It’s Not About The A-List, Or About Hierachies
Everyone in the blogosphere seems to be talking about the so-called A-list and what the emergence of the blogging elite means for the future of the internet.
Andrew over at TallSkinnyKiwi has picked up on Technorati’s recent State of the Blogosphere Part 2 report. He notes the often discussed long tail, which simply means that most traffic goes to a small number of “A-list” bloggers and that the rest of us are caught in a very long tail of relatively small blogs. Andrew goes on to discuss power laws and hierarchy as a structural given. He suggests these kinds of distributions are inevitable.
I’ve been following this idea of the long tail for some time, mainly because Hugh MacLeod at Gapingvoid has been discussing it over several recent posts. Today Hugh wrote about hit on a far more interesting aspect of the Technorati report, namely the Magic Middle.
What Is The Magic Middle?
OK, so we have a blog A-list. No surprise there. If you look at most blog niches, like the church-blog-scene, the A-list mirrors the existing power structures. The A-list equals the traditional gatekeepers. The A-listers have the book contracts, the speaking engagements, etc. What is really interesting, is the next step down, the bloggers with between 20-1000 incoming links, the Magic Middle, the B-list, which globally represents about 155,000 blogs (for all blogs, not just religious ones). It is here where we are seeing something important. These blogs are rewriting the existing structures of authority, market and platform reach. As Hugh Macleod puts it,
“The very top blogs [The “A-List”] will start collectively resembling old media more and more, as the money involved for doing so gets more significant. But the Magic Middle [call it the B-List, if you will] will be the realm of the global microbrand.”
The magic middle is where blogs are breaking out of existing publishing structures. It is here where the artist, local educator, niche business are able to find a new global market without depending up on the approval of traditional gatekeepers or media monopolies.
Rather than being upset by the emergence of a so-called A-list smaller bloggers should be encouraged by the potential of being in this magic middle.
The magic middle is also where we can ask the deeper questions that have often been silenced. The artistic questions, political questions, spiritual questions. Instead of being in thrall to power, to A-lists and to top-down hierarchies, maybe we should start by looking at what is going on in this magic middle?
UPDATE (2022): Looking back I love the almost naive optimism of this piece. The magic middle presented a very real opportunity for a few more years, until the advent of social media, and even after that until about 2013. But, with the rise of influencer culture it largely disappeared.