“Why, Mr. Klein, You’re Sitting On a Veritable Trove of Consumer Data!” *twirls mustache*

18 Mar

Originally posted at Iqra’i.

The most eye-opening thing I’ve read in the blogosphere in the last week or two is probably the list of responses to Ezra Klein’s comment poll asking “Which three magazines do you think of as must-reads?”

The results aren’t hugely astounding — The New Yorker gets a lot of votes, The Economist and TNR come in for the standard liberal ambivalence — but the volume of responses, and what those responses reveal about Klein’s audience, is market-research heaven.

Being partial to market research (and the larger message apparatus) myself, I embrace this sort of thing and would love to see it harnessed better. I can’t imagine that Klein — or at least the American Prospect site that hosts him — wouldn’t appreciate getting a better picture of who his constituents/consumers/ readers/participants are.

My preferences aren’t actually universal, and I know plenty of writers of various stripes who recoil at the thought of having their process corrupted by grubby business technique. But the best argument I can think of against market research for blogs is that it would invariably lead to tailored content, which bloggers (who are on the side of Truth, remember) identify with pandering. I don’t think that taking one’s audience into consideration necessarily entails subjugating one’s own insights in favor of reflecting their prejudices; I could see such an argument being made with nonverbal art, but writing is so inherently communicative that a concern for audience seems prerequisite. Emily Dickinson, the notable exception, is about as far from Mr. Klein et al – and me — as you can get.

Blogging may be informal, but it hasn’t yet entered its Modernist stream-of-consciousness stage (Myspace blogs don’t count) just yet, and I hope it never does. In the meantime, for anyone to insist on having an audience without actively seeking out more information about it would seem selfish and puerile to me.

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