Sifry's data about the state of blogging: Is the MSM 'winning?'

Katie Chang, intern at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society, summarized (scroll down to the News section to see “Sifry’s Blogosphere Report”) Berkman Fellow David Weinberger’s observations on the State of the Blogosphere report by Technorati founder and director David Sifry.

Sifry pointed out in his report that MSM sites like the New York Times and CNN still dominate online news but that certain blogs are increasingly influential. Sifry brought attention to “The Magic Middle” — about 155,000 blogs that have accrued between 20 and 1,000 inbound links. These are often niche sites “that are interesting, topical, and influential, and in some cases are radically changing the economics of trade publishing.”

Berkman Fellow David Weinberger, interpreted Sifry’s data about the MSM’s dominance this way: “As more people blog, the sites that we all read in common remain the MSM. … But as blogging spreads, interests get more diverse, so there are fewer blogs that we all read. … Does this mean the mainstream media are “winning”? Nah, it just means that they remain the main stream. We don’t yet know if they are a habit we’re going to overcome, an institution waiting to be Wikipedia-ed, or if they will transform themselves enough to continue being our common ground.”

About Diana Day

By day, Diana is the Internet and Communication Technologies Coordinator at Westridge School for Girls in Pasadena, CA.

By night, Diana moonlights as the Digital Diva for the's education blog

Diana recently received her master's degree in online journalism from USC. She was managing editor of the readers' blog at Online Journalism Review.

Before attending USC, she was a schoolteacher and reading specialist for 14 years in both Philadelphia and Los Angeles.

While at USC, Diana launched two online news publications --, a magazine for parents of twins and multiples, and, a community journalism site for Sierra Madre, CA.


  1. Another off-headline. No one made the suggestion that the so-called MSM is “winning”; the suggestion from Weinberger was that it wasn’t the question.

    I think what you mean is, does the data suggest winner-take-all? Sifry doesn’t want it to be. And I don’t think it is– but we can use the data from the NEC study of 4 years ago in Modeling the Web, which explains the different distributions for different niches.

    To Sifry’s credit, he does point out that the main threat is not to general interest publications (aka “the MSM”) but to trade publishers. And the reasons to me are obvious– the trade pubs have a much fuzzier line separating editorial and business and PR, as well as the dominant publishing schedule of once a week or more. So the NYT or CNN have less to worry about blogs than trade publishers.

    Now the blog era is bearing upon us. My question from the new gatekeepers series was essentially this, for a given niche, who’s at the top? Should it be a solitary blogger or a group publication? And my conclusion was that the solitary bloggers are no more fair as gatekeepers than traditional publishers are. If we want to encourage fairness– the aim of many media reformers– I propose that structural measures are much more central than the good will of an independent publisher.

    That said, alot of the technical trade press has been ahead of the curve on introducing participatory features, beyond blogs. (I do have the data to show this and I’m sorry it’s not ready yet– this has been research I first mentioned to Robert several weeks back.) Furthermore, in my specific field, I’ve noticed the publisher ebizQ take some solitary bloggers under its fold. The one nice thing about being the trade press is that money and audience come easier, so it’s easier to pull in independent bloggers (if there’s an existing trade press, granted).

    BTW, my trouble with Sifry’s data and his interpretations are threefold. First of all, he’s basic aim to market blogs and propel Technorati as a necessary service. For example, Slashdot is not deemed blogworthy enough and labelled MSM. Second, the use of inbound links as a measure has been criticized, and Weinberger even conceded the criticism in the comments to his post. Lastly, there have been longstanding complaints about Technorati’s abuse of the word “authority” when they ought to be using the more neutral word “influence.”