There has been some blogging about blog popularity this week. Blake of LISNews looked at the popularity of library blogs – within the entire blogosphere and versus other library blogs. He looked at site stats in order to figure out how significant LISNews is. He realized that there are a number of ways of measuring popularity, and that each is important to different people. “What’s important to me about the LISNews numbers is not necessiarily the raw numbers, but that we have a wide range of people participating, reading, and sharing stories.” LISNews is a rocking site that encourages all librarians to participate in the cyber-dialogue, and I think his measure of their success is right on the mark.

Newsweek this week had an article about The Alpha Bloggers , those bloggers who not only influence the large audiences who read their blog, but also influence the traditional media. Steven Levy looked at how podcasting so quickly became part of our vocabulary because of the buzz generated by the A-list bloggers.

But the things Levy wrote about how to become an A-list blogger and the benefits of being one left me wondering if this is really why people are blogging. For popularity? To be invited to Steve Wozniak’s Super Bowl party? To be celebrities at conferences? To be the first to break a story? It just seems like such cheesy and shallow reasons for doing it. I’d like to believe that most bloggers aren’t such narcissistic wankers, but apparently this is what Levy believes is the reasoning behind blogging:

In order to crack into the upper strata, you have to post frequently to stay on the fickle radar of this ADD-infested crowd. You have to link prodigiously to other blogs, increasing your profile and increasing the chances for inbound links. And you must hold strong opinions about what you’re writing about—passion is required in a good blog. All of this takes time: Scoble spends two hours daily writing his Weblog and three more hours reading hundreds of other blogs in search of fresh ideas and nifty software innovations. “I want to be the first guy to spot the smart new guy or a cool new Windows app,” he says. Even then you have no guarantee of blog fame.

And what do the alpha bloggers get in return? Certainly not riches. Though it’s possible to pick up a few hundred dollars if you enlist in the program that carries Google’s ad on your site, many A-listers don’t bother. “If you’re into blogs to make money, you’re into it for the wrong reasons,” says Searls. “Do you ask your back porch what its business plan is?” On the other hand, some alpha bloggers report better jobs, more lucrative consulting, speaking gigs and—if not groupies—a certain bit of glamour that comes from having people hang on your every word at the end-of-day reception at a tech conference.

Yuck! I really hope Levy only talked to a few narcissistic twits, because I’d like to believe that the bloggers whose blogs I read are motivated by something other than being a librarian “rock star”.

While I know the article was about how bloggers become A-list bloggers, what I found most interesting was how bloggers in general have influenced the traditional media. In an age of where many media outlets are being taken over by large corporations (thanks Clear Channel and the FCC) and where corporations are dictating what we see and hear, it is heartening to see an example where regular folks can influence the media. I am encouraged by the democratic nature of the blogosphere:

The alphas, or “A-listers,” as they call themselves, commonly cross-link to one another, with the effect of having one of their comments amplified and commented on. In the case of podcasting, the accumulated buzz from the blogs became deafening. The subject suddenly became the hot topic in geekdom, and soon appeared in The New York Times and BusinessWeek.

How nice to be a part of a democratizing movement! The longer I blog (which certainly hasn’t been THAT long) the more I realize that the numbers are unimportant. Initially, I’d written about the A-list blogs and how nice it would be to become a Jessamyn, a Jenny, or a Steven, where people link to you and are interested in and influenced by what you write. But even if no one was reading what I write, I realize that I would still enjoy doing it. It’s fun to write a blog and is a tremendous learning experience. Writing my blog has motivated me to read so much more in order to find the most interesting news and tech tidbits. It has forced me to really think about librarianship and how I feel about much of what I’ve seen in libraries and in library school. It has made me want to be a better, more literate and more tech-savvy librarian. Yeah, it’s nice to be on LISFeeds and have people reading my blog, but so far, it’s been a tremendous learning and politicizing experience for me that I wouldn’t trade for 1,000 subscribers.

I think Steven, an A-list blogger himself (though in a good way!), put it best when he said:

I don’t want librarians who want to blog to feel that they have to reach a large audience to be “successful”. Don’t get caught up on statistics. Blog what you feel and not what you want others to read. The letter “A” can stand for something other than Alpha. I went through my aggregator again and I realized that I only subscribe to 1 of the bloggers on the A-list. And she is a rock star, a close colleague, and an Alpha. As my buddy Dick Kaser said to me at Computers in Libraries 2002: “Blog On”.