: Dave Winer: “It’s not about how many eyeballs you aggregate, it’s which ones.”

He’s dissenting from Clay Shirky’s power-law rap.

I said it this way: “bloggers are influencers talking to influencers…. it’s not how many are talking that matters, it’s who’s talking and what they’re saying.”

We agree.

Here’s a blogger whose influence is already outdistancing his traffic.

  • Agreed, Jeff. I buy advertising for my business. A current $30 blogad gets me more leads than a $3000 ad campaign I did earlier this year. The former is on a small blog. The latter was on a mass-reader site.
    That being said, some products are more influencer-friendly than others e.g. a Treo 600 vs. a new brand of toothpaste.
    It’s a subject dear to my heart: the belief that, like TV 50 years previously, the true power of blogs won’t be fully realized till Madison Ave starts taking them seriously.
    I talked to a senior brand manager of a very large luxury goods company the other day. He had no idea what a blog was. I couldn’t believe it.

  • button

    I was very pleased to read Dave’s remarks on his blog about this because when I started blogging, I said to myself that I would be satisfied to have a dozen quality readers. I guess I instinctively grasped this point. Yes, I do think that Dave is right about this. I agree with him.

  • I agree with Clay Shirky and disagree with Dave Winer.
    The logic error in Dave Winer’s dissent is that he has changed a term and then incorrectly used the changed term to rebut the original term.
    That is, in the simplest approximation, readership is used as a measure of influence. And readership follows a power-law pattern.
    Dave Winer then objects that the measure isn’t strictly true – it’s possible to have more influence with fewer readers, if some of those readers are more influential than average.
    Yes. But the same power-law problem applies to these more influential readers – they will only be reading a relatively few blogs, and there is thus a (very small) mathematical limit on how many bloggers can influence them.
    “Bloggers” are not influencers. A few bloggers (Dave Winer among them) are influencers in this way.
    These are two very different statements.

  • Seth: But it’s not just one audience. This is not a mass medium. It is the complete opposite. It is a mass of niches. In any given niche (technology, media, politics… down to nanoscience or ad serving technology or thyroid disease)the audience may be small but it is targeted; in each of those niches, there is a power law: Somebody is the No. 1 blogger on nanotech. In the total audience calculation, that blogger looks tiny and inconsequential under the power law calculation but in that niche that blogger is very much an influencer, probably talking to influencers. Similarly, if you measure the influence of blogs only on the biggest, it looks small; if you measure the influence of blogs on the mass of niches, it is big.

  • Seth doesn’t actually know that.
    That’s his fallacy. He states as fact that which is merely his opinion.
    Seth sometimes comes to our Thursday meetings. I joke with him, he’s taken negativity to a high art form. He’s a smart guy, but he’s not the only smart guy.
    Another example. Last year my dad got critically ill. We have a small family but it’s spread over the world. They would like to know how he’s doing. So (in theory, it was too early) we started a weblog so that the family could stay in touch, so we could have an archive, so everyone could ask their questions and we would only have to answer them once. The size of this “audience” is at most 20. They are not going to get that info from Glenn Reynolds or Jeff Jarvis. They may well read Salon and the NY Times, and they won’t have the info they want either.
    Seth and Clay are (if you don’t mind) wrong. They would say the telephone wasn’t a significant invention because reporters can use it to do interviews. But Aunt Mary can call neice Judy and explain how she makes her pasta sauce extra spicy without making it too greasy. The telephone is good for BOTH THINGS.
    As a worldwide publishing system, perhaps it is no great shakes compared to what came before (I’m not convinced btw), but it’s pretty sure the NY Times isn’t going to compete with my father’s weblog, or Aunt Judy’s.

  • Dave:
    I actually think this power-law rap is doing damage to the blog world because it makes it look less important than it is. The proper measurement is the whole.

  • “Person A” uses a Dell laptop to play video games and downlaod porn. “Person B” uses same Dell laptop model to write this great book which millions of people end up reading and have their lives positively affected by. In the end, the Dell is just a tool. Same with blogs, or a pencil, even. Just because Person A isn’t writing a best selling book doesn’t mean he’s not using his laptop correctly. And just because your blog isn’t read by thousand of amateur pundits doesn’t mean you’re not using it in a powerful and meaningful way.

