Over the past month, I’ve run a pair of columns on political blogs in the state. I noted the limited penetration of those blogs; the tendency of blogs on the right to get engaged in internal ideological struggles, while those on the left engage in external ideological struggles; and the fact that the quality of the content was suffering under the constraint of the limited reach of those outlets.
And, I suspect that the ol’ professor also upset some bloggers who will doubtlessly attack the measures of traffic. That’s fine. Traffic trackers do underestimate traffic on Web sites, but they are the only publicly available source to facilitate comparison.
Let’s assume the traffic estimates are 100 percent below actual; the fact remains that these sites still have very low traffic (roughly on par with the traffic for KGOU.org). Possible errors in measurement by http://www.websiteoutlook. com or their competitors are most likely universal and not limited to low-traffic sites. Relative measurement is as good as absolute measurement for my purposes.
The key takeaway is that the quality and intensity of independent political blogs is offset by poor visibility. The sources that most people go to in Oklahoma for news, political content and political comment are the major, mainstream news sites.
Using the websiteoutlook.com data, one finds that NewsOK.com gets more than 100,000 views a day, with huge volumes of backlinking. The Tulsa World’s site runs more than 50,000 views a day, again with voluminous backlinking.
But not all of that traffic is political. One can easily assume that if traffic mainly runs to these sites on a daily basis for nonpolitical content, then when non-core political consumers look for political information, they’ll still be at the mainline sites.
What’s the consequence? Well, in terms independent bloggers providing content, nothing. Running a political blog is a labor of love. When I had SoonerPolitics.com (average daily traffic of about 500 views when there wasn’t a primary), I knew my audience was small, comprised of journalists and hard-core political-information junkies. But independent political blogging can be exhausting. You constantly have to feed the beast.
Even for paid bloggers, the financial returns pale compared to the old financial model for freelance journalism. You have to love politics to keep a blog rolling, and to do it right, it will become your primary focus. Otherwise, traffic dies off.
The course of action to raise the profile of political bloggers and their content is a simple one: cross-partnering with established news outlets. The mainline media outlets have proved amenable to working with each other on content-sharing in areas such as financing research and polling, and in giving access across platforms to journalists and commentators. Just witness conservative journalist Pat McGuigan’s relationship with News9.com and the success of some bloggers with radio.
The mainline media in the Oklahoma City market do not make the best use of these bloggers, but they should. They are not competition for traffic or revenue, but a potential source of content that can improve the status quo in political analysis.
Gaddie is a political science professor at the University of Oklahoma and the author of the new book “The Triumph of Voting Rights in the South.”