Minnesota politics crossed a threshold when Michael Brodkorb was elected Vice Chair of the state Republican Party. His name was well known to many people as a blogger for Minnesota Democrats Exposed (MDE), a site that has a name that pretty much speaks to its content. To many, this signals an endorsement of blogging as a way to advance in politics. Yet if you look closely at the political blogs here in Minnesota, you can see that the influence MDE enjoys is masked by an amazing fact – hardly anyone reads it or, for that matter, most of the other Minnesota political blogs.
We can get at least some idea of a website’s traffic from data provided by Alexa, a division of amazon.com. They take data on site visits by people who have installed their toolbar and extrapolate it out to give a hint of traffic. It’s not perfect, but it’s what we have. Relative rankings versus all sites on the ‘net are going to be at least close.
I used the data they provide on “Reach”, or the percent of all website visits all over the ‘net in the last 3 months, to compare to my own stats to get an estimate of any site’s unique visits per month. It’s far from perfect, but it’s certainly ballpark. I went through all the important media sites I could think of to get a view of not just the political blogs but all the outlets that influence people’s lives. It’s far from a comprehensive list, but you can look up your own faves and plug them in.
The caveats are many: I could not include some important blogs such as MPR’s excellent News Cut because it is part of the MPR site, not on its own. These are counts of “unique visits” which may include 1 to many pages before the reader clicks off into the gloaming, and are not page counts. Similarly, one person who reads the same blog 4 times a month is counted 4 times, once per visit. I have to say it again – the estimates of unique visits per month are only ballpark estimates, extrapolated from my own experience.
With all that in mind, here are some key media outlets in Minnesota, sorted by rank over the whole ‘net with their reach (% of all visits to sites), estimated thousand unique visits per month, and if they have a paper copy their listed circulation from the Minnesota Newspapers Directory.
|Media Outlet||Rank||Reach, %||(unique) (k)||Circ (k)|
|St. Cloud Times||51,499||0.001920||89||30 (Daily)|
|Grand Forks Herald||68,715||0.001970||91||32 (Daily)|
|Duluth News-Tribune||74,915||0.001670||77||42 (Daily)|
|Rochester Post-Bulletin||96,330||0.001430||66||44 (Daily)|
|TC Daily Planet||147,842||0.000990||46|
|Mankato Free Press||197,029||0.000620||29||22 (Daily)|
|Bemidji Pioneer||268,537||0.000400||18||11 (Daily)|
|Politics in Minnesota||371,599||0.000340||16|
|Hindsight (MN 2020)||450,007||0.000170||7.8|
|Minnesota Dem Exposed||470,556||0.000150||6.9|
|Shot in the Dark||1,199,179||0.000098||4.5|
|MN Progressive Project||1,258,550||0.000088||4.1|
|Across Great Divide||1,858,960||0.000060||2.8|
Some of these sites are very professional and are doing quite well. MinnPost, for example, is an online only news source that is now the fifth most visited in the state. Personal projects and politics-only outlets are, on average, not doing as well.
MDE appears quite far down the list, with about 7,000 unique visits per month. That’s less than half the unique visits racked up by the Bemidji Pioneer, which also prints 11,000 paper copies every day. It’s a seventh of the traffic at Minnesota Independent and a tiny fraction of the traffic at the StarTribune. In a state of 4.9 million people, it’s safe to say that less than 0.1% of the population reads the site. If the Grand Forks Herald issues a stinging editorial on some topic, far more people will read it than if it appears on a blog – including this one.
Why do political blogs generate so much buzz in the media and the Republican Party if so few people read them?
Understanding the outsized influence or at least buzz generated by sites like MDE requires us to get into the motivation in the hearts of the other media outlets that report and repeat the message. Motive is never a good thing to speculate, so caveat lector. But we see a consistent pattern of media outlets injecting internet based tidbits into stories where they do not belong, sometimes destroying the unity. There is a coolness factor associated with the internet that seems to be intoxicating.
Political blogs, in general, seem to fare well when they do a lot more than throw bombs or express opinions. In fact, the list above seems to rank pretty well as Volume times Relevance, meaning that a site with a lot of stories or stories that mean something to people does well, and those with both do very well.
Sites that attract a lot of attention in the media often do so because they say outrageous things. That may get you press, but it doesn’t get you readers. If the local media would take a strong half-step back from all this for a moment, it would be obvious that overheated attacks are something like fairies – they would become invisible if everyone stopped believing in them.
More importantly, as President Obama tackles a very long list of items that need immediate attention, the diversions created by some bloggers take press away from the real work that needs our full attention. The left, in particular, has a very strong vested interest in turning down the heat and concentrating on what’s important. It’s not only good politics, it appears to be good for generating blog visits. Isn’t that what it’s all about?