Davos remarks went public, knew the tape would eventually get out, and so chose to leave before things got really ugly; 3) Jordan resigned for reasons mostly unrelated to his Davos comments, but the blog stuff provided good cover for CNN to push him out.
I just don't think (1) is true -- if it is, it certainly violates the argument that Henry Farrell and I have made about when blogs are influential. (2) might be correct -- see Rebecca MacKinnon on this point -- but based on what both Stephens and David Gergen have said, I'm dubious about the tape being that damaging. [But Morrissey points out that what he said at Davos fits a larger pattern--ed. Yes, but Morrissey also laments the fact that this was not reported in the MSM beyond the original Guardian story from last November.] Which leads me to (3). It's telling that Katherine Q. Seelye's New York Times account observes, "Some of those most familiar with Mr. Jordan's situation emphasized, in interviews over the weekend, that his resignation should not be read solely as a function of the heat that CNN had been receiving on the Internet, where thousands of messages, many of them from conservatives, had been posted." And, as Mickey Kaus points out, Howard Kurtz's first-draft version of what happened provided an alternative explanation. Check out this Keith Olbermann post as well. Unlike Michelle Malkin, I haven't called anyone to check out this hypothesis -- this is only me spitballing. But something ain't right here. I'm curious what others think -- and I'm particularly curious what the higher-ups at CNN think.
With legitimacy, the bloggers get a seat at the table, and with that comes access, status, money, and power -- and iif there's anything we've learned about the mainstream media, that breeds complacency.
We predict that as blogs become a more established feature on the political landscape, politicians and other interested parties will become more adept at responding to them, and, where they believe it necessary, co-opting them. To the extent that blogs become more politically influential, we may expect them to become more directly integrated into ‘politics as usual,’ losing some of their flavor of novelty and immediacy in the process.
It's really depressing that The Daily Show is not just funnier that I am -- they are better at stating the more substantive point about bloggers.
Since becoming an assistant professor, I have authored one book, edited another, and published a respectable quantity of scholarly articles. And yet I can say with a fair degree of certainty that if you added up the number of people who have read any and all of these works, it would probably be less than the number of hits I receive daily on my Web log—an online journal I’ve kept for the last two-and-a-half years. That fact simultaneously exhilarates and appalls me.... Will I still be blogging in five years? I honestly don’t know, but my suspicion is that if I do, there will be plenty of sabbaticals thrown in. One undeniable effect of having a successful blog is the inculcation of a sense of duty to keep up regular posts. Even the thought of blogging on a regular basis for half a decade exhausts me. However, the thought of not blogging about the interesting ideas or information that comes my way bothers me even more.
Thanks to Mary Ruth Yoe for her crisp editing -- and thanks to Jacob Levy for coining the term "scholar-blogger" in the first place. You should check out the rest of the magazine's contents -- as I've noted in the past, it's consistently interesting and informative. For example, check out Sharla Stewart's article on Richard Thaler and the rise of behavioral economics. Stewart has a good track record in writing about the social sciences -- her essay on the "perestroika" movement two years ago remains the single-best thing I've read on the subject. And be sure to check out UChiblogo -- the magazine's weblog. This post recaps Francis Fukuyama's lecture from last week looking back on "The End of History?"
Hewitt notes that while it was left-of-center bloggers Atrios (Philadelphian Duncan Black) and Joshua Micah Marshall who got the anti-Lott swarm buzzing, it was conservative bloggers - notably the chameleonic Andrew Sullivan, whose coloration at the time was deemed conservative, and Republican law professor Daniel Drezner - who brought it to critical mass. On the other hand, during the Raines swarm, Marshall mentioned the affair only once.
Y'know, if I was earning the same salary as a law professor, I wouldn't complain. UPDATE: Thanks to Warren Dodson for pointing out that Wilson was merely repeating what Hewitt wrote in Blog on p. 11: "Daniel Drezner, a University of Chicago law professor and uber-blogger, called for Lott's resignation on Saturday . . . ." I'll take the mis-designation in return for being called an uber-blogger. Hmmm.... note to self: contact Marvel Comics about new superhero idea.....
What happened with Williams affects all of us in the business, as we share the same precious real estate and public trust. To readers seeing columnists clustered together on a page, we appear to be members of the same club. Increasingly, however, commentators are products of think tanks or politics--or renegade blond prosecutors--which can be problematic, but not always bad. Many of these people, including Williams, can bring unique insights and experiences to the debate. The same is true of the new media genre known as blogs, in which citizen journalists post news links and commentary on the Web, often shadowing the mainstream media, challenging and fact-checking, as well as influencing outcomes in politics and government. They are a formidable and welcome force, but as non-journalists in the institutional sense, they're accountable to no one. Therein shines the little light we can find among these dark tales of the fallen. For all their flaws, mainstream (institutional) journalists are accountable where others are not. When they mess up, consequences are real and ruthless, as Williams and the CBS folks can attest. That much consumers can rely upon. (emphasis added)
In one sense Parker is correct -- if a blogger just screws up, nothing prevents that blogger from continuing to post. However, without acknowledging mistakes, that blogger is suddenly going to have a lot fewer readers than before -- and that is a formidable constraint. The mainstream media can experience this problem as well, but not as powerfully. In part that's because a blogger is the sole content provider for his or her blog, whereas a columnist -- or even an anchorman -- is only a cog in a larger media machine. The key is that bolded part about "acknowledging mistakes" -- and this is one area where the blogosphere has an advantage. Ironically, because bloggers tend to screw up on a regular basis, it is far easier for us to admit error. Journalists are probably more diligent at fact-checking, and probably make fewer mistakes overall. But they do make them. Because these mistakes are more infrequent, and because accuracy is a slightly more precious currency in the mediasphere than the blogosphere, they will resist admissions of error -- compounding the original problem. This dynamic is reflected in RatherGate. The telling section in the CBS report is how producer Mary Mapes, Rather, et al reacted after their report was challenged. They dug in their heels and engaged in even more distorted reporting in an attempt to defend the veracity of their documentation (check out p. 183 of the report, for example).
Blogs like everything else on the net are subject to certain laws of exponential traffic, sometimes called Power Laws. And while there may be 1.65 million Blogs out there that are semi-active, there are a very tiny, tiny handful of those notes that are actually read. And they in fact do control traffic, that's the way traffic on the net works. And to say that because anybody can be a publisher that that opens up a broad range of voices is a delusion really. Yes, new voices will enter the mainstream consistently but they will not be trafficked to simply because they are smart and clever. Some will, but and this is my third and final point, much of the traffic on the net when you start investigating the structure of the Blogosphere and the structure of the net very much represented the horserace political commentary of much of the mainstream media. It’s clever, it’s more up to date, it has more voice, there's more opinion, its sharper; but if you look at the Blogosphere as a whole with some important exceptions much of what it consists of is a lot of he-said, she-said political commentary that is not any different what you would find on the cable news networks.
Click on the link to see Jarvis' response, which I agree with. Basically, it boils down to the notion that there are mass audiences and there are niche audiences -- and different blogs feed different types of audiences. For each audience, a skewed distribution of traffic and links exists -- but just because a blogger doesn't generate Glenn Reynolds' kind of traffic does not automatically render them unimportant. The fact that David Stevens and Alex Wilks decided to set up a blog devoted exclusively to the search for a new World Bank President -- which, let's face it, is not on most people's radar screen -- is a point for Jarvis. Anyway, click over there to get and give the best dirt on possible candidates and their odds.
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.