Sunday, February 5, 2012

How the progressive blogosphere is changing

I don't remember what got me going this morning, but I've been doing a little investigative work on the changing nature of the progressive blogosphere. I had a hunch that some of the initial big names in the business are faltering. And that does - in fact - turn out to be the case.

One source that turned out to be interesting is the Blogosphere Authority Index, (BAI) which has been tracking both liberal and conservative blogs on measures such as blogrolls, hyperlinks, site visits and comments since 2008. Since blogrolls and hyperlinks tend to measure inclusion in the "good ol boys network" and # of comments varies greatly, I'm most interested in site visits as a measure of impact.

The person who measures BAI (Dave Karpf) seems to need a little updating in his categorization of blogs as "progressive" or "conservative" since he has Huffington Post listed as one of the former and Little Green Footballs as one of the later. Those of us who have actually been watching know that both of these blogs have undergone huge changes in the last few years. I say that because on almost all measures Huffington Post is rated as #1. But I'm going to ignore it because I don't think its representative.

When we go back in time to January 2008, here are the top ten progressive blogs according to their site visits:

1. Daily Kos
2. Crooks and Liars
3. Think Progress
4. Talking Points Memo
5. Atrios
6. Firedoglake
7. America Blog
8. Washington Monthly (Kevin Drum)
9. Digby
10. Carpetbagger Report (Steve Benen)

Now lets look at the top ten in January 2012 (with changes from 2008 in parenthesis):

1. Fivethirtyeight (new)
2. Daily Kos ( -1)
3. Talking Points Memo ( +1)
4. Democratic Underground (new)
5. Think Progress ( -2)
6. Truthdig (new)
7. Crooks and Liars ( -5)
8. Firedoglake ( -2)
9. Balloon Juice (new)
10. Washington Monthly (Steve Benen - no change if you consider the author)

Blogs that dropped off the top 10 list since 2008:

- Atrios
- America Blog
- Digby
- Carpetbagger Report (shut down when Benen moved to Washington Monthly)

When I started blogging in 2005, the BIG names in the progressive blogosphere were Daily Kos, Atrios, Crooks and Liars, America Blog, Digby, Firedoglake and MyDD (later Open Left). Three of those have dropped off the top 10 list in the last 4 years. Daily Kos has lost first place to Nate Silver at Fivethirtyeight, Crooks and Liars dropped 5 places and FLD is -2 (and is basically even with Balloon Juice!).

In addition, what's not showing up since I'm only looking at the top 10 is that MyDD - which had ranked #13 in 2008 has disappeared off the top 25 list altogether and sunk into oblivion while Open Left - which was ranked #20 - shut down altogether.

Blogs added to the top 10 list since 2008:

- Fivethirtyeight (everybody loves Nate Silver)
- Democratic Underground (not sure what's going on here except it probably has to do with their forums)
- Truthdig (new home of the firebaggers?)
- Balloon Juice (pragmatic progressives on the move!)

Based on what I can deduct from a couple of different sources, BooMan Tribune and The Obama Diary (two of the very best pragmatic progressive sites) would rank somewhere between 25th - 30th place on this list.

In conclusion, I think the landscape is changing. Lets continue to get the word out about pragmatic alternatives to the poutragers. You can do that by visiting all of those great blogs over on the left and sharing their wonderful content with others.


  1. I'm not sure I fully understand these ratings but I'd like to give my take anyway. And BTW, I love this post.

    I aggregate news items for PlanetPOV, and therefore I am all over the progressive blogs all day, every day--and have been for a couple of years now. I stopped even glancing at HPAOL about two years ago. Not only is that place a cesspool of trolls and concern trolls, I find their in-house news unreliable and based on rumor. That they are seen as a Progressive site galls me to no end; they are a Trojan Horse masquerading as a Progressive site. The site itself is a Concern Troll. It would actually be more honorable if they were Firebaggers because then they would at least have the integrity of taking a stand. What they do instead is pretend to be Progressive while continually undermining. One of my favorite things to do is look at their headlines and compare them to Pox or Red State, and then places like WaPo, NYT, or any authentic prog blog. You will find they are consistently more like Fox.

    I have seen a significant shift in the other real Progressive blogs: Kos has become a go-to site since it's firebagging seems to have all but disappeared, while Digby has gone completely off the rails since she has David O. Atkins posting. He is 31 year old emo whiner of the first order.While digby herself is a critic from the Left, she at least sees the ghastly difference between the President and, say, Sarah Palin. Robert Sheer has totally lost it, and Truthdig should be consigned to the ash heap of the blogosphere.