  • Jeff: I believe, up to the last sentence, we (and Clay Shirky) are
    saying the same thing. That is, everyone can’t have a large global
    influence. Agreed? A reaction to that is to say, if one cannot have a
    large global influence, then it’s possible to have a large *local*
    influence, the “big fish in a small pond” effect. But, we agree, this
    does not refute the power law formulation, correct? It’s just
    rescaling it to a smaller universe. Crucially, you then also have to
    *rescale* *the* *influence*. Someone might be a big fish in small pond
    – but overall, they’re still a little fish. The “influencers” are then,
    overall, *small* influencers. It’s a mistake to think a thousand
    guppies add up to one shark. Moreover, even in each pond, there’s
    still only going to be a few big fish. I believe people either want to
    hear it as *big* influences, or that one can blithely add the
    influences without appropriate rescaling (think of the old joke about
    a “50-50” blend of horse and rabbit meat – one horse plus one rabbit).
    This last part – the rescaling – is a mathematical fact, not my opinion.
    Dave: As I’ve said, I lived through the bubble and all the talk about how
    The Internet was going to topple existing institutions. Some of it is
    essentially word-for-word identical to what I read about blogs. The
    reasons it failed are worth understanding, even if they are not fun.
    I strongly disagree with critics of blogs who sneer there’s something
    *wrong* with having a diary or a family group. But, in the grand
    scheme of things, such nice things will not overthrow journalism,
    bring down the nation-state, or usher in a new era of CryptoAnarchy, I
    mean, Emergent Democracy.

  • Hey Seth, I blogged the dotcom bubble. You can’t trump me on experience here. Aside from that, it’s a logical fallacy to conclude that excitement about one thing is no more or less valid than excitement about some other thing. You’re too smart to really believe that, and I’m too smart to fall for it. Try again.

  • BTW, who said blogging was going to overthrow journalism? I’ve heard and believe that journalism is not doing a great job, but that blogs are overthrowing it? Feh. That’s not what’s happening.

  • button

    I’m going to add to this thread, but only with some trepidation.
    If what I’m doing on my blog doesn’t matter, then how come CentCom reads it occasionally? I know why they read it usually, because I can see on my site meter what their inquery was. I didn’t set out to attract them as readers, although I’m happy to have them.
    But there is a creepy aspect to this: anyone can read it. That means that a Saudi prince can read it, the CIA can read it and even OBL can read it. That gives me pause to be a little more careful about what I may say on my blog.
    This is a new genre of material. We’ve had the elements before, but not in this unique combination. This is: Distributed Open Intelligence.
    We’ve had ‘Distributed’ with the Seti program, for one well-known example.
    And we’ve had ‘Open Intelligence.’
    But this is a new combination and genre. And, evidently, a new resource even for our Military.

  • I think the long power law tail is just as important as the head. The head is broadcasting and has far greater general influence, whereas hairs on the tail are microbroadcasting and have greater – forgive me – microinfluence, or influence within the circle of 50 people reading those blogs.
    I have something like 230 blog links according to Technorati. Many of those blogs have few or no blogs linking to them: newbies. I believe these people saw me on Blogger’s “Blogs of Note” and linked me, not really knowing where to start or who to link to. Some of the links also sprang from “Blogumentary” clips I posted, which got a lot of attention.
    I’m convinced my Technorati weight is inflated. Much of the time I’m just posting things about my life, links and commentary like everyone. You’d probably have to be interested in me as a person to be a regular reader. What I’m getting at – I think we should think about our “natural audience.” There are only a certain number of people that will be interested in what I write about, and it’s not a large number. But, I want to find all of them. That’s why Technorati’s “Interesting Newcomers” is so invaluable – if a small community of bloggers starts linking to one of their own, it’s like they’re giving that blog a promotion… it may have a natural readership a notch above, so we need ways to make that happen.
    I recently switched over to TypePad, which feels like starting over. I only have 26 incoming blog links now, but I know 90% of those bloggers very well. They are my core audience, they are who I write for, and they are probably more important to me than any other blogs because we have a relationship.