Wednesday, April 26, 2006
ithdtThe blogosphere is an interesting place. Together, blogs have created a media net unlike anything before it. Independent sites, each with independent voices, have come together to create a network where cooperation and openness can only lead to greater strength.
I recently came across a great article in New York magazine (article available HERE) about blogs. I saw a lot of things in the article that gave me some interesting insight into blogs in general, and poker blogs specifically. I encourage you all to read the article yourselves, because I plan to rely on it greatly in this post about poker blogging's past, present and future.
I'll be borrowing a lot from the article, so understand that some of the concepts behind this post were taken from that source. I have not done any independent research, aside from reading a bucket load of blogs and blogging at this very site for, oh, a year or so. In general, when I discuss poker blogs or the poker blogosphere in general, I'll use the term "poker". Otherwise, I'm discussing general blogging principles.
The popularity of poker blogs and blogs in general is closely related to the concept of network theory. The article discusses network theory lightly, but here is a further explanation. The value of blogs come in the networking between blogs. Think Page Rank. By linking to each other, we build a network. The network is stronger when there are more of us. We do not advertise in magazines, TV or billboards. This is it. We advertise through links and through word of mouth. If there are 2 blogs out there, the casual reader may not find them without intentionally seeking out poker blogs. Thanks to the sheer amount of blogs, our page ranks are higher (thus returning our sites in regular Google searches) and also increasing the chances that someone will stumble on a mere corner of the poker blogosphere which will introduct them to the rest of the community. When I first started reading blogs, I was searching for "Card Player" on Google in an attempt to thwart my old firm's website blocker. I accidentally stumbled upon the now-defunct Intrepid Card Player, what I would consider a lesser-known blog, and I was off to the races. From Intrepid, I found Pauly, and from Pauly, the floodgates opened.
So, more is more, right? To expand the poker blogosphere is to expand outreach, and that is the number one way to get more readers.
In the process, a natural hierarchy occurs. According to the article, the hierarchy follows a power-law distribution. The article explains that the power-law distribution is a common trend in any situation. That is why the 40% of the country's wealth is in the hands of 1% of the population and the rich keep getting richer. It's also why certain movie stars can command the most roles and publicity. An elite few rise to the top, because, frankly, when people are confronted with an overwhelming amount of choices, the individuals tend to fall in line, relying on subtle social cues as to who IS an A-lister and who is not. A-listers are also usually forerunners in the field. I'd be interested to see who were the first poker bloggers. My guess though, is that they include such poker blogging household names as Dr. Pauly, Iggy, and Linda from Table Tango, three of my (and just about everyone else's) favorite reads. By being forerunners, these people were able to get ahead of the crowd and grow an audience without the extent of competition we see today. In addition, they've had the time to hone thier skills and, frankly, put out vastly superior product than the average blogger. So, their popularity and A-list status is well-deserved. The network theory comes in when I link to Pauly, and then someone sees my site and follows the link. They begin to read Pauly and since (a) they were exposed to him, (b) there is subtle social pressure to like him since I have already sang his praises, and (c) Pauly is established, both content wise and historically as a blogger and A-lister, the "new reader" is likely to like Pauly also and may link to him if the new reader ever starts a blog. Hell, I just described how I found and eventually linked to the good Doctor. This, my friends, is referred to as homeostasis (also from the article), the tendency of networked systems to be self-reinforcing. It's also the same reason why people jump on a particular stock or follow a particular fad.
