This week hundreds of liberal bloggers and online activists will gather for the YearlyKos Convention in Chicago, IL. YearlyKos is inspired by Markos Moulitsas Zúniga’s blog, DailyKos.com. He has been the darling of both the online and mainstream media outlets since he began blogging in 2002. The second YearlyKos is a chance for the “netroots community” to share strategies on “expressing viewpoints” and “building consensus.” By those standards, it seems like it should be a short conference. I imagine it goes something like this: So, are we going to continue to compare Bush to Hitler and call conservatives stupid, homophobic racists? Great, meeting adjourned, see ya next year!
The advent of YearlyKos has led reporters to question whether there is a true conservative counterpart. The San Francisco Chronicle compared YearlyKos to the Conservative Political Action Conference, though concluded that it didn’t quite measure up. “CPAC doesn't have an online community. And conservatives don't have anything quite like the DailyKos blog, either,” states the Chronicle’s Joe Garafoli. No, CPAC is not a conference for bloggers, but it is a conference that has been at the forefront in including bloggers in the program, as well as giving them media credentials.
Robert Bluey, director of the Center for Media and Public Policy at The Heritage Foundation, said, “While it was started long before anyone had ever heard of blogging, it’s been catering to bloggers for years. At this year’s conference, Bloggers’ Row was overflowing with political bloggers and candidates were making pit stops to make their case to the new power players.” Each week Bluey also organizes the Conservative Bloggers Briefing in Washington, DC. The prominent conservative lawmakers and pundits that have addressed the meetings are evidence of their success. Discussions have been held with Robert Novak, Newt Gingrich, Angela McGlowan, Bay Buchanan, Minority Leader John Boehner, Congressmen Jeff Flake, Mike Pence and Thaddeus McCotter, among many others.
Sure conservative bloggers don’t get the same accolades from the mainstream media, but they are on the rise. Unlike their conservative counterparts, liberal bloggers have not been successful in crossing over to traditional outlets like books and talk radio.
Markos is just one of a slew of liberal bloggers who have been anointed by the media as influential and cutting-edge. Influential because they said so and cutting edge because their puerile ramblings are liberally sprinkled with the f-word. Other bloggers that have caught the media’s eye include Ana Marie Cox (the original “Wonkette”) and Arianna Huffington.
Arianna and Markos were absurdly hailed as serious rivals of DrudgeReport.com. Ana Marie was given a primo job at Time magazine. All three had book deals and were showered with glowing reviews in the New York Times, The Washington Post, Vanity Fair, USA Today, People, and The Village Voice. They were guests on respectable news shows like NBC’s Meet the Press, ABC’s Good Morning America and CNN’s Reliable Sources, as well as non-respectable shows like MSNBC’s Countdown with Keith Olbermann. In addition to excessive coverage, the media insisted these bloggers were rising stars and changing politics as we know it.
While their stature may have risen, their book sales did not. According to Nielsen Bookscan, Markos, Ana Marie and Arianna all had disappointing book sales despite their hype. In its first week of sales, Markos’s book Crashing the Gate sold only 253 copies. Marie’s Dog Days, a novel based on her blogging experiences in DC, sold just over 5,000 copies. Arianna has written two books since launching her blog and neither have made it to the New York Times’ bestseller list. Her most recent was a feel-good bore titled, On Becoming Fearless, published in September 2006. It sold less than 27,000 copies despite massive mainstream media promotion and all of Arianna's rich friends.
Perhaps these numbers provide a truer picture of their online readership. Sure they can boast about inflated hits on their sites, but when it comes time to pay for content their fans aren’t lining up in bookstores.
HuffingtonPost.com and DailyKos.com will never reach the depths of Drudge because they are the county fair freak shows. At some point, everyone – liberal and conservative, young and old – goes in to gawk at the freaks. On their way out, reasonable people will agree that while it might have been entertaining for a few seconds, it was also a waste of time (and money).