How do you know if it’s working? (II of II)

The thinking right now about blogs and their effects suggests that the real challenge for any blog and its success is not just establishing a base of loyal readers whose regular traffic patterns bring them to your site, but also finding ways to grow your readership, however deliberately, into the segments of your target population who make decisions, shape policy, and otherwise influence the Way Things are Done. As Drezner and Farrel point out, “there are important limits to the political [and by extension, other kinds of] influence” blogs can have. “They are less important because of their direct effects” on the subjects and people they write about, “than their indirect” effects. Namely, “they influence important players … who in turn frame issues for a wider public.” By this model, sg blogs will succeed if or when they are regularly read by the Les Beasleys and Claude Hoppers and Eddie Crooks of the world. But I’m not sure that model is really the best way to think about it in this case; at least it’s not the way I tend to think about it. Instead, I measure success by the number of regular readers who visit the site and, most important, engage with the ideas and/or demonstrate some way in which reading the blog caused them to reinterpret or (re)examine their own thinking about a subject. Perhaps this is an opportunistic rationale for me, one that conveniently measures success in ways that don’t rely on people like Eddie Crook or Les Beasley who will probably never read this site anyway. Still, I think there’s something to be said for my theory, if only because sg is such a closely knit small-world in which everyone seems connected by only a few degrees of separation with everyone else. In this kind of environment, fans have a much closer and, uhm, “impactful” relationship with artists and policy makers than other subgroups. And because blogs are so new to sg (honestly, I don’t really count Danny Jones’ and Jerry Kirskeys’, but even if I did, those ventures are not that old either), message boards, word of mouth, and other informal networks will go quite a long way, I trust, in popularizing the recent explosion (relatively) of sg blogs.

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