At some point over the past few weeks the number of GoogleReader subscribers to this blog inched up into the triple digits. (That doesn’t include subscribers on other feed readers.) While that’s no big deal compared to some of the blogs I follow, in terms of blog growth, which is probably more geometrical than arithmetical, one could think of it as akin to breaking out of the troposphere, where the bulk of the atmospheric mass is, into the stratosphere. The mesosphere, the next layer up, would be where the four-digit blogs are, like Leiter Reports (the most popular philosopher’s blog I’m aware of), Crooked Timber, Savage Minds, Culture Matters, Henry Jenkins’s Confessions of an Aca/Fan, Mark Fisher’s k-punk, David Byrne’s Journal, and some others.
Above the mesosphere is the five-digit thermosphere, which is the atmospheric layer where you find communication satellites. In the environmental or political blog worlds, those satellites would include WorldChanging, Grist, Dot Earth, Tree Hugger, Paul Krugman’s Conscience of a Liberal, and the big political blogs like Huffington Post (61,000 subscribers), which tops Technorati’s authority list, and The Daily Kos. GoogleReader’s count puts the Daily Kos at a stunning 270,000 subscribers, which ranks in the ionosphere, by my count (like the Aurora Borealis). The New York Times, with 1.7 million subscribers, is close to the moon, but that’s a feed, not a single blog. (The Times’s Opinionator is more like a blog aggregator, and that has just under 5,000 subscribers, though individual Times-hosted blogs, like Krugman’s Confessions or Revkin’s Dot Earth, get a lot more readers than that.) Of actual blogs, as opposed to feeds from popular web sites, even the top celebrity entertainment blogs like Gizmodo, TMZ (eBizMBA’s current popularity leader), and PerezHilton.com, are only in the upper thermosphere or, in the case of Gizmodo (115,000), just getting into the ionosphere.
I’m not sure how other blog readers correlate with popularity or influence, but from what I’ve seen they bring in far fewer subscribers than GoogleReader, probably because GoogleReader is so convenient: all your blog feeds come into one place, automatically, like your e-mail, but even more quickly, and they’re always there no matter where you are, since they’re saved on Google’s servers. Best of all, you can do almost anything with the click of a key: ‘like’ or ‘star’ a post (which adds it to its own folder), e-mail it, comment on it, forward it to your own blog, search all your feeds, follow others’ recommendations, organize them into folders, etc. While not all blogs can be read in full in GoogleReader — this one, for instance, usually only appears as the first bit of text — clicking on the title of the post will take you to the actual blog. It’s much easier and quicker than reading blogs by individually visiting every blog site you’re interested in. This is beginning to sound like an ad, so I’ll stop… But if you don’t use it, I do recommend giving GoogleReader a try.
Actually, most of the more specialized theoretical/philosophical blogs of any consequence are in the three-digit stratosphere, so I’m happy to be able to join them. (Well, just barely, and with the reality-suspending illusion that 100 is closer to 900 than to 10; on a geometrical growth curve it may be, but in real numbers it is far from it.) The numbers of ecocritics (i.e., working in cultural/literary/media studies) or ecophilosophers here are, in any case, pretty sparse. Maybe I should head over to warm my hands at the speculative realists’ bonfire — their excited conversations over in the distance (to gently mix metaphors) make up one of the brightest star clusters in the galactic vicinity.
(All that said, amidst the weather balloons and satellites of the blogosphere, there is still a lot of hot air and an increasing accumulation of space junk. The last thing I want to do is to contribute to it.)