The big butt

Dave Sifry has some interesting thoughts on what he politely calls the magic middle of the blogosphere — Matt Cutts of Google called it the big butt (between the tiny head and the long tail).

This realm of publishing, which I call “The Magic Middle” of the attention curve, highlights some of the most interesting and influential bloggers and publishers that are often writing about topics that are topical or niche, like Chocolate and Zucchini on food, Wi-fi Net News on Wireless networking, TechCrunch on Internet Companies, Blogging Baby on parenting, Yarn Harlot on knitting, or Stereogum on music – these are blogs that are interesting, topical, and influential, and in some cases are radically changing the economics of trade publishing.

At Technorati, we define this to be the bloggers who have from 20-1000 other people linking to them. As the chart above shows, there are about 155,000 people who fit in this group. And what is so interesting to me is how interesting, exciting, informative, and witty these blogs often are. I’ve noticed that often these blogs are more topical or focused on a niche area, like gardening, knitting, nanotech, mp3s or journalism and a great way to find them has been through Blog Finder….

Given that there’s a lot of interesting topical posts by influential or authoritative bloggers in those topic areas, we formulated an idea: Why not use these authoritative bloggers as a new kind of editorial board? Watch what they do, what they post about, and what they link to as input to a new kind of display – a piece of media that showed you the most interesting posts and conversations that related to a topic area, like food, or technology, or politics, or PR. The idea is to use the bloggers that know the most about an area or topic to help spot the interesting trends that may never hit the “A-list”. We call this new section Explore, and we’ve seeded it with some of the most interesting topics that we could find. But one of the nice things about Explore is that there are no gatekeepers, and that anyone who writes interesting topical blog posts can get included simply by tagging his blog and tagging his posts….

Yes, it’s not about an A-list. It’s about the niches and the experts and the influencers in them.

: By the way, one of the most-used search terms that land people here is “big ass.” I used that phrase when I wrote about a big ad I was going to take. I am assuming and hoping that people who search for “big ass” and land here are disappointed. I hope and assume the same will be true of people who search on the words in this headline.

  • With any good blogger, you’ve got two things going on, it seems:

    1. Specialized content
    2. An engaging persona

    Let’s not discount #2 because its very existence as a factor brings up this question: Would it possible for someone to stick a photograph of a really attractive person in a blog and prattle away about nothing and get a ton of consistent readers?

    I don’t think it’s possible right now, because a good number of us who are in the blogosphere are people who are genuinely interested in new ideas, and happy to talk to others and have dialogue. We want to have useful things to say to people; we want to be relevant, we want to be helpful.

    I think as more and more people blog, an enormous problem is going to arise: #1 will become indistinguishable from #2, thus creating the degeneration of both critical elements of blogging, and an inability for good content to become popular and stay popular.

    Which is sad, because blogging is really writing, and it could improve our reading habits and our listening habits – taking time to reread what another has written might be considered the same thing as listening well, and some of us hold that to be a critical element of democratic society.

  • Yahuda Cohn

    God, this blog is boring. That’s probably why there are very few posts. I remember not that long ago (well maybe longer) there were more than 100 comments in a single thread. Not anymore. Posters have left for more interesting and engaging pastures. And, no wonder. This blog sucks. Couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy — Jeff.

  • Rob

    It’s also interesting to note that people who fall into this “magic middle” are not likely to be subject to the daily pull of news stories back and forth. A site about knitting isn’t going to detour off on today’s media boondoggle.

    Bigger sites are, it seems to me, almost certain to be very driven by the top stories of the day. When some blog in the Big Butt is talking about something, it’s a lot more likely to be something that genuinely interests them. For example, Glenn Reynolds can’t skip over silly comments made by Ann Coulter, but Joe’s Fishing Hole can skip that silliness all day long.

    In a way, this makes the Big Butt much more dangerous to the MSM: they simply don’t care about the silly made-up stories. They don’t even have to say they don’t care.

  • Niche bloggers are bloggers with real expertise on what they are writing about. Just look at medbloggers, edubloggers, science bloggers and blawgs. The best way to discover blogs in your area of interest is to start with topical blog carnivals. Check out their archives, look at the hosts and the contributors. See who else they link to and expand your circle that way.

  • Rob & (ironically enough) the troll have brought up two really good questions:

    1. According to Rob’s description, the “magic middle” is numerous but devoted to issues they consider important. So is it representative of citizen participation in media at its best? (Or is there something inherently hierarchical about the concept of media that we might be missing here?)

    2. What do numbers of reads and comments mean, exactly? The question of choice in terms of media creates the question of media for whom. (Again, is this really media we’re dealing with?)

  • Well, Yahuda, now that you’ve gotten that off your chest, what’s stopping you. Bye-bye now. Have a nice day.

  • This is, I think, what the recent New York magazine fails to cover in their article “Blogs to Riches.”

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