Alex Rosmiller takes aim at “the myth of meritocracy” as it applies to the blogosphere. I think most of what he says he right — despite the lack of barriers to entry, there’s still a very real sense in which things like timing and social networks are crucial to success in the political blogosphere.
There is, though, one sense in which merit really does play a larger role in the blogosphere than in the dread MSM. That is that, overwhelmingly, the only way for a blogger to succeed in having a lot of readers is for a lot of people (relative to the modest scale of blog enterprises) to genuinely find the blog worth reading. The MSM doesn’t really work that way. A newspaper is all bundled together. So as long as The New York Times is worth reading (which it is) and Bill Kristol has a New York Times column (which he does) lots of people are going to see Kristol’s columns. Him keeping his job just depends on him continuing to have the favor of the NYT high command. And then the mere fact of his presence on the op-ed page makes the columns “important” and worth reading for anyone who wants to participate in “the conversation.”
Similarly, notwithstanding the unbearable inanity of Tim Russert, nobody can make it in big-time politics without submitting to the Russert Probe and a Russert interview with a major politician is, as such, a major news event worth watching. So Meet The Press can be a successful enterprise without anyone even liking it. The much larger number of distribution channels on the internet makes this kind of phenomenon — where you become important just because someone gave you an important job — is much less likely. Good blogs can go unfairly neglected, and bad blogs can become popular, but popular blogs are at least well-liked. I may not care for Instapundit, but Instapundit’s readers really do like it, which is a real contrast with the typical MSM situation.