George Greenberg, who describes himself as a liberal historian, recounts in this NYTimes piece his travails as a guest blogger for Dan Drezner, "a political scientist at the University of Chicago, who runs a popular libertarian-conservative blog DanielDrezner.com".
Greenberg says this guest blogging experience has taught him some hard lessons. Blogging is not for "amateurs or the faint of heart". Serious bloggers have to -- and do -- put in a lot of work, "updating their sites several times a day", and they get abused in the comments area (he gives an example, wherein a commenter called him a 'moral cretin').
The experience also taught Greenberg a lesson about the audience of popular blogs. On Drezner's blog, for example, the audience "expected their usual diet of conservative commentary", and revolted when he presented liberal viewpoints; similarly, when Drezner himself guest blogged over at the liberal Washington Monthly, "one reader wished bodily harm on his family members".
All of last week I was wondering about the kind of rough treatment that Dilip D'Souza received in the comments section of this post by Yazad; the only difference is that Dilip was not guest-blogging, but made a guest appearance in the comments. After reading Greenberg's analysis, it makes perfect sense. Regular, loyal readers of Yazad's blog are probably largely libertarian; when they saw a someone with a different viewpoint expressing his views openly in their home ground, ... well, what shall we say ... they just decided to have a go at him.
To get back to Greenberg's piece, here are a couple of his insights:
The best bloggers develop hobbyhorses, shticks and catchphrases that they put into wider circulation. Creating your own idiosyncratic set of villains to skewer and theories to promote - while keeping readers interested - requires as much talent as sculpting a magazine feature or a taut op-ed piece.
To succeed in blogging you need to understand it's a craft, with its own tricks of the trade. You need a thick skin. And you must put your life on hold to feed an electronic black hole.
Of course, Greenberg is talking here about A-list bloggers such as Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias, who routinely get hundreds of thousands of hits a day. I have always wondered about the popularity of Indian blogs. Last Friday's CNBC program, Trend Mill (Amit has blogged about it here), reported that Emergic, Rajesh Jain's excellent blog, which I am sure is in India's A-list, gets about 3000 hits (unique visitors) a day.