Must-Read Book: "The World's Top Political Bloggers Share the Secrets to Success"
That's the subtitle to a new book of interviews with 20 web presences ranging from filthy rich (Arianna Huffington) to recently relocated (Andrew Malcolm, now at Investors Business Daily and late of the LA Times[*]) to left-wing (Jane Hamsher of Firedoglake) to right-wing (Thomas Lifson of American Thinker) to libertarian (Tyler Cowen of Marginal Revolution) to establishment (Ben Smith of Politico, Steve Clemons of Washington Note/New America Foundation) to crazy, cockeyed optimists pining for a world of exploding choices and options for all of us, even those among us with little more than a t-shirt and a dream to guide us (yours truly).
Making It in the Political Blogosphere is written by Tanni Haas, a communications professor at City University of New York. He writes in his intro:
While an impressive 44% of all Americans read political blogs, tens of millions do so daily….Even more significant than the sheer number of people who read and are influenced by political blogs is the importance people attach to them. Studies have found that political blog readers consider such blogs more trustworthy sources of information than they do any other mainstream news media, including online and offline newspapers, television and radio. Political blogs are considered more trustworthy because they provide access to a broader spectrum of issues than is availabe in the mainstream news media; cover those issues in greater depth, with more independence and points of view; and present them in a manner that's more understandable and relevant to readers.
Here are some snippets from his conversation with me, which took place over a year ago (if I'm remembering correctly—and as my note the bottom suggests, my memory ain't all that good):
What was the original goal for [Hit & Run]? …It's definitely like a coffeehouse, an eighteenth- or nineteenth-century coffeehouse, model of a conversation where there are some people who're starting and structuring the conversation. But it's very much a conversation, not necessarily among equals, but where the traditional roles of authority and subject have very much broken down or have at least become more leveled….Regardless of whether you're talking about traditional authority figures like politicians, priests, stockbrokers, lawyers, or doctors, they're losing power at the expense of end users in a network who're starting to push back and say, "You know what? I'm pretty smart. I know how to live my life. I know what information I have, and I want to have a conversation rather than listen to a lecture."…
Why do you think Hit & Run has been so successful? I think it's partly due to the talent of the individual contributors, skimming and bringing stories or concepts that wouldn't otherwise be voiced….our ideological framework of libertarianism with a small 'l'…[is] of great interest to many poeple and it fits exceptionally well with the increasing shift from centralization to decentralization in economic power, telecommunications, and in lifestyle. I think the general vibe and the general mentality of Hit & Run, Reason magazine, and, more broadly, of libertarianism with a small 'l' comports very well with that.
How, in your opinion, has the political blogosphere evloved over time? …Ten years into the blogging phenomenon new conventions have formed. While blogging remains an extremely vital, viable, and interesting thing, part of me is looking forward to the next develpments, which we can't fully anticipate….I'm looking forward to the next thing that's going to be participatory, that's going to be revelatory, and is going to deliver some new kind of information, some new kind of conversation that's important.
Mea culpa: I told Haas that Hit & Run launched in late 2001 when in fact it was late 2002. For early archives, go here.
Making it in the Political Blogosphere is far more interesting than my inclusion might suggest (apart from the names listed above, Haas interviewed Rogers Cadenead, Juan Cole, Cheryl Contee, Kevin Drum, Eric Garris, Taegan Goddard, John Hawkins, Jim Hoft, Eric Olsen, Heather Parton, Lew Rockwell, and Matt Yglesias). There's a wealth of perspective, insight, history, advice, and storytelling from the interviewees, and Haas' opening and closing chapters provide great ways of thinking about the blogosphere.
[*]: In the original version of this post, I mistakenly wrote that Andrew Malcolm had been fired when in fact he had been hired away by IBD. Check out his IBD archive here.