I think I made too strong a case in my True/Slant post yesterday. I have this tendency to go further than I mean when laying out a critique. It’s a tick. What can I say?
In any case, I decided to spend some more time over there, to better understand how the site works, and to get more of a feel for what it’s doing or trying to do, and what it may be achieving despite my initial doubts. But first, I wanted to post this comment from Justin Gardener (of True/Slant and Donklephant) because it makes a lot of good points that counter what I had to say yesterday:
There are a total number of 215 contributors on the site. They blog in many different verticals, 18 in total. So starting off with just a few high profile bloggers and ignoring the rest doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because you have too many single points of failure. Best to allow more folks to blog and see who rises to the top.
Case in point, if you look at the front page you’ll see that Kate Klonick is at the top of the views for the past 5 days. That’s because she broke an exclusive about Mary Cheney having another child. But usually Kate doesn’t get that much traffic since she blogs more infrequently. So by having a bunch of other contributors beyond the Taibbis you can fill in the gaps and possibly catch lightning in a bottle and get a bunch of traffic sent your way.
The results speak for themselves. Just take a look at the Quantcast stats (http://www.quantcast.com/trueslant.com). The site is getting 1.6M page views a month. Culture 11 never got anywhere close to that. And just judging from my own blog on T/S, the conversations are certainly worthwhile. Especially when you talk to fellow contributors.
As to your other points…
– New media is niche oriented, sure, but think of the biggest sites out there and how they encompass many different niches. And, as mentioned, there are many different categories on T/S. Trust me, you may have a feed reader a read a bunch of different blogs, but most folks don’t use that tech or don’t want to have to visit 50 different websites for their news. They’d rather go to one. That’s why Yahoo, MSN, Google are so popular.
– True/Slant’s name alone suggests that you get the facts and somebody’s opinion. Nothing too complicated there. And, respectfully, the two sites you cite have pretty poor immediate branding. Sure, Daily Kos is now known as the bastion of progressivism, but the name says nothing about what it’s all about. And Takimag? I think you get my point. Which ties into the next bullet…
– True/Slant folks are very opinionated, but there are many different POVs. I would think that you, of all people, would appreciate that since I think we both count ourselves as folks who run sites that welcome a multitude of opinions. So the publication’s position is that there are many different positions. Which means, at the end of the day, you can make up your own mind.
– True/Slant really isn’t a social network, nor do I think they position themselves as one. Sure, people have to join the site to comment and they can follow their favorite authors, but those are just ways to form a community…which I believe is different than a true soc net (although that’s a bit of inside baseball semantics disagreement so point taken).
Yes, after reading Justin’s comment I admit I felt a bit abashed. And rightfully so! He’s right on many, many counts. The diversity of opinion and political views and topics is rare on the net, and rather than point out how this is a failure, I should be glad that it’s happening at all. Likewise, the traffic numbers Justin sites are very good, and pretty much lay waste to my argument, as well as any comparison to Culture11 in terms of traffic. Next time I should do my homework.
Other second impressions. Yesterday and today I spent some time seeing the site through less jaded eyes, and I have to admit, other than having a bit of a hard time taking it all in and sifting through so many contributors, I do have to admit – through less jaded eyes, it’s not half bad. It’s a pretty attractive site overall, if a little busy on the front page. And maybe that’s what they’re going for – lots and lots of information and lots of different contributors. To me, it’s a little busy. But it’s all still very easy to read, very aesthetically pleasing.
I was also wrong about the social networking aspects of the site. I should have dug into that more. At first it really does seem to be going for that, but I can see now that this is not the case. And I overlooked one thing they’re trying to do, which is get their contributors to actively interact with commenters! Good grief, a play right out of the League’s own book! (And one of my golden rules of good blogging!)
So on a number of counts, I really do think I was off-base and overly harsh. On some levels, I still feel like the site is trying to do too much, but maybe that’s just a difference in how I view the internet. Justin is right, a lot of people prefer to stick to one or two sites for just about everything. Not everybody traipses around a couple dozen blogs and webzines and online newspapers a day like I do.
So, for what it’s worth, I hope my initial criticism can be useful in its own way to anyone from True/Slant who cares to read it, but I also want to say that I think that maybe I was wrong, and maybe, just maybe, they’re on to something over there. 1.6 million visits a month really isn’t too bad at all. In fact, it’s pretty bloody good.
P.S. – Justin, excuse my ignorance, but you say that the contributors blog in “18 different verticals.” What does this mean?
Oh, and Chris Thomas has a piece over there arguing that Obama should give back the Nobel Peace Prize….how can you not love that?