Monday, September 21, 2009

Independent Political Blogs Spank MSM

How do independent political blogs stack up against the mainstream media (MSM) “blogs” run by the Post and the Sun? Let’s have a look.

The MSM never releases their site visit counts, treating them like Cold War secrets. Many independent blogs have no problem with statistical exhibitionism, especially this one. So we need to use a proxy to compare them. One measure that’s easy to find is Google Reader subscribers. These folks get a variety of content through Google and the company releases subscriber counts for each content source. They may be a minority of blog readers, but data on their activity is available for blogs and other sites of all kinds.

Here’s how Maryland’s most prominent state and local political blogs, both independent and MSM, stack up in Google Reader subscribers at the moment:

MPW: 210
Maryland Politics (Sun): 108
Red Maryland: 98
Free State Politics: 67
Howard County: 67
O’Malley Watch: 66
Jay Hancock (Sun): 46
Legum's New Line: 46
Annapolis Capital Punishment: 44
Bay and Environment (Sun): 36
Maryland on My Mind: 35
Maryland Politics Today: 34
Maryland Politics (Post): 32
Baltimore Reporter: 25
Getting There (Sun): 24
Brian Griffiths: 20
Dan Rodricks (Sun): 19
PG Politics: 19
Darkness Rising: 17
Monoblogue: 14
Second Opinion (Sun): 7
Robert McCartney (Post): 3

Now let’s put these counts in perspective. The Maryland blogosphere is still in its infancy. DCist, the King of all DC blogs and part of the Gothamist LLC for-profit network, has 4,018 Google subscribers. Blog audiences still skew heavily urban and none of us in Maryland are any great shakes – yet.

But look at the stats above. Only one MSM political blog – the Sun’s Maryland Politics - is in the state’s top six. If you include MPW, the independent blogs above average 55 subscribers compared to the MSM’s average of 34. Even without MPW, the other independents average 43, still better than the MSM.

The MSM blogs are expensive to produce. First, they need at least one paid full-time writer. That individual could be making eighty grand a year or more in pay and benefits. Second, each of these blogs require some administrative and web staff time. Third, some of the MSM blogs actually have multiple writers. The Sun’s Second Opinion blog has five writers and seven Google subscribers! Meanwhile, the independents are producing their content for free and are actually getting more readers. How can any of this make sense to the corporate bean-counters at MSM headquarters?

The MSM would be better off reprinting the independents’ content and paying them a royalty.