Thursday, December 19, 2002

IF INSTAPUNDIT DIDN'T EXIST WE'D HAVE TO CREATE HIM: Jim Henley points out that there is a leftist Instapundit: good ol' Atrios. And Jim points out that he called for something Atrios-like six months ago:

What the Left lacks is an Instapundit. Sure, there are popular liberal bloggers, like Josh Marshall and - help me out here... Eric Alterman? But there's no hugely popular liberal/left blogger who is willing to reinvest his readership capital in subsidiaries, as Glenn Reynolds has done. Marshall and Alterman seem to have the legacy-media horror of "downlinking" that Virginia Postrel discerned in Andrew Sullivan. You can criticize Reynolds for preferring to link to weak material by people with congenial opinions rather than strong material by people who challenge them. (Unqualified Offerings has no personal standing to complain any more.) But Reynolds happily "shared the wealth" and helped nurture a cadre of libertarian-flavored center-right supporters of an expansive war, and likely increased his own readership by doing so. (For Good - or Evil... yah yah yah.)

Who will do the same for the new crowd? Don't the likes of Marshall and Alterman want a posse?

Marshall doesn't--his blog links are Alterman, Mickey Kaus and that New Republic thing--whereas Alterman has a pretty good blogroll. But Atrios is starting to have a lgf-like fanbase in terms of having excited, like-minded individuals reading his site, along with spirited disagreements in the comments boxes. (Jim, where's your comments?) And Jim's post leads us back to one of my favorite Virginia Postrel posts, where she explains the awful truth about how to climb the ladder in medialand:

FACTS OF LIFE: Eric Olsen at Tres Producers has raised a minor ruckus by noticing that Andrew Sullivan almost never links to other bloggers and generally fails to give credit where it's due. Eric might have also noted that Andrew is the rare blogger who never identifies readers who send him letters, regardless of what those readers might wish. (Obviously, some would prefer to be anonymous. But they're almost certainly a minority.) A single byline keeps the focus on the Main Man. It's a savvy media strategy.

This is the way the professional media world is. You become prominent, first and foremost, by knowing the right people and then, secondarily, by attacking or crediting people more prominent than yourself. (They stay prominent by not responding to you by name, a tactic well-honed by neocon intellectuals who almost never identify, much less quote, the objects of their criticism. Exhibit A: Francis Fukuyama.) If you must mention someone less prominent than you are, make sure it is someone much less well known, so you can be recognized for your wide reading or noblesse oblige.

In short: Promote your friends. Mention your (more famous) mentors. But don't be a fool. There is no career-enhancing reason ever to cite someone who might prove a competitor, make a cogent argument against you, or get credit for an idea you could have claimed. Andrew Sullivan is so good at this strategy that he probably doesn't even realize he's following it.

Not so here in Blogland, where Google is the great equalizer and everybody can write down what they want and have a good chance that somebody's going to read it, by linking to it or by having somebody search it out. You just, y'know, can't make a career out of doing this, as Jeff Jarvis is always pointing out.

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