March 03, 2003

Traffic and freedom

There is some discussion at Joi Ito's site about whether it is in bad taste to disclose traffic statistics.

I have no opinion about taste. I think everybody should decide for themselves what to put on their blog. It's no big deal either way.

But I have one other comment: The relation of audience numbers and freedom of speech.

If you look at traditional media (like television or magazines), ratings are very important for them. This has an influence on the freedom of speech: Speech that appeals to a large audience has a better chance to get published.

If you assume (as the German Federal Constitutional Court does in his decisions about television funding) that television programs appealing to large audiences are likely to be worthless, that programs on a high level in contrast are unlikely to attract good ratings: If you assume this, you don't want to pay too much attention to audience numbers.

In this view, the best way to assure freedom of speech is to make sure that ratings have little influence on media content. The German Court does that by recquiring at least one channel with public funds (as opposed to funding by advertising). That channel will provide for quality programs while leaving the task of competing for the maximum in tasteless, dumb and sensational programming to the channels funded by advertising.

And in the blogging world as now, I think that ratings have little influence on blog contents. Which means that the freedom of speech on blogs is superior to that on other media.

Of course, all things being equal, everybody would like to have many readers (even if you have to pay for the bandwidth).

But blogs are largely free from restrictions coming from ratings. In a newspaper or in television, some editor will always worry about how that article or this talkshow attracts audiences or not. Which influence works to reduce quality and freedom of speech. But not with blogs. This might actually be one of the points of blogging: Everybody can go ahead and write regardless of the number of people reading. Blogs scale to small numbers.

So, my short answer to the discussion: Never mind. Post whatever you want, including stats. It's a free world.

Posted by Karl-Friedrich Lenz at March 3, 2003 12:14 PM | TrackBack

YES! Excellent point.

BTW, welcome to my blogroll. ;-)

Posted by: Joi Ito on March 4, 2003 12:36 AM


I guess that will increase my traffic, so I hope that the quality of my posts doesn't decrease in proportion :)

Posted by: Karl-Friedrich Lenz on March 4, 2003 09:29 AM
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