It's dog eat dog in the blogosphere's food chain

Are you a slimy mollusc? Or a playful primate? Such questions might insult a dinner guest -- unless he or she is a blogger.
For those of you on the internet who do not know what’s meant by the terms “blog”, “blogger”, the “blogosphere”, “bleg”, or my favourite, “blogworthy”, welcome to the twenty-first century. The blogosphere, or the world of bloggers blogging on their blogs about any and everything, is as colourful and varied as the animal world. There are sharp-toothed predators and one-celled amoebas; beautiful tropical birds, and disgusting little cockroaches. And the analogy is not lost on bloggers themselves; many of them actually advertise just where they stand in the blogospheric food chain.
Enter stage right: The Truth Laid Bear’s Blogosphere Ecosystem. This is a highly articulated blog ranking system. The TTLB Blogosphere Ecosystem puts blogs in various phyla, classes and orders based upon the cold hard currency of the blogging world -- hit counts and connectivity. The more hits and in and outbound links a blog has, the higher its rank. The higher the rank, the further up the food chain of the TTLB ecosystem a blog will rise. That’s why blogs have so many links.
At the very top are Higher Beings. These are usually founding fathers, grandfathers, cranky uncles and great aunts of the blogosphere who got in on the ground floor of blogging. But they also had the evolutionary smarts to adapt and grow. Some didn’t, of course -- blogging has its fair share of woolly mammoths condemned to the tar pits.
Below Higher Beings and Mortal Humans is a veritable Noah’s Arc. In descending order, there are Playful Primates, Large Mammals, Marauding Marsupials, Adorable Rodents, Flappy Birds, Slithering Reptiles, Crawly Amphibians, Flippery Fish, Slimy Molluscs (sic), Lowly Insects, Crunchy Crustaceans, Wiggly Worms and Multicellular Microorganisms. Last and decidedly least are Insignificant Microbes. You get the picture: the further down the food chain you are, the fewer people read your blog or link to what you blog.
“Who cares?” you may ask.
Playful Primates, for a start. When asked about one blog that made the Darwinian dash forward, blogger and Playful Primate Don Surber said, or maybe sighed, the following: “Stop the ACLU? Ah, the good old days of 2005 when [he] was a struggling primate. […] Promotes himself well. Hey, more power to him.” Like Louie from the Jungle Book, they are just dying to master man’s red fire and become a TTLB Mortal Human or even a Higher Being one day. For that they need links and hits -- in a word, connectivity.
Like up-and-coming movie starlets who install mirrors in the back of their new limos, the mid-level bloggers -- and probably the Higher Beings too -- use The Truth Laid Bear and other tools to check incessantly their hits for that week, day, hour, or minute. Then they slap up their Ecosystem rating in the side bar or the bottom of their blog. Click here, here, here, or here, for only a very few examples that read like so: “I’m a Lowly Insect in the TTLB Ecosystem!” (Click here for the lowest ranked microbe of all the blogosphere—go ahead, make their day!)
“Isn’t blogging just a hobby?” you might be thinking.
Admittedly, blogging is a hobby for many. Casual bloggers -- at best Marauding Marsupials, but more often Flippery Fish or lower -- will place their TTLB Ecosystem rating in their side column. This is a form of flagellation which confesses, “I’m such a loser, but I don’t care. Yeah!”

But, as I said, this is the 21st century, and blogs can be very big business. High octane blogging, with numerous posts a day, can attract advertisers, writing and speaking gigs, product endorsement offers, paid radio and TV show appearances, and book deals. You don’t believe me? Just ask Instapundit Glenn Reynolds, the highest of the Higher Beings, about his very popular book on blogging. Or ask him about blogging about his book. Or ask this blogger blogging about Glenn blogging about his book on blogs. You see? It matters, if you’re on top. If you're not, you can’t get your message out.
Upwardly mobile Adorable Rodents and aspirant Flappy Birds employ a number of blogging tools. Site Meter offers a free, basic hit count and link log in exchange for posting a logo-link to their website. It also sells one of the thousands of “site promotion tool boxes”, software tools which boost a blog’s hit count.
But there’s always a bigger -- and Flipperier -- Fish. The blogosphere has even begun employing traffic exchange companies like Blog Mad and Blog Soldiers, where bloggers earn credit for surfing other blogs. They then use their credits to demand that the company send other surfers their way. It’s a pyramid scheme so wide that it’s really more of a giant pointy speed bump. But often bloggers are willing to pay for those hits. Is it narcissism? Wishful thinking? Or is it the hope of attracting profitable banner ads and enough hits to earn a pundit’s spot on the local radio show?
But what if you are already writing for a magazine? What if you have a TV show or a best selling book? Why blog then? MercatorNet asked Jonah Goldberg, syndicated columnist, editor, and contributor/co-founder of NRO’s popular group blog, The Corner. Here’s what he had to say:

I think we hit a cultural tipping point where it now seems "natural" -- at least among elites and the upper middle class -- to read blogs. A sure sign that we reached the tipping point is the proliferation of corporate and big media blogs. Some of this is embarrassingly stupid, like watching your parents try to be hip. It's a sign that even the suits in the ad and marketing departments recognise blogging's here to stay. My guess is that some of it will subside as the novelty wears off. I think the MySpace fad is a sign that a lot of people aren't looking to blog, per se, but to put themselves out into an electronic community. That's the more natural and important desire than amateur punditry, and that's where investment and growth is going to be. [Links added by MercatorNet, not Jonah.]
“Natural” is right, Jonah -- just ask any Wiggly Worm or Slithering Reptile. In the blogosphere, it’s a jungle out there.
Matthew Mehan is a Contributing Editor for MercatorNet.


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