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Blog // Technology
February 16, 2006

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.

Responses
Poor boy 16 years ago

I find the entire issue of blog hierarchy to be really interesting, because I just learned that it existed. I’ve only been blogging for a few months, and thought that Technorati et. al, were pretty Democratic. Then somebody started the brrreeeport thing, and I gathered that there was some structure to which blogs are given top ranking on technorati (and I assume blogsearch.google…and so on). I still don’t completely understand how everything is structured, though. Do you know of any sources of good information on it?

Todd Granger 16 years ago

Very interesting, not least because of the theological questions that can be raised. Thanks for the links.

bill 16 years ago

Agreed.

Still, there’s an elephant-in-the-room problem with these data. They don’t count the personal bookmarks followed or the times that people merely plug the URL in the their browser. Nor when they google the URL they want so their employer’s IT force won’t see it in the history list. Furthermore, they don’t clean out all of the reciprocal links and blogroll links that don’t really represent a reference type link‚Äîwhich is implied by the data interpretation. In other words, these link counters like Technorati and TruthLaidBear don’t tell the whole story.

Nevertheless, I agree with your point and add that the B-list is where to be (pun intended). These are the real folk talking about real stuff and less likely to to worry about their linkership—oops, I meant readership.

Good post.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

bill,

without doubt that is the major stumbling block with this data and in my view, another reason not to put too much faith it. technorati is a great service, but really we do need more qualitative data, not just quantitative stuff.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

todd,

thanks for stopping by and commenting. I do hope more people will pick up this topic and reflect upon it.

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

poor boy,

take a good look at the gapingvoid blog I linked on this post. hugh is very sharp on this topic and referencing a lot of the best discussions on the whole a-list and power laws debate.

Matt Stone 16 years ago

You’ve given me something to think about

djchuang 16 years ago

I know I won’t be the A-lister, not being motivated nor wanting to do what the masses want, but it does give me hope to know I have a shot at being a part of the magic middle. The biblical text of the parable of the talents and the parable of the workers both indicate that some people are given more, and some are given less. So maybe part of the power laws and the people hierarchy are a thing that is God-ordained?

Fernando Gros 16 years ago

Interestingly, this issue has been discussed across a few blogs (thanks for te quote Hugh!) and it does seem that the reach of the magic middle is the new thought-provoking thing in the blogosphere.

There’s no doubt that both power laws and hierachies are “the way of the world.” I’m just not sure that because they might exist we should therefore assume they are a way to describe God or an ideal state to be lauded. Moreover, the fact that they exist in the blogosphere tells us nothing new.

But the magic middle is interesting, telling and new-ish and the responses (or lack of responses) the A-list to it are potentially quite revealing.

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