Blog Amnesty Day And The IMPORTANCE Of Linking To Smaller Blogs
We studiously try to avoid doing posts about blogging itself on TMV, because we consider it a news commentary and news information weblog, but here is a worthwhile exception:
skippy the bush kangaroo (who invented the word “blogtopia’) and Jon Swift have launched Blog Amnesty Day where they’re asking weblogs to link to five or six smaller blogs. (See their logo above).
(TMV columnist Shaun Mullen has already done A POST where he links to some smaller blogs on his own superb blog Kiko’s House.)
skippy (who writes in lower case and whose blog was mentioned by Jon Stewart and is a MUST READ for everyone) has this post that explains the concept quite well — it’s a three weekend concerted effort to “link down.” He also puts this in ideological terms –that progressives need to nurture a link network to counteract the “echo chamber on the right.” If you haven’t read skippy, he does “long form” posts occasionally but his real specialty is link-filled shorter posts that are quite witty and often deliciously blunt. Read his post. And read his blog each day.
Jon Swift, whose specialty is exceptionally well-written long-form posts (is he a writing coach on a daily newspaper? If not he should be) has an extensive post on this, but here is a key excerpt:
From the day I started this modest blog I have tried to follow one simple rule, the Golden Rule of Blogging: Blog unto others as you would have them blog unto you. I don’t call people nasty names because I don’t like being called nasty names. I don’t try to out pseudonymous bloggers because I don’t want to be outed. I don’t attack bloggers’ families because I don’t want my family attacked. And when someone is kind enough to add me to their blogroll, I add them to mine as well. It seems to me that it is the polite thing to do.
I remember how difficult it was to get people to notice my blog when I first started out. “Build it and they will come,” apparently only works with magic baseball fields. The only way to get anyone to notice my blog was to get them to link to me and that was not always easy. I linked to other bloggers and clicked on those links hoping they would notice my link in Sitemeter. I sent emails to other bloggers asking them to take a look at my latest piece or to add me to their blogrolls. I instituted my “Liberal Blogrolling Policy” offering to exchange links with anyone who linked to me. As more blogs began to link to me and add me to their blogrolls, a curious thing began to happen. More people came to my blog from those links and from Google. And many of those readers then visited the blogs that I linked to. Though it cost nothing to link to someone, I realized that on the Internet links are capital. Every link has value. And when two bloggers link to each other, they both profit.
More than our view of that below. But first:
Here are six links to blogs (one of them that we have linked to often on TMV). As per our custom, these blogs represent differing viewpoints:
(1) TMV has regularly linked to smaller blogs since it started in December 2003. I wasn’t going to mention it, but three emails this morning noted this. We don’t publicize it, but bloggers who have emailed me or talked to me (I talk LONGER than I write and love to talk on the phone or on Internet talk shows) know what I have said for four years. Our links to smaller blogs or less well known blogs can be found in all of our roundups and in our formal linkfests (Center of Attention and the two versions of Around the Sphere). We also often use many links that bloggers email us.
In fact, many of TMV’s cobloggers were invited to write regularly on TMV because they came from smaller blogs (that were smaller ONLY because they were NOT being linked to by the big left and right blogs) who sent us such incredibly great stuff we linked to it all the time. It just became EASIER to set them up and let them link and post their own stuff on TMV as they wanted (there is one more person right now who may be set up soon for the same reason). They have been encouraged to do some “pointer posts” (within reason) to help their own blogs grow.
(2) There is a flaw in how the blogosphere is set up. It is TRUE that a new blog — particularly those who are not of the hard-left or hard-right — can have enormous trouble getting linked to by the big blogs. So how can they build a readership? Blogs need links. I have seen blogs that spent a ton of money on advertising be downsized or vanish because ads don’t build the readership. Links that drive to content that appeals to readers who want to come back for more build readership.
When I started most bloggers were nice but one was particularly snotty and emailed me about “Ohh yes, it’s so hard to get noticed” and basically said I was not “ready” to get a coveted link to his blog (which I have never read or linked to since) or to be on his blogroll.
I had the same advice from a local agent when I went into my day job. “When you’re ready, we’ll start booking you.” So I went out and booked my own stuff and now perform full-time all over the country. (I now work with an agent who books me into fairs and this summer I will be on the road in my van, performing at 8 fairs in Wyoming, Montana and Iowa during a 6 week period).
But it is really NOT like that when it comes to most “big” bloggers. MOST truly will encourage small bloggers and answer emails (there is one progressive blogger who not once in four years has answered my emails and as a result I personally do not read or link to him so courtesy does help). Yet, to be realistic, with some one million blogs (hey do all of you guys wanna exchange blogroll links?) the top-tier bloggers (I am not one of them) can’t answer every email from a new blogger.
