Friday, February 18, 2005

Syndication: scam or survival of the fittest? A reply.

Posted by Craig Westover | 10:07 AM |  

If I remember my "Joys of Yiddish" correctly, I think Vox Day just paid me a “grisha” --
The fact that Craig Westover's very good blog has only a few more readers than any other random no-name blog despite his holding a regular spot on the St. Paul Pioneer Press op/ed page tends to support my theory that a only fraction of the people who subscribe to the newspaper actually read it, in contradiction to the self-serving theory advanced by newspaper ad sellers that there is a multiple involved.
In other words, kind of a bank-handed compliment. Not that I don’t appreciate it. Vox Day considering my blog “very good” is worth a lot of random more effusive “attaboys.”

The context of his remarks is a longer post on the influence of various columnists online and in the mainstream media. Vox asks the question is syndication a scam or survival of the fittest, which is kind of a misleading dichotomy because Vox concludes --
Popularity is not synonymous with quality. But what it should demonstrate that a proven ability to maintain a respectable readership is only one factor out of many that go into the saleability of a column. Syndication likely is more survival of the fittest than a scam, but the determining factors are not necessarily what you might assume them to be.
Nonetheless, I have to agree with Vox. Very few links to my blog come from the Pionner Press site, which only recently made available a link from the online version of my column to my site and an online archive of my columns. And I agree that only a fraction of the readership of the Pioneer Press reads the editorial page. What Vox might be missing, however, is the quality of that fraction.

Since I’ve had my column, I made contacts with people who were inaccessible to me before. I’ve had state legislators and government officials go out of their way to introduce themselves. My phone calls get returned. I get invited to a better class of parties.

More importantly, the quality of people who write “Taking Exception” responses to my articles improve -- if one measures "quality" by titles and the number of initials that appear after their names. And their arguments have changed.

The smoking ban issue, for example, was originally a no-brainer health issue. The Pioneer Press editorial board hammered that point of view, while my column kept insisting it was a rights issue. Today, health factors are clearly secondary to the rights issue -- in reader response to the Pioneer Press and in committee meetings at the legislature. It would be arrogant to take the lion’s share of the credit for that, but I’ll argue that my column played a part.

The MSM still carries influence, whether it deserves it or not. It still hasn’t figured out the role of blogs and bloggers, and the longer it takes the more it’s going to hurt. But a few of us through trial and error are figuring it out. Today, you don’t need to be syndicated to have influence, one MSM outlet and “a very good blog” might be all it takes.

More sources on blogs and blogging.