PILE 'EM HIGH
The focus of the piece is not just on how the haves and have-nots of popular blogs shake out in terms of "in-bound" links (the coin of the realm), but on how typical this is in terms of how popularity shakes out in the real world. The article focuses on a study by Clay Shirky of New York University, and gives us the conclusion:
"There is enormous inequity in the system. A very small number of blogs enjoy hundreds and hundreds of inbound links—the A-list, as it were. But almost all others have very few sites pointing to them...
The A-list is teensy, the B-list is bigger, and the C-list is simply massive. In the blogosphere, the biggest audiences—and the advertising revenue they bring—go to a small, elite few. Most bloggers toil in total obscurity."
Why is this a big deal? It's how the real world works really, but the article makes a big deal about it because it's happening on the Internet, where the "democracy' and meritocracy"-driving aspects of the medium SHOULD give voice and presumably prominence to a lot more in a far easier manner...in theory. The article explains:
"Economists and network scientists have a name for Shirky’s curve: a “power-law distribution.” Power laws are not limited to the Web; in fact, they’re common to many social systems.
If you chart the world’s wealth, it forms a power-law curve: A tiny number of rich people possess most of the world’s capital, while almost everyone else has little or none. The employment of movie actors follows the curve, too, because a small group appears in dozens of films while the rest are chronically underemployed.
The pattern even emerges in studies of sexual activity in urban areas: A small minority bed-hop, while the rest of us are mostly monogamous.
The power law is dominant because of a quirk of human behavior: When we are asked to decide among a dizzying array of options, we do not act like dispassionate decision-makers, weighing each option on its own merits. Movie producers pick stars who have already been employed by other producers. Investors give money to entrepreneurs who are already loaded with cash. Popularity breeds popularity."
From my perspective, this power-law curve thing should not be a surprise, whether in the world of blogs or any other aspect of the Internet.
Indeed, we should view the experience of the blogging world as a potential precursor of coming attractions. When mainstream audiences finally engage not only in blogging (or whatever we'll call it then), but also in terms of consuming mainstream content like audio and video programming over the Internet.
For example, mainstream consumption of video entertainment content is likely follow these same power-law curves as blog consumption despite all the people "empowering" technologies of the day including tagging, data feeds (RSS), and all types of Web 2.0 goodies.
Never mind the possibility of creating tens if not hundreds of thousands of video channels. We're more than likely to settle for a few dozen mainstream aggregators of video content, and trust THEM to make the decisions to put together and feed us our daily dose of entertainment from the seemingly infinitely deep wells of the Internet. Especially if they're smart and do so at mainstream prices.