    You know what else has surprised me? Matt Yglesias. Now that he's at Slate, bad things happened to him! While at ThinkProgress, he was a favorite. It goes to show either how much he was edited there, or how he concealed his true colors. He is an awful writer, aside from the fact that his opinions now are similar to those of Hampshire. What a disappointment!

    I am also surprised to see Nate Silver rising in popularity. I'm agnostic about 538 but find that more and more, he says nothing. He gives reliable stats and then concludes that it's either one thing or another thing. Not really helpful or enlightening from my POV. Plus, I have to wade though pages of numbers to get a waffle.

    I was kinda sorry to see Steve Benen move to Maddow Blog, although I am happy for him. I just feel that his voice was needed more elsewhere. I have read his replacement (Ed Kilgore) and so far have no opinion. What do you think?

    1. Thanks SO much for all of that. I can't say I disagree with anything you've said.

      I don't follow all of these as closely as you do - but totally agree about David Atkins. He did some really monumentally stupid things as thereisnospoon while at DK and, as far as I'm concerned, continues to be an idiot at Digby. I don't read her as much so I'll have to leave that one to you.

      When it comes to DK, I agree that the firebagging has tamed down quite a bit there. I just see so much of the front page consumed with the Republican horse race that its boring to me a lot of the time.

      I haven't read Yglesias at Slate but am sorry to hear what you're saying. And yeah, I agree that there's not much "there" there with Nate.

      Benen seems to be keeping up his pace at Maddow's blog - so that's great news. I was afraid they'd spread him too thin and we'd lose his voice. I haven't read Kilgore that much but when he subbed for Benen I found him to be missing something...hard to put my finger on it. But I suspect it has to do with missing the mark on what the real stories are and why they're important. Perhaps its that he focuses on the trees and sometimes misses the forest - at least as far as I see it.

    2. One other thing about DK - I read a piece there by Meteor Blades this weekend where he talked about the victories and challenges stemming from the Komen kerfluffle. As far as I could see, he went out of his way to leave out any reference to what PBO and this administration has done in relation to PP and access to birth control in general. When someone wrote a diary about the good news Friday on jobs, a commenter there said they'd wait for MB's article telling everyone the bad news. I think the commenter was being ironic, but its so true. Its like they may have stopped with the bashing of PBO, but can't bring themselves to give him credit where its due. For me, that's not good enough for a site that claims to be progressive and wants to elect "more and better democrats." We need to be able to acknowledge our successes as well as highlight our criticisms.

    3. Well, now there is a new item dividing the Left: claiming empirical proof that Obama is the most moderate Dem since WWII, while Dubya the most conservative Repub. So far, it's being touted by Ezra Klein and Krugman (and of course, digby), and only Bob Cesca has the sense to dispute it. I am SO looking forward to the arguments about this new nonsense. OTOH, I do wonder of it won't serve the President well in the General--saying he is not, after all, a Kenyan Marxist Socialist. But just what we need now, right?--another divisive claim about Obama's bona fides as a Progressive! Christ!

      I completely agree with you: The Left is full of begrudgement. (Is that a word?) It pains them to give the President any credit at all, while even they have to deal with facts. (I am excluding Firebaggers though--they are called Baggers for a good reason.)The fact is, from my perspective, many on the Left are just plain INVESTED in being disgruntalists. They have staked out their position and lack the character needed to admit they were wrong.

      Anyway, thanks for your replies!!

  2. MyDD is an object lesson in many ways. They went "all in" for Hillary in 2008, to the extent that they ended up as home to a lot of PUMAs, while driving off anyone else. Once the election was over, for all intents and purposes, it was a blog site with almost no (Alexa rankings >100K) hits whatsoever. In short, it went from being influential to irrelevant in record time.

    I think Markos remembers that to an extent, hence the "moderate" trend you're seeing now. The veering towards "purity" that was encouraged through 2011 were putting his site (and his "influence") in jeopardy now that it's an actual major election year. I'm not going to bet on it being anything permanent.

    I've been seeing that a lot on various of the emoprog sites. The larger ones, with the exception of FDL and some others on that list, are moving to get a little bit more in line because the site owners are worried about the backlash if Republicans retake the White House.

    1. They should be worried about backlash, they're lucky the backlash after 2010 wasn't as dramatic as it was.