The noisy tragedy of the blog commons
Blogs are different than most other forms of media in one key respect: they stretch.
TV and radio confront the reality that there are only 24 hours in a day. They can’t put on more content, because there’s no down time.
Magazines and newspapers have to pay for paper, and that means ads, but there are only a finite number of people willing to pay. So the length finds a natural limit.
Billboards confront zoning realities.
Junk mail is gated by response rates.
But blogs… you can easily post 100 times a day. With a team, it might be a thousand.
This wouldn’t be a problem except for the fact that in many cases, volume leads to traffic. Take a look at the top 10 blogs and you’ll notice that many of them post dozens of times a day.
Just like the marketers of Oreo (now in 19 flavors of cookies) we’re dealing with clutter by making more clutter.
RSS fatigue is already setting in. While multiple posts get you more traffic, they also make it easy to lose loyal readers.
Without friction, without a gate on the clutter, we clearly face a commons problem. Here, though, instead of people taking too much of a shared physical good because they have nothing to lose, the problem is surplus. By writing too much, too often, we’re trouncing on the attention of the commons.
Thanks to Jouvenot for inspiring this the thought, but what should we do about it?
I think the answer is subtle and simple: over time, as blogs reach the mass market, the number of new readers coming in is going to go down, and the percentage of loyal readers will increase. The loyal readers are going to matter more.
Blogs with restraint, selectivity, cogency and brevity (okay, that’s a long way of saying "making every word count") will use attention more efficiently and ought to win.
In the meantime, though, I don’t see the world getting any quieter.
Small addendum: some have rightly pointed out that filters and tagging mean that the commons benefits from as much noise as possible… that each blogger blogs all she wants, and the good stuff gets dugg or tagged and the rest disappears.
I have no real argument with that, except that it begs the question of who’s looking through the chaff for the wheat. If someone has a blog where every single riff is a good one, you can bet that the eager beaver taggers are going to be there, waiting for the good stuff. If, on the other hand, you have a one in a thousand hit rate, the odds of your good stuff being found are small indeed. I think what I’m suggesting (not proposing… I’m not asking you to post less!) is that if you want to have a larger voice, it may pay be to be your own filter.