TMV steadily grew due to several reasons (and hopefully it is still growing):
–I was encouraged to keep blogging by some top and smaller bloggers on the left and right from the outset. They answered my emails. I spent a lot of time on my posts and even though they felt a lot of what I wrote was full of crap (few agree with everything I write in a post, particularly people on the left and right), they not only linked to me but sent me emails that encouraged me to keep writing. One, Dean Esmay, didn’t agree with me on everything but invited me to coblog on his site on weekends: I did for more than a year (and his readership almost never demonized me or name-called even though they disagreed with my take on things).. I have GREAT respect for issue-oriented bloggers on the left, center and right who link to and write on issues because for no or little money they take time out of their finite lives to think and write.
One blogger, the legendary miliblogger Citizen Smash, who has stopped blogging, as it turned out lived 5 minutes from me. We had dinner several times and he kept me from quitting blogging at least THREE TIMES since I felt TMV gave lots of links but got few back and seemed shunned by blogs on the right and left in terms of linkage and audience.
Each time I told him the same thing: we did a strong post that some on the left disagreed with, and lost a big chunk of readers. Or we did a post some on the right disagreed with and lost a chunk of readers. And we were not getting links from blogs on the right or left or even smaller blogs.
As SMASH talked and rescued me from quitting, I made a decision (that is hard to stick to but is still operative) which is to just focus on trying to provide good CONTENT to readers, forgetting about pleasing blogs on the right or left or even some in the center (since TMV’s character changes each day depending on who blogs) and hope the audience would find TMV due to that. I was NOt interested in the politics of the blogosphere, deals with other blogs, alliances or pleading for links. I wanted TO WRITE.
But it is NOT that easy. And its easier for me and those of us on TMV with newspaper background to do here at TMV because we love to write — and those of us who worked in the media are like kids in a candy shop because now we no longer have editors who can tell us how long or short we can write or what to write about. This freedom is our impetus.
BUT lot of blogs are started by people with great skills who are NOT young people — or people who ARE young people. And because they aren’t names or established, they can’t get links to their truly fine work.
They may GIVE UP unless they GET links. Again: these are people with GREAT TALENT but because they’re not part of “the club” (the established left and right blog networks where if someone gets in their readership will grow steadily) they can’t get links.
(3) The problem is in the inherent evolution of blogs as ideological vehicles. Since many blogs, particularly in election years, become “foot soldiers” for various candidates, there is a tendency not to link to posts they don’t totally agree with or blogs that can’t link back and provide reciprocal readership. The danger? That the last blogs standing are all pitching candidates and particular parties.
Remember that blogs were originally touted as this incredible new semi-journalistic infodevice — interconnected, involved in a continued discussion, and comprised of citizen journalists.
There may be an element of that, but blogs increasingly seem to be segmented into left/right groups that will only link to those they already agree with (some folks apparently still think an opposing idea causes brain cancer but we’d argue strictly reaffirming and pasting what you already totally believe could cause brain atrophy), the discussion among blogs and in comments often resembles screaming and trying to negatively define those who hold hold other ideas, and few blogs are really doing citizen journalism.
Blogs have become internet versions of talk radio shows at worst, internet op-ed pages at best.
(4) Blogs are supposed to be discussions, which should assume that there is more than one argument. But too often only the left links to the left, only the right links to the right. If the trend continues, it makes it harder than ever for bloggers to write what THEY feel and see, versus what they think they NEED to say to get a link from a bigger blog that will help provide them with readership. In other words, the only way now for many blogs to GET readership is to write posts FOR the big blogs, in essence.
(5) Reciprocal linkage helps but it should NOT become a REQUIRED equation. TMV links far more than it receives but we never have demanded or hinted that we need a link back in return. My only personal rule and bias is that I do not revisit or link to blogs that personally go after TMV or its writers. I certainly have no desire to link to a post that has string of comments under the post demonizing TMV. Demonizing a site or writers is not the same as discussion.
Oxblog’s David Adesnik used to have excellent blog-to-blog discussions with Matthew Yglesias. That was blogging at ITS BEST: a) neither pressured or demanded the other answer them or put the other on the spot b) they discussed without that “rage” or scolding tone that blogs have fallen into when writing about other blogs that disagree with them.
The highly personal attack with that rage-filled tone may be a turn-on to some, but in my own PERSONAL case with X hours in a day, I simply pass on those blogs (yesterday I did three shows at two schools in northern CA and drove 320 miles south to Salinas where this is written).
So Blog Amnesty Day is vital. But think about THIS:
When I was a kid on Mother’s Day I’d say to my Mother (who is now 86 and still thriving):
“Happy Mother’s Day! But, Mom, why isn’t there a KIDS DAY?”
And she’d look for a moment, smile and say:
“But Joey. Every day is kids day.”
So this is Blog Amnesty Day when you can link to smaller blogs.
But for bloggers on the right, left and center. Every day should be Blog Amnesty Day.