The article doesn't discuss B and C-listers in detail, but I think in this context, we must delve into the topic. I consider myself, loosely, as a B-lister. I started after the poker blogging community was well-established. By social networking, which was never a plan but rather a natural outcome of my desire to socialize, I was able to gain readers through interactive ideas, such as the Challenge events and, more recently DADI events (of which, I am still sometimes overlooked in the credit department, but not by you, my kind readers, just by some of those out there that play in the DADI but don't read this humble blog). I had my largest spikes when interacting with other bloggers, including my first significant spike after meeting Dr. Pauly himself. I'd like to think that my product is pretty good too. I don't just provide hand histories, but I do analyze play and hands, such as the You Decide posts. I'd like to think that my dry wit carries me a little way too. My real life exploits, such as my Trip Reports, hopefully interest the reader in a way that mere strategy cannot. Above all, I pride myself on writing often. I do it for the passion, but I also know that consistency is important, because without content, a blog ceases to be a blog.
The vast majority of the blogs out there, however, are C-listers. Good news, though, C-listers. There ain't nothing wrong with Cs. First, you can break the barrier, mostly by being consistent and finding your niche. Rub some elbows, but don't do it because you want more hits. The hits will come. Do it because you are interested in poker and you like to interact with people. Also, I'm sure a lot of you are happy on the C-list. There is no pressure. Don't feel like posting? Don't. Want to write about something off-topic. Go for it. Like hand histories? Have at it! In other words, have fun with it. Because in the end, that's all this blog thing is doing for the vast majority of us. It's an outlet for a little bit of fun.
Financially, all of the aforementioned concepts have a lot of implications. The A-listers can actually get advertising revenue. They can also make some dough with referrals if their readership is willing to send some attention their way. B-listers are also able to scratch out a little dough, but because of smaller readership and the fact that their readers are probably also reading the A-listers, referals and offers for ad revenue will be less. C-listers will probably have the hardest time of all, but those in the C-list generally are not expecting any revenue.
This is where freerolls have become an issue. For A-listers (and I'm speaking in generalities, here), the freerolls are a bad idea. They don't need the freeroll because it devalues their blog to those willing to pay for space (via referrals or flat rates). B-listers ride the line because some of them worry about valuing ad space and others just like freebies. C-listers, though, are the ideal candidate for accepting a freeroll in exchange for ads. It's flattering when anyone will do something for you because of your blog, freerolls included. To you, I say, sign up and enjoy. In fact, it may benefit you if the A and B-listers ignore the freerolls. You get more value for your freeroll experience. And frankly, you deserve it. Power-law distribution is a tough law to fight. Breaking into B or A level is not easy. I would also add that it shouldn't be your goal either. I don't mean to be a purist, but I don't think blogging in order to make money is a sound business model. Now, if you blog and consequently make money, then by all means, reap those rewards. But those who enter the field for the dough are fooling themselves.
Which leads me to what I think is one of the most interesting points of the article. Even though the hierarchy is set, and it's not easy to change, it isn't impossible either. Mostly, it's very easy for an A-lister to drop down, basically by failing to post. As they put is, a blog is like a shark (not a poker shark, you numbskull!). When it stops moving, it dies. Content is king, and if a blog stops posting, people stop coming. Once you let a couple of weeks pass, people stop checking. Dutch Boyd's blog, for instance, was rarely updated for a while. I really enjoyed it at first, but then, forget it. He happens to have more name-recognition than the usual Joe Blogger, so he has more of a likelihood of retaining readers. I still check him out a lot of the time. But if an A-lister stopped posting for a month, their A-list status would be put in Jeopardy (although, I would suggest if they started posting again with consistency, the site could be revived through word of mouth, due to an A-lister's already high status).
On the reverse side, this is more reason for me to emphasize the importance of daily posting to build your blog and readership. And content that builds readership is not just daily hand histories, although there is nothing wrong with that. People want to be engaged and interested, so your content quality matters too, lest anyone think a daily post of poop will get results.
Where do we go from here? The future of poker blogging is wide open. I think we can assume that there will be new additions to the C-listers and a fair share of C-list dropouts. To keep an A-list and B-list status takes a lot of work (often moreso for the A-listers). You all see what stress Pauly goes through. Eventually, some of those A-listers will hit burnout or will get bored of blogging or will find better opportunities. Likewise, some B-listers will move up, and others will move down and/or out.
