April 17, 2006 in Business

Looking for a blog posse to run with?

Frank Sennett The Spokesman-Review
 

Introducing Blogspotter

This new weekly column aims to give unplugged readers entry points into the ever-expanding world of weblogs, while introducing seasoned surfers to fresh sites and analyzing blog news and trends.

When discussions turn to favorite blogs these days, the operative question seems to be: Which online gang do you roll with?

In the time it takes to read this sentence, five blogs will be born. More than 75,000 new bloggers spread their pixilated wings and start bleating into cyberspace every day, according to blog search engine Technorati.

That glut means most bloggers lack readers, the oxygen essential to stoking their rhetorical flames. Even early blog stars such as Mickey Kaus and Andrew Sullivan have hitched their wagons to big media outlets like Slate and Time to keep those clicks coming. But most independent operators aren’t so lucky.

The smart ones often join forces in group blogs or loose networks designed to attract eyeballs by showcasing the wisdom of multiple writers. These collective efforts also help acquaint new readers with the blogosphere.

Many blog gaggles sport political themes. On the right, try Pajamas Media and RedState. On the left, visit AlterNet‘s blog section or the Huffington Post, which supplements its celebrity blogroll with a lefty version of the Drudge Report’s daily headline roundups. (In Washington, conservative group blog Sound Politics dukes it out with the progressive Pacific Northwest Portal.)

Other blog networks cover a wide range of subjects, often linked only by a desire to create an ad-friendly online universe that appeals to upscale readers. These include the MediaBistro culture and gossip sites, Weblogs Inc. (recently gobbled up by AOL) and Urban Honking, a Portland, Ore.-based nonprofit that hosts an annual “Survivor”-style competition called Ultimate Blogger.

But Manhattan-based Gawker Media leads this hipster pack with its collection of snarky time-wasters. Flagship blog Gawker and Hollywood sibling Defamer chronicle the celebrity cultures of New York City and L.A., while wonky Wonkette skewers the politicos of Washington, D.C. (Created by a woman, Wonkette is now written by a man who used to write as a woman.)

Additional hot sites in Gawker’s network include Lifehacker, which provides high-tech solutions for life’s little problems, and Deadspin, a well-reported sports blog that warns Gonzaga hoopster Adam Morrison might have trouble impressing NBA scouts if he can’t “find a way to curb the crying while the game is still going on.” And then there’s Fleshbot, a clearinghouse of artsy erotica and celebrity nipple sightings that is to Internet porn what HBO’s “Real Sex” is to X-rated pay-per-view — fun and titillating, but unlikely to get you busted by the FBI.

Three of those blog networks have been tarnished by scandal in recent weeks. The Huffington Post cobbled together a bogus George Clooney blog with lifted quotes. Gawker caught flak for aiding celeb-obsessed nuts with its Gawker Stalker map of fresh Manhattan star sightings. And RedState‘s co-founder resigned his WashingtonPost.com blog amid allegations of plagiarism.

As those networks stumble, several older collective blogs keep breezing along. They include eclectic crowd pleasers Metafilter Community Weblog and Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things (and the most popular blog indexed by Technorati).

Both of those sites recently signed on with FM Publishing, a nascent blog marketing network. That suggests we might be witnessing the digital convergence of collective blog business models. But as long as these group efforts turn readers on to sites worth seeing, they’ll remain great entry points to blog world.

Drilling down

If bird-flu headlines bring out the survivalist in you, check out Family Flublog at familyflublog.blogspot.com. Written by a registered nurse, this blog doles out no-nonsense advice about personal habits that might help you avoid catching or spreading the flu, as well as tips for how schools, buffet restaurants and fitness facilities can best cope with an outbreak. The sooner you read it, the sooner you’ll perfect that inner-elbow cough.

Guilty pleasure

Go Fug Yourself, gofugyourself.typepad.com.

Proprietors Heather and Jennifer deliver stiletto-heeled critiques of celebrities rocking particularly “fugly” looks. The bloggers define their favorite adjective as “frightfully ugly; of or pertaining to something beyond the boundaries of normal unattractiveness.” To see what they mean, check out the recent snaps of Courtney Love’s collagen-packed lips (“Theriously, what you looking at?”) and Sharon Stone’s medusa ‘do (“…and then I shall be crowned Queen of the Damned!”). Think Mr. Blackwell, only funny.


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