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Saturday 10 May 2008

Blog wars

Professor David Perlmutter talks to Jon Stewart about the rise of political bloggers. He then does some reflecting on The Daily Show.
Just finished taping The Daily Show. I was interviewed by Stewart himself. What stuck me was how the discussion about blogging was pretty straight and without any real mockery. I argue in Blogwars that 2008 is the year blogging has arrived—becoming part of journalism, entertainment media, and, of course politics. Well, I think one sign is that instead of making fun of bloggers as geeks and freaks Stewart himself stated that many talented people blog and that blogs were no longer a fringe phenomenon. That’s a significant leap from the past. Lets spin back to when that was not so. Bloggers recall the March 2004 segment of The Daily Show that made fun of blogs and blogging via a satirical segment on “$ecret$ of New Journalism $ucce$$.” Jay Rosen, an NYU professor and one of the early academic proponents of blogging was roundly skewered by a TDS correspondent.

So it’s lucky for me that blogs have come so far!

By the way, in person Stewart is gracious and really puts guests—like, say, nervous academics—at ease.
Checking out David's blog, he picks up - as I did - on the false media spin on some survey results earlier this year which showed a huge number of Americans using political blogs as news sources.
A Harris Interactive survey conducted between January 15 to January 22 of 2,302 adults found that “Just under one-quarter (23%) say that they read them several times a year and just 22 percent of Americans read blogs regularly (several times a month or more).” Almost always when the story was picked up the headline was some version of the way it appeared on the Reuters wire: “Poll: Most Americans don’t read political blogs.” Harris themselves headlined their survey as “More Than Half of Americans Never Read Political Blogs.“

It’s a sign of how far blogs in general and political blogs in particular have come that 22% (or half!) of Americans seeking political information is classified under the modifier “only.”


I also understood that, as I have put it, “peasants don’t blog” or “bloggers are not the ‘people.’” Overwhelmingly the profile of bloggers and blog consumers depicts them as middle-class folk in America (or Nigeria or Iran). In the U.S. they tend to be more white, more educated, more literate and have more money than a profile of people who don’t blog.


Last, in politics sheer numbers are not necessarily significant. For example, some of the caucus states “won” by Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton or John McCain involved only a few thousand people out of millions. To expand upon what I write in BLOGWARS: “Even if blogs are not vox populi, it does not follow that, as blog critics love to taunt, bloggers (and blog readers) are the tinfoil hatters of American political life. To the contrary, bloggers and their audience may not be the people, but there is growing evidence that they have an extraordinary and extraproportional effect on the people and on politics, campaigns and elections, public affairs, policymaking, press agendas and coverage, and public opinion.” In fact, I claim that bloggers are influentials, people who speak up about politics, give money, get involved in campaigns, and vote. That is their profile according to my own research and that of others: they may not be the majority but the influential minority matters. The same applies to those who peruse polblogs.

So even if only 20% of Americans read blogs, I will predict that those are a group of people (a target segment in the language of marketing) that any political candidate will be very happy to reach.

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