It's always risky business to talk about the challenges facing rival political blogs, especially in the middle of the summer when our traffic is in the toilet and people seem mostly sick of partisan hackery. But Gary Pearce this week opines about the downward spiral of the Dome, attributing the decline to a lack of constantly updated content. Since Beckwith left, says Pearce, the residual crew has not settled into a crank-it-out routine, and the fall-off in new posts has been palpable.
Here’s the acid test: I no longer feel the need to check Dome on-line every couple of hours. It’s usually the same old stuff.
I'm not sure if Gary's personal patterns of blog surfing are an acid test of anything, but even if they are, the lack of fresh content isn't the only problem facing the Dome. In my view, the bigger issue is the infestation of reactionary visitors who hijack discussions, attack liberal commenters, and generally embarrass themselves in dazzling displays of ignorance. It has truly become a chore to read through the discussion, and any attempt to explore issues in a meaningful way is met immediately with sarcasm or Libertarian lunacy.
My own blogging patterns have shifted significantly in the wake of the infestation, which predates Beckwith's departure. While I used to check the Dome at least every hour, I barely hit it once a day now. And I haven't left a comment there or linked to a post in weeks. That may not seem like a big deal, but I'm quite certain that I have linked to the Dome more than anyone in North Carolina over the past few years ... and have definitely been among their most frequent visitors.
Bloggers can be strange birds. The best ones seem to operate with a "sharing is good" mindset, linking to other blogs frequently, patting good guys on the back, and giving assholes all the grief they deserve. But that's not what happens at the Dome (or at Talking About Politics, for that matter). Those blogs do their own thing, more or less in isolation, generally steering clear of links to other blogs, and apparently counting on insidery insiders to keep the doors open.
I suspect the Dome will survive just fine, for whatever that's worth. But unless they find a way to reverse the decline in discourse, they'll end up bottom-feeding like WRAL-TV does, driving away thoughtful commenters with a perfect storm of right-wing rhetoric.
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