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Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Are Bloggers now the dominant media?

There is always a risk of exaggeration when evaluating the impact of a new technology. To see just how risky, spend a little time in the archives of Motley Fool or Tech Central Station scanning predictions about the Internet's impact during the late 90s stock market bubble.

Even so, in assessing its impact on the MSM and the 2004 presidential campaign we find within the hard numbers and the dynamic of the traditional newsroom solid reasons to conclude that the Blogosphere essentially has replaced the assignment editors at The New York Times and The Washington Post as the shapers of the nation's daily news agenda. Here's why:

First, as Edward Driscoll pointed out in a March Tech Central Station column (http://www.techcentralstation.com/031504B.html), more people are likely writing and visiting blogs on the Internet at any given time than are reading the Times or Post, or watching a network or cable news program. Just look at the numbers. Fox's Bill O'Reilly draws about two million viewers on a good night. Dan Rather pulls around 10 million. The Times' average daily circulation is about 1.5 million. Harris Poll estimates 146 million adults on the Internet and Driscoll pegs the number of bloggers among them at seven million or so. The best of the bloggers draw perhaps 100,000 daily hits.

Among those daily hits are undoubtedly repeat visits by broadcast and cable news producers and key editors at the top dailies. They know big stories are more likely to show up first on an influential blog like Instapundit.com or The Command Post. Thus, the bloggers drive the selection process of what is and is not news.

That's merely my speculation today - expect it to be borne out in an authoritative survey or study soon. Associated Press chief Tom Curley is not likely among those who would doubt the accuracy of my speculation. Curley told a recent OPA gathering that the Blogosphere sees 16,000 new posts per hour, or about what AP creates in an entire day. Read Curley's entire speech at http://journalist.org/2004conference/archives/000079.php.

But wait, there's more! The Center for Media Research cites a recent study for the Online Publishers Association that estimates among adults 18 to 54 the Internet is the first choice of 45.2 percent, compared to 34.6 percent choosing TV first. More important, three quarters of those queried in the OPA study say they use the internet for keeping up with topics that interest them. They use tv for entertainment. The growth portion of the news audience is the Internet and it is an audience that demands news on its own terms, not the terms of the editors and producers.

No wonder Curley told OPA: "That's a huge shift in the 'balance of power' in our world, from the content providers to the content consumers. 'Appointment-driven' news consumption is quickly giving way to 'on-demand' news consumption.

"And, as we've seen so clearly in the last year or so, consumers will want to use the two-way nature of the Internet to become active participants themselves in the exchange of news and ideas. The news, as 'lecture,' is giving way to the news as a 'conversation.'"

Another way to spell "conversation" is b-l-o-g.