The WPBT will continue to grow in numbers, but "power" will be concentrated at the top. We must strive to remain inclusive, rather than exclusive, because one of the best part of the poker blogging community is the openness. Unfortunately, it is easier to be open to your close 20 brethren than it is to the 300+ we have today. There will be the usual group dynamic infighting. It's the same thing you saw in high school, or in a fraternity, or in any other group of people. There will be people jealous of A or B-listers, and there will be A or B-listers who do not want to let some of the smaller guys come up. These are the facts of life.
I don't mean to paint a bleak picture though. With continued expansion comes continued network power. The first fax machine was functionally worth crap because there was no one to send a fax to. The millionth was worth a whole lot more. Similarly, the spread of poker blogs will build the community and allow A-listers to have even greater exposure and presence outside of our community. This can only be a good thing. The rest of us will be legitimized as well, as a result. Hopefully, we'll even all progress as poker players, and maybe, just maybe, in the future we could have a presence at the WSOP 2012 that is unrivaled in sheer mass. I say 2012, but it could be much sooner.
I hope I didn't ruffle any feathers, but I probably did. Just understand that I am not talking about anyone in particular. I'm talking about the way of the blog, and the idea of popularity and power distribution. I'm not trying to start a revolution either. I don't mind the way things are. Not one bit. The A-listers deserve to be A-listers. They've worked hard and have made a product that we all find appealing. We'd only suffer by losing any of them (as we all recently feared during Pauly's contemplation of hanging it up). Their writing is beyond most and I appreciate everything they do for us, as a reader and a fellow-blogger. I also appreciate the C-listers, and their often unrewarded efforts. I thank them and I would be glad to offer support to anyone who I felt had the skills to succeed in the blogosphere.
And finally I thank all of my readers. I never expected to even make it to B-list status (although some might suggest that I'm still a C). It was never my intention. Now, I find myself reading Hemingway (no joke) with the hope that it will make me a better writer. I'm really enjoying the craft of blogging. At times, I fear where it is leading. What is the point? Am I wasting this valuable time throwing my thoughts up there for people who I don't know. But I'm kidding myself. I'm not riding this blog anymore. It's riding me. All I can do is see where it's taking me and enjoy the view along the way. So far, it's been pretty good.
posted by Jordan @ 6:38 PM,
- At 6:49 PM, Wes said...
C-Listers unite! It's time for a revolution!
- At 7:26 PM, littleacornman said...
Watch out C-listers.The D-listers are coming!
Good stuff Jordan.Interesting read as always.
- At 9:17 PM, TripJax said...
This would make a great Tri-Clops discussion. Well written and interesting thoughts man...looking forward to hearing what others think...
- At 9:43 PM, dan m said...
great stuff ... and interesting to see you apply it to poker bloggering. Now how does a B+ lister get on your blogroll?
- At 10:28 PM, Fat Dan said...
Amazing read Jordan. Good concepts that I had notices somewhat before. Very hard to get into the A-list, B-list, C-list, I am just happy to make a freaking list of any kind.
- At 11:15 PM, Bloody P said...
As a current C-Lister, I'd appreciate a link on your blog to continue my quest for World Dominance, dammit.
Great post Jordan.
My goal is to have more readers than Poker Champ had in his heyday.
- At 2:58 AM, Miami Don said...
Great Post Jordan.
I laugh because as I started bookmarking blogs my folder got way out of hand so I had to come up with a system to organize them. Yep A-List, B-List, and C-List. Little did I know.
And yes there is movement. People stop posting or their content lags then they get dropped. I see them at events, exchange some banter and like their content they get added or moved up.
I read my A-List daily, B-List twice a week, and C-List once a week, man it all makes sense now.
Stay on the A-List Jordan!
- At 9:14 AM, Jordan from HighOnPoker said...
Thanks for all of the comments. Keep them coming, too, because I find people's opinions of this topic particularly interesting. It's going to be a busy day at work in anticipation of Atlantic City, so this post will probably have to tide you over for today. As for last night, no poker, mostly because of that stupid Internet connection.
- At 9:54 AM, drizztdj said...
As a solid F+ lister I applaud this post, excellent insight into our (relatively) small community of poker bloggers.
- At 10:08 AM, The Poker Enthusiast said...
Great post. As a new blogger and at best a F-lister I found your insite invigerating. I also find that I read specigic blogs first and continue with the rest when and if I have time. It give me a good perspective of the community as a whole.
- At 10:54 AM, jjok said...
I think I'm more of an L or and M lister.....
Great post man.
- At 11:21 AM, Falstaff said...
Nice post, Jordan. I found poker blogs through a classic post of Hdouble's about poker blogs, and found Iggy and Linda that way, and everyone else through them. Talk about your viral marketing, huh?
- At 11:51 AM, Bloody P said...
I've been linked! Praise be!
My entry into the poker blogging world was from my buddy Josh, who recommended that I ready Scurvey Dog at http://suckout.blogspot.com. I started clicking around his links and it just took off from there.
Thanks again, word.
- At 4:13 PM, iamhoff said...
I prefer to think of myself as on the Q-list. It sounds cool, like some CIA spec ops thing. Anyway, great post as always. My link thing started a little differently. When converting one of my many "my yahoo" accounts to primarily poker, I went thru the "add content" section and found Card Squad and Pauly. From there, it was the six degrees of blogging separation. If I remember correctly, from Pauly I found Lady Falcon, and I found you from a comment somewhere on her blog. So it goes. See ya out there.
- At 4:21 PM, cc said...
Some of us are beyond even the A-listers. As we're only into ourselves (and believe that everyone else in the world is really a robot), our blogs are beyond even the A-listers!
Having said that, there also seems to be somewhat of a natural maturity with the poker blog. The first posts for the C-lister are: I play poker, here are the hands that I played, I won (yeah) or lost (woe is me), I had to deposit more. All of that with no comments being left (I'll often make up numerous people to comment on my own blog, just so I don't feel depressed if no one leaves a comment). From there, we start your description of becoming networked and read. It seems that most of the time, the poker blog needs to move in some unique niche or certain direction to have legs in the B+ or A ranks. Playing strip poker regularly. Getting lots of babes. Winning and losing alot. Being a great strategist. Being funny or writing well is part of it, but surely there are lots of folks who are funnier or better writers than we are.
I have no short term memory, so you may have mentioned this. Comments are as integral to the network as links are. I often visit a site when I've read a comment, either on my blog or someone else's.
- At 4:54 PM, JoeSpeaker said...
Well done, Jordan.
One of the aspects I've enjoyed about poker blogs (the community, what have you) is how it is a (mostly) organic phenomenon, social Darwinism on a small scale. If you participate, if you're consistent, interesting and insightful, there's no fucking insecure middle-manager trying to keep you down. You'll get your traffic and revenue. You'll deserve it and 99% of the blogosphere will be rooting you on. Or bluffing you out of pots. Whichever the case may be.
I'm continually intrigued by this whole phenomenon and have written about it a little, but this is an excellent sociological analysis. Bravo.
- At 5:22 PM, Jordan from HighOnPoker said...
Thanks Joe. I'm with you that it is very much a meritocracy, but I do believe that there are other things beyond middle managers that can hamper an otherwise meritorious blog.
For instance, very early on Trauma from 100-2-Infinity ruffled some feathers in the blogging community for being outspoken and knocking a couple of established blogs. As a result, there was a virtual pile on, and there was a lot of backlash against Trauma. This was before the Heads Up Challenge 2, and Trauma wanted to join. I actually had to think about letting him join because there was so much drama surrounding him. In the end, I decided to allow him to join because, first, I'm an inclusive kinda guy (see DADI) and second, we could beat him and take his money. I think, in the end, he won, and when people had a chance to get to know the guy, he was welcomed with open arms.
It can go the other way too though. Poker Champ was a farce, but at first, he was the anti-hero. People piled on him as well, but it was different, because he was so polarizing that there was a pro Champ group (with myself included). The controversy actually helped the blog, and is one way (albeit a cheap one for anyone trying to fabricate it) to get readership. I don't mean that the Champ was cheap, but rather I don't want to encourage people to intentionally start attacking an A-lister in hopes of a fallout that generates hits.
My point is, the establishment itself is a bit hampering. Blogger X might get the support of the big guns and be able to shoot out of the gate at full speed. Meanwhile, they dislike Blogger Y for whatever reason, and regardless of content or improvements, he is ignored (not commented about, because that, as I mentioned can have positive consequences).
In the end though, there is no middle management, and for that, I think we are all greatful. But there are still hierarchal and social influences that can hamper bloggers in a different way.
- At 10:30 PM, DP said...
What's a blog?
- At 3:24 AM, PokerProf said...
Interesting article... I really don't see the division as clear cut between the various strata (A,B,C et hoc.)of the niche of 'poker blogdom'; however, there is alot here I do agree with.
- At 8:53 AM, clrusso said...
Anyone interested in starting a "C-blogger Network." We could call it the C-Blogger Crew or some equally gay name. Drop me a comment if you're interested.
How c-list is this? I'd post this idea on my blog, but it will get more exposure here!
- At 9:56 AM, 23skidoo said...
Thanks for the article Jordan, it's a very good read.
I'd really like to explore the reasoning behind a poker blog and its genesis.
I stumbled upon blogging in a very similar way, although I knew (and know) my talent does not lie in writing. The camaraderie is what really made me want to participate. In some ways poker makes you want to hate your opponent, or at least have contempt for him(or her). The poker blogger 'community' has turned this idea around for me and meade me realize you can compete with a healthy respect for your opponent. In a lot of cases respect can help you make better decisions.
Anyway, thanks again. See you at the tables.
- At 10:22 AM, kaellinn18 said...
Blogs are gay.
- At 11:16 AM, CJ said...
Okay, count my feathers ruffled!!!!!!!!
A whole blogging hierarchy post and I don't warrant a mention!?!?!? I think I'm A+-listing.
Pauly wouldn't be shit without me. And Iggy? He'd be an anonymous dwarf banging away at a keyboard with stubby little fingers without Up For Poker! And who's Linda?
For the record: Hookers and Blow addict 8/17/03, The Greatest Poker Blog of All Time 9/5/03, Ghey Dwarf 9/28/03
Oh, and that Linda chick? February 1982?!?!?! But she's a dealer, so do you really think she can be trusted?
(Does this comment require a disclaimer?)
- At 12:46 PM, slimeface said...
Heavy, man... The DADI DIVISIONAL?
- At 6:39 PM, LZFSB3 said...
I am a C lister that will probably never rise above the status I now have. But I will attempt to put out interesting posts and information for all.
- At 3:39 AM, Haley (Cawt) said...
Solid post... whether or not I agree with it. I dropped a longer comment over at BG's , along with the aside that I don't set out to irritate people, I just come by it naturally.
I've posted previously on this topic from yet another perspective, but heaven forbid, -don't- read those. ;-)
I am going to link back to these pieces, though.
- At 2:25 PM, Ingoal said...
Brogs r0x0r ;-)
- At 6:25 PM, Carmen said...
Great article. I liked the one your referenced and I enjoyed your summary as well. I feel like I'm back in high school all over again.
- At 6:35 PM, Jordan from High On Poker said...
Thank you Carmen. Your homework is overdue.
- At 10:47 PM, kipper said...
I prefer to think of myself as a wannabe 'listed'
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