After the Gold Rush

The state of blogdom hasn’t changed much since the Silurian Period, notes Robert Stacy McCain:

Brains, talent, hard work and persistence ultimately win out in any competition, and the losers go home. That’s what has happened in the blogosphere since the Gold Rush days of the Great Blogging Boom. (Aside: When was ’49 in that analogy? That is to say, was the boom year 2002 or 2005 or 2006?)

I’m on record as dating the Beginning of the Boom to September 12, 2001: once we’d grasped the enormity of the horrors the day before, a lot of us felt the need to speak up.

Were I to go strictly by the spinning of my own SiteMeter, I’d have to say 2005; I was pulling about 700 visitors a day back then. Today, I’m (mostly) below 500, but I have more than 200 folks pulling the feed, none of whom advance the meter one whit, so apparently my traffic has stabilized over the past half-decade. Then again, someone with no traffic enjoys, or perhaps resents, the same level of stability.

As I have often pointed out, the people who are most successful in the blogosphere don’t match the popular stereotype of dropouts in pajamas ranting from their mother’s basement. They are people of considerable professional accomplishment in their offline careers, often with advanced degrees and specialized knowledge that is their stock-in-trade online. (I’ve never met Eugene Volokh, but if I did, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t be wearing pajamas.)

I don’t think of myself as being especially accomplished in Real Life, at least in terms of Bacon, Bringing Home Of, but I’ll cop to “specialized knowledge”; as I no longer have to remind upper management, my particular skill set is pretty close to unique. Perhaps in reaction, I play the generalist on line, offering a hint of this and a smattering of that. And I haven’t owned any actual pajamas since the late 1960s, but that’s another matter entirely.

Winners win and losers lose, and self-publishing software has not changed that fact, except to allow some people to succeed as writers who did not previously have the opportunity to write professionally.

And while I’m not anywhere close to having a book deal or anything like that, I figure I’ve carved out my own little niche here, and as I said in the waning days of 2010: “[I]n a decade and a half of slogging away at the keyboard — and the same keyboard at that, I’ll have you know — I personally have gone from having no influence whatsoever to having extremely little influence. To me, that’s a major upgrade.”


  1. ‘The End of Blogging’? No, It Just Proves That Nothing Succeeds Like Success : The Other McCain »

    5 February 2011 · 3:25 pm

    […] […]

  2. Brother J »

    5 February 2011 · 11:11 pm

    ” I personally have gone from having no influence whatsoever to having extremely little influence. To me, that’s a major upgrade.”

    Right you are. I’d take that too.

  3. Brother J »

    5 February 2011 · 11:12 pm

    Oh, and congratulations on the comeing Instalanche. Brace yourself.

  4. CGHill »

    5 February 2011 · 11:21 pm

    OMG, he’s right! WP Super Cache, don’t fail me now!

  5. KingShamus »

    5 February 2011 · 11:29 pm

    I think you’re right about 9/11; a lot of bloggers started up in reaction to that event. When the going get’s traumatic, some of the traumatized try to work it all out instead of hiding under the bedsheets.

  6. Chuck Williams »

    5 February 2011 · 11:29 pm

    Perfectly said

  7. SenatorMark4 »

    5 February 2011 · 11:34 pm

    I think you marked the date that changed us all as correct by saying it was September 12, 2001. I know the spurs I bought for my political run against Cornyn in 2008 gave me exactly extremely little influence. I mean, really, he had $10 million and, on the other hand, I only bought a new hat and spurs to step out in reality and speak against the establishment.. I just knew I’d get elected as THE most honest politician because I actually dressed as a clown. However….he’s still there because people prefer illusions.

  8. Henry »

    5 February 2011 · 11:42 pm

    All of us with a little influence make up the Long Tail, which turns out to have a lot of influence, collectively.

  9. Chris Muir »

    5 February 2011 · 11:45 pm

    You are One of the O-Riginals®,Dustbury..!

  10. Agoraphobic Plumber »

    6 February 2011 · 12:54 am

    I found myself in a similar position, only it was my (brief) association (read: link on his homepage) with Our Dear Captain.

    I blogged at that point with a white fury. I complained. I blasted the people running the country. I defended Bush by linking people who now hate his legacy (are you there still, LGF?)

    I finally had to subside, because of the simple fact that I had no more to give. In the early-to-mid-2000’s I had a lot to say, and I like to think I said it well. Looking back on it through Google, I said it less than well but it still needed to be said.

    The point is, look at InstaPundit. The dude NEVER QUITS. And when he does, he has really great guest bloggers. I can’t compete with that. Period. So I adopted a new blog nickname and started just commenting to the blogs of those that *had* the energy to deal with the nasty emails from lefties and the character assassinations. I don’t need that in my life. No way, no how.

    I do still check back on my old blog that was linked at one time by “Captain’s quarters”, and I still get referrals from that very old URL. I look at the Cap’n’s success since then at Hot Air and wonder if I couldn’t have ridden his coattails a lot further. But then I realize that he already puts out most of the same words I would into most of the same audience. And if that is being taken care of…who needs me?

  11. PTL »

    6 February 2011 · 1:00 am

    You can put 2 billion nanorods on an area slightly larger than a square inch.
    When you start to pull one rod all the others will follow as a single string. Keep pulling the string.

  12. Mick »

    6 February 2011 · 1:23 am

    > I haven’t owned any actual pajamas since the late 1960s

    That’s reassuring. I don’t own pajamas either. I thought I was permanently disqualified from blogging.

  13. Sandro »

    6 February 2011 · 2:23 am

    Well said.

  14. Francis W. Porretto »

    6 February 2011 · 5:19 am

    Some of us just have to be satisfied with Banquovian status, Charles. Of course, he was rather…dead. Come to think of it, Cassandra didn’t get such a great deal, either…

  15. fernstalbert »

    6 February 2011 · 5:49 am

    Thanks for blogging. I love the back and forth and exchange of ideas – many of the comments are brilliant. Not trying to butter you up – but your critical analysis of your traffic and influence is amusing . Cheers

  16. Assistant Village Idiot »

    6 February 2011 · 7:37 am

    I went to blogging when the older sons moved out, partly because there were discussions I still wanted to have, and ideas I wanted to develop and put into clear expression, just to make they at least heard it. 80 visitors a day, part of the Maggie’s Farm/Tigerhawk/No Oil For Pacifists nexus. I don’t bust and link and connive to raise traffic – though I do run the occasional picture of meerkats, because google images sends you the site, not just the image. Plus I like ’em.

    So almost no influence, but a good deal more than I would have just chatting in the narthex or making the occasional social or political observation at work. It is in fact more audience for my thoughts than nearly everyone in the history of mankind has ever had. And if others have more, good for them.

  17. Mick Stockinger »

    6 February 2011 · 8:11 am

    As someone who used to have 10,000 visitors a day (on UNCoRRELATED), I take a different view of the matter. I still blog, sporadically rather than obsessively on, and to a much smaller audience. I had my epiphany in 2008, when John McCain won the nomination in spite of a solid wall of blogger opposition. It turns out that blogging to a bunch of like-minded people is not the same as exerting influence. I find myself being far more ‘influential’ on facebook, where the audience isn’t self-selected for a specific political outlook, and I can actually sway fence-sitters with a well-crafted perspective, not to mention the joy of cross rhetorical swords with lefties in real-time.

    Ironically, the only blog I read regularly now is Instapundit, which when you think about it, is basically the DrudgeReport with better technology and a Carsonesque host.

    In the final analysis, commentary blogging finds itself captive to the laws of journalistic gravity–access and forum trump all other considerations.

  18. Matt »

    6 February 2011 · 8:47 am

    Ah, I remember the go-go days of late ’01, when our only worries were terrorism and comment spam. I just can’t recall why I suddenly quit in ’08.

  19. Linda »

    6 February 2011 · 9:32 am

    I’m gonna rehash my old comment at your quoted post:

    A la “It’s A Wonderful Life,” one never knows the effect he’s had on folks around him.

    And also the Kevin Bacon principle.

  20. Charlie Broadway »

    6 February 2011 · 9:47 am

    I’ve been blogging since ’05. I compare it to bowling. Anyone can roll the occasional strike, but the average score is not so great. But if you score really well on a consistent basis, then you get to go pro and make money. But nobody is going to ask for your autograph at the airport even if you are a champion.

    I just know it feels good to roll a strike once in awhile.

  21. miriam »

    6 February 2011 · 10:10 am

    I’ve gone from no influence to negligible influence. Most of my readers just want to read about my eccentric family anyway and are not interested in my insightful opinions.

    I did get an Instalaunche, though.

  22. Suzy »

    6 February 2011 · 11:05 am

    Via facebook, I’ve gone from having no influence to having a little bit with relatives and former high school classmates. With my blog, I hope to influence a few strangers. Actually, I don’t want to influence them so much as just have my words read and appreciated. To quote from the movie Troy: “Men are haunted by the vastness of eternity. And so we ask ourselves: will our actions echo across the centuries? Will strangers hear our names long after we are gone, and wonder who we were, how bravely we fought, how fiercely we loved?”

  23. SurferDoc »

    6 February 2011 · 11:44 am

    These days I comment on others’ blogs and forums, supporting those I agree with and firing shots at the leftoids and the phonies. It works for me. I’m proud of all who fought the good fight and I’m proud of my tiny part in it.

  24. Teresa »

    6 February 2011 · 11:59 am

    Ha! Even with a blog I have no influence. Just a place for me to blather to the world at large. And now days I don’t even blather about interesting stuff. Life 101 keeps intruding on the world of blogging. Funny how that works.

    OTOH I’m pretty sure I don’t want to influence people or even believe I can. Thank Heaven! A scary thought that is, me telling people what to think….

  25. McGehee »

    6 February 2011 · 9:15 pm

    Influence is overrated. Also, my grapes are sour.

  26. Eric Scheie »

    7 February 2011 · 6:57 pm

    Wonderful. I started and quit blogging back in 2002. Then I started up again in 2003 and tried to keep going. As to influence, I try to be AGAINST it. I don’t even like to influence myself, yet I have always considered you to be a good influence on me! Yet another of the endless contradictions that intrigue me.

    Keep it up!

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