The State of the Gun Blogosphere
by Steve PW Johnson
The Firearms Blog
|Photo taken by Packing Rat, another gun blogger. This is the media day at SHOT show 2010|
You can’t pick up a magazine, read a newly published book, or even stand around a water cooler these days without hearing something about such and such a “blogger” somewhere. If you are not familiar with actual blogs, they vary in content from daily mumblings to extremely formal news delivery. Some writers check in once a day, some several times a week, and some not very often, but when they do they have something to say.
I run The Firearms Blog. It is an overview of the firearms industry, with current news and opinion, specifically about the guns more than the politics and marketing of guns. Over the years I have developed a pretty large following and through the process I have learned a great deal about guns, the gun industry, and of course, blogging.
In its simplest form, a blog a journal published online. Writers of blogs are known as bloggers. The term comes from “web log” as in a log that I record regularly. That turned into “blog” long ago, and no I don’t know who coined the term, but according to Technorati, the search engine devoted exclusively to blogs, there are well over 100 million active and regularly read blogs online today.
There are two main areas that differentiate a blog from a normal website. The first point of differentiation is that blogs primarily organize their articles, better known as “posts”, in chronological order rather than in categories (although most blogs also categorize their posts). The second point of differentiation is that blogs allow readers to write comments about the blog posts. These comments normally appear at the bottom of each post. Readers often use the comments to debate the views expressed in the post or to contribute additional information about the topic under discussion.
Gun blogs have been around since the beginning of blogging, and in America especially they are an integral part of the gun rights and news landscape. Most gun blogs are run as a hobby by passionate individuals. More recently business, such as gun dealers, and non-profits, for example the NRA, have started up their own blogs. Overall the state of the gun “blogosphere” has never been stronger. A blogosphere is internet parlance meaning the informal interconnected community of blogs.
The Gun Blogosphere refers to ever expanding community of blogs which focus on RKBA (The Right to Keep and Bear Arms) activism and politics, guns and shooting sports. Some gun blogs focus on one specific topic and others cover many including non-gun subjects.
The year of 2009 saw big growth in blogosphere with new blogs starting up each month and had the MSM (Mainstream Media) taking serious noticed of the gun bloggers’ grassroots influence. Two gun bloggers, Bitter and AccurateShooter, were quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Gun blogger Caleb Giddings appeared on Fox to debate the controversial Indiana handgun permit database with Dennis Henigan, an employee of the pro gun control Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
|Gun blogger Caleb Giddings appeareance on Fox News|
The problem with blogs is that anyone can do one. In minutes, using Blogspot, Google, and other “blog engines,” you can have your articles, your opinions, your news, your pictures, anything you like, up and available online in less than the time it took you to read this article so far. There is an old saying on the internet that “nobody knows your a dog,” and the saying comes with a cartoon of a dog at a computer pretending to be a beautiful woman on a dating site. When it comes to blogs, “nobody knows you’re a nobody with nothing in your head worth noting and nothing to say worth writing down.” I can be difficult to wade through endless links to blogs linking to blogs linking to blogs, hoping to find something of worth reading.
I read and keep up with approximately 400 blogs, many of them gun related, and I feel I have compiled a fairly comprehensive list of “where to go” online to find information and opinion worth reading regarding guns, the gun industry, and gun freedom. This is not an exclusive list, and new worthy people may come along in the short or long term that may or may not be added to this list over time. I have included the more prominent and respected blogs in their own “top 20 section” as well as a longer more comprehensive list. I have split the categories along the lines of Firearms, Shooting and Gear Blogs, Political Gun Blogs and General Gun Blogs, but the lines in our very passionate world are of course blurred, so take my divisions for what they are worth.
In case you are thinking of starting your own blog, I also thought it would be good to include an interview with a couple of the more known and read bloggers, Caleb Giddings, who blogs a Gun Nuts Media, and Sebastian, who blogs at Snowflakes in Hell, have both established themselves as prominent gun bloggers. They kindly answered questions about the gun blogosphere and their experiences blogging.
When and why did you start blogging?
Caleb: I started blogging on December 21st, 2006. Originally, I started because I felt like I had “stuff to say” about politics, current events, and of course guns.
Sebastian: I started blogging January 6, 2007, because Bitter told me she thought I should, and I wanted to impress. Prior to blogging, I LiveJournaled, which is kind of like blogging, but only to your LJ friends, who mostly tend to be your real friends. Now I get to blog for people who absolutely despise me, in addition to my friends. It’s a refreshing change.
What have you found to be the most rewarding aspect of blogging?
Caleb: Easily the relationships and friendships I’ve made. Because of blogging I’ve had opportunities to become friends and learn from people I never otherwise would have met.
Sebastian: I got the girl didn’t I? Mission accomplished. After that it’s as much a compulsion as a passion. But seriously, the most rewarding aspect of it is when someone you’ve long admired in the gun rights movement, someone who’s books and papers you’ve spent years reading, comes up to you and says he/she reads your blog. At that point you almost want to do your very best Wayne’s World impersonation and exclaim “We’re not worthy! We’re not worthy!” But it’s pretty cool, and really the most rewarding aspect of blogging. Another aspect, which is interesting, is being at some gun related event and having someone either recognize you or seek you out because you mentioned on the blog you were going to be there. I’m not sure that’s in the category of rewarding so much as interesting. Anyone who’s ever met me in real life can tell inside of five minutes I’m not the kind of guy who seeks the limelight. My background is quiet computer nerd.
How influential are gun bloggers?
Caleb: That’s a complicated question. As a group, gun bloggers are a vocal minority of shooters that don’t necessarily reach the broad audience of a published gun magazine. On the flip side, gun blogs are EXTREMELY good at identifying and targeting niche markets and can be very influential in that sphere.
Sebastian: Not as influential as I think we should be. The gun rights movement has long been the crazy uncle in the attic in both parties. They want our votes, but don’t particularly wanting us to come down and disturbing the guests. You get sort of the same dynamics in the blogosphere. Of the major political blogs, Instapundit is really the only one who pays any attention to what goes on with the gun blogosphere. How to bring more mainstream attention to our issue from the big political blogs has been something I’ve thought about a lot lately.
Where do you