Another day, another top blog list

16 August 2005

Feedster has produced a top 500 blog list, an act that has triggered another round of conversations. They tend to split along the lines of "hooray, a list to kick Technorati's butt" or "why can't people stop doing these lists?"

Unlike the recent ComScore survey, Jason Calcanis likes this list. But, then again, Engadget comes top of the list. Presumably no problems with the methodology for Calcanis in this instance. Jeff Jarvis has taken pot shots at the list and its inevitable concentration on populist blogs. For him, the world of blogging as seen through these lists is all a bit too big-old-media.

I can see Jarvis's point. If blogs were set up as a more intimate way of publishing, glorying mass-market sites seems a bit strange. It all threatens to turn the blog industry into another form of mass media. But that is happening anyway: the top-blog lists do not help that transition nor hinder it. Money will drive media companies towards mass-market blogs, not lists. And money comes with large groups of people.

Despite the best efforts of Internet pioneers to develop forms of communication that favour narrowcasting, a large section of the public continues to gravitate towards mass-market approaches. That's why media companies are able to make money. Doing things at an individual level is expensive. One person talking to many is much cheaper. Luckily for publishers, people like to be able to sit back and be entertained or informed rather than engage in direct conversation with everyone who wants to tell them something.

Even as it becomes easier to serve narrow, specialist audiences, sites are popping up that use the power of the crowd to homogenise the Internet. Take Digg. This "Slashdot killer" asks people to vote for posts they like and ignore ones they don't. So the only stuff you see featured is that which is popular. At this site, people like what other people like. And, for some people, homogenous view of what the Internet has to offer is better than the slightly more personalised view that supposedly detracts from a site like Slashdot.

Yes, lists will favour mass-market blogs. But they will be called mass-market blogs for a reason.