The Tyranny of Numbers

September 15, 2008 — 8 Comments

Why is it, in 2008, that blogs in Australia are still not considered mainstream by many, still derided by the media and rarely breaking big news, unlike blogs in the United States, where blogging is mainstream, blogs are often the first port of call for breaking and big news, and where the line between blogging and the media has become so blurred that it’s difficult at the top to tell them apart?

We know that there has never been a break out blog in Australia that targets Australian news. We have great bloggers in many fields, and are strongly represented in the blogosphere, perhaps statistically more so than our population would dictate, and yet our blogging success stories tend to be global stories. Your Darren Rowse or your Yaro Staracks, even the likes of Tim Blair, News Corp deal aside, relied on an American audience more than an Australian one. There are prominent bloggers in Australia who do write for an Australian audience and I don’t seek to belittle what they do, but where’s our Andrew Sullivan, our Drudge or Daily Kos. Why don’t we see our own version of Michelle Malkin on TV, or a Robert Scoble turn up to the opening of an envelope?

There are several schools of thought. That we are behind the United States is a given, and I’ve usually put the figure at 5 years. The blogosphere here feels like the blogosphere in the US in around 2003, prior to the 2004 Presidential election where blogging came of age. There’s the psychological argument that Australian’s aren’t as open as our American friends, that we are more reserved and less likely to publish what we think at will that has stifled our progress. There is a good case against heritage media, who takes nearly every opportunity to bag blogs and blogging, fearful of competition as their glory days pass and the end of their business models are nigh. But there’s one factor we can’t change, one factor that continues to stifle local growth in blogging, and that is numbers.

Numbers dictate that there is not a big enough audience in Australia to sustain mass locally focused and profitable blogging.

It’s why I’ve never launched an Australian focused blog. Some people were suggesting to me last year that there needs to be a TechCrunch for Australia. My response was that there’s not a big enough audience here to sustain such a site. I’ve looked in past years at other vertical spaces, and I keep finding the same problem: great idea, audience is too small.

The reality is that for most wanting to make blogging a full time living in Australia, they have to target an overseas audience.

There are some exceptions. There’s the Auto blog guy who is suppose to be turning 6 figures on a car blog on a .com.au address. I’d bet though that most of his traffic wasn’t Australian. There’s people like Bronwen Clune and Paul Montgomery, who have turned their blogging come tech plays into reasonable money earners, through a combination of tapping into some premium advertising and working in desirable niche spaces. Allure Media’s Gawker titles are going ok the last I heard, but they had a couple of advantages: a pile of money to hire journalists up front, and a redirect deal with Nick Denton that saw Australian traffic hitting the US sites ending up on the Australian sites. Crikey is going where no Australian blogging network has gone before, buying in some great talent and traffic to give them a solid start out of the gate.

But that’s pretty close to it. I may have missed a few, so apologies if I’ve missed you (and please don’t be offended) but I can say with clear certainty that at most I’ve missed is less than I can count fingers on my hands.

No amount of spin changes the fact that we have a small market with limited opportunities. I don’t believe that this means that some won’t make it, nor do I believe that it would be impossible to build a blog today and score the breakthrough we collectively need, but it is that much harder for us all. We’re better of respecting that the tyranny of numbers works against us, and being more creative in response.

8 responses to The Tyranny of Numbers

  1. Re: the “Auto blog guys” — according to Alexa, 21% of visitors to CarAdvice.com.au are from Australia, ahead of US at 14%. From what I have read the content is pretty Australia-centric and a lot of commenters are too Australians. So there you go, a successful example 🙂

    Otherwise I completely agree with you. The market is so small and sometimes you don't feel like competitive enough — and people get slack and don't produce good content.

  2. ZDNet.com.au is a good example of a website which publishes similar stuff to some of the big US blogs. We've been around since before the dot-com boom and have RSS feeds, comment systems, video and so on. Not sure if we qualify as a blog, but we have blogs as part of the site 😉

    We do plenty of investigative journalism, and we're staunchly Australian.

    Cheers,

    Renai LeMay
    News Editor
    ZDNet.com.au

  3. It's not really just blogs either. A lot of Australian small businesses that sell software online rely on the majority of their sales coming from the USA.

    But still, it would be nice to see more people try to create more of a startup/blogosphere scene in OZ.

    If we're five years behind, then 2008 is the year isn't it?

  4. I think you've hit the nail right on the head with the numbers argument.

    However I also believe that globalisation is having a drastic effect on the information/media industry – and as we go further down that path the importance of location based news will decrease. Take for example the desk you're sitting at: 20 years ago it would have been made by a local carpenter/cabinet maker – fast forward to today and its just as likely to have come from a swedish multi-national company.

    When you are looking for a new desk do you look in the yellow pages? or do you look on the net knowing you can probably find something that suits your needs better and can be shipped from anywhere for a minimal cost.

    The same principle holds true for politics or finance where the Euro dropping(or rising) or a US bank collapse has more effect on Australia as a whole than almost any change in domestic politics or finance.

    Lets just face up to the fact that we're now part of the global information economy and the sooner we realize that the sooner we can stop our share of input from being eroded.

  5. I think you have put it well Duncan, I have learnt it this in a hard manner in 2 years..

  6. LONG LIVE EMPEROR OBAMA!

    Obama is a racial-minority individual and does not like racism:

    I know it may be hard to believe, but there is absolutely no doubt about it: Ronald Wilson Reagan committed horrible, racist, hate crimes during his presidency.

    A lot of people know about the infamy surrounding Ronald Wilson Reagan's former existence.

    And a lot of people will know about Reagan's infamy–even until the end of human existence: they'll find out.

    Numbers 32:23: “Be sure your sin will find you out.”

    Respectfully Submitted by Andrew Yu-Jen Wang, J.D. Candidate
    B.S., With the Highest Level of Academic Honors at Graduation, 1996
    Messiah College, Grantham, PA
    Lower Merion High School, Ardmore, PA, 1993

    (I can type 90 words per minute, and there are thousands of copies on the Internet indicating the content of this post. And there are at least hundreds of copies in very many countries around the world.)
    _________________
    “If only it were possible to ban invention that bottled up memories so they never faded and they never got stale.” Off the top of my head?¢‚Ǩ‚Äùit came from my Lower Merion High School yearbook.

  7. The user deleted this comment.

  8. The user deleted this comment.

Leave a Reply

Text formatting is available via select HTML. <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

*