And is the media paying attention? I hope so. I tell you why in a minute, first let's go to the results of the blogsurvey.
Here is the link for the blog readers survey, recently completed. Some quick stats to throw at you-from the survey-
This year, 30,079 blog readers responded.
Last year, 61% of responding blog readers were over 30 years old. This year, 75% are over 30 years old.
Last year, 40% had family incomes greater than $90,000. This year, 43% exceed that figure.
Year over year, some figures are remarkably stable. One reader in five is a blogger. As was the case last year, exactly 1.7% are CEOs. Almost the same number (44%) spend more than $500 for air tickets. 86% purchased music online, last year and this. Last year, 79% were men. This year, 75% are men.
The most interesting news comes in section 8. Aficionados of PR-speak will recognize these questions as benchmark tests to identify who is an opinion maker, a member of the ten percent of Americans who are believed to set the agenda and steer the opinions of the other 90%. To qualify as an official "influential," RoperASW, the leading firm consulting in the field, you have to answer 3 of those questions (excluding a petition) in the affirmative. Clearly the blogosphere is crawling with certified grade A opinion makers. (When we can get SurveyMonkey's filtering software to behave properly, we'll be able to tell you exactly how many.)
A few stats that were interesting to me-
-39.3% responded as democrats, 27.3% as Republican and 19% as independent. So much for the canard that it is dominantly "conservative blogosphere".
-only 20.7% of the 30,000 who responded to the survey actually have their own blog. A lot more people are reading blogs than are those that have them. I guess this is obvious? No? Whatever.
-75.3% of respondents said the read blogs for "News I can't find elsewhere". Nervous yet Major Media? You should be. This is a misleading stat in some ways however, because much of the news that blogs produce is usually obtained from a Major Media news source. Many if the links to stories I write about go to major media organizations. Some news doesn't get broken through the MSM, instead it does get reported first by bloggers, but a majority still comes from the MSM.
Despite all of this, the idiots in Congress still don't get the picture. Before reading the rest of this post, I suggest you go read the following article by Ryan H. Sager, Free Speech For Me But Not For Thee at Tech Central Station. He talks about the growing movement by the liberal elites in this country to stifle dissent against their agenda. Since they can't win at the voting booth, now they're going after the dissenters through the courts using the McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance, which again, have managed to do nothing to control campaign finance.
As Congress takes up legislation to close the 527 "loophole" that allowed so much pesky speech into the 2004 campaign, and as the FEC is forced by court order to look at ways to cleanse the Internet of insufficiently regulated political speech, it's worth understanding just how the campaign-finance reform lobby operates.
First, let's return to that bought-and-paid-for issue of the Prospect. On Wednesday, the magazine's founder and co-editor, Robert Kuttner, explained that this was one of its first ever "foundation-sponsored" special issues. Since then, he said, the magazine has been careful to disclose any financial contributions to coverage of specific topics right up front. "You probably found the one," he said.
Fair enough. But it's not really the magazine's actions here that should draw the public's attention. It is the campaign of media manipulation that has been quietly undertaken by the reform lobby.
Payments to the media found by Political Money Line include: the $132,000 to the Prospect, $69,000 to Public Radio International, $935,000 to the Radio and Television News Directors Foundation and more than $1.2 million to National Public Radio for items such as, in the words of the official disclosure statements, "news coverage of financial influence in political decision making."
No wonder McCain-Feingold contained a "media exemption." The media -- on top of having their voices amplified when private citizens, labor unions and corporations are barred from speaking -- are relatively easy to write some checks to. (Millions of bloggers, on the other hand, might be a little harder to corral -- hence the calls for a crackdown.)
The bottom line here is that the First Amendment is about as clear as an amendment can possibly get. Perhaps this is why it was put at the top of the list. Let's review-
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.
This means if I want to write on my blog that I think George Bush is absolutely screwing us over a barrel with this new Bankruptcy bill he's about to sign, I can say "George Bush is absolutely screwing us over a barrel with this new Bankruptcy bill he's about to sign", and no one can arrest me according to our constitution. Or, say I want to say Robert Byrd is a hypocritical lying dirtbag for comparing Republicans to Nazis, I can do that to.
If I wanted to write those things on a billboard and hang it up over my private place of business, I can do that too. Free speech is free speech. Period. We either have all of it, or we get none. No halfway measure. You'd think Washington gets this. You'd be wrong.
Glenn Reynolds -the Instapundit- writes about a speech he gave at the 2005 Politics Online Conference following the FEC Chairmans speech-
Scott Thomas, chairman of the FEC, spoke before me. He opened with some rather uncharitable remarks regarding fellow commissioner Brad Smith's comments on FEC regulation of blogs, but followed up with a discussion of FEC intent that, although it was supposed to be reassuring, actually left me thinking that the FEC was thinking more seriously about regulating blogs than I had previously believed. I wasn't reassured at all, and the complexity of the reasoning he outlined just illustrated how much discretion -- and how little real guidance -- the FEC has on these kinds of questions.
That led me to open by saying that Thomas's remarks were the most cogent argument I've heard for the abolition of the FEC. And they were. If you think that there can be objective, predictable, and unintrusive regulation of political speech, well -- read the transcript of his remarks and see if you still think so.
When a law professor like Professor Reynolds sounds as flabbergasted by the opinions of the FEC chairman as he does, that means it's time to get with the program and go sign the following - The Online Coalition-From Left to Right to PRESERVE our Rights
An excerpt from the petition-
As bipartisan members of the online journalism, blogging, and advertising community, we ask that you grant blogs and online publications the same consideration and protection as broadcast media, newspapers, or periodicals by clearly including them under the Federal Election Commission's "media exemption" rule.
In order to ensure that there are sufficient measures taken, we also request that the FEC promulgate a rule exempting unpaid political activity on the Internet from regulation, thereby guaranteeing every American's right to speak freely and participate in our democratic process.
Now I ask you, how many people have read about any of this in the Major News Media? Anyone? Bueller? Guys and girls at the MSM, get with the program. It's your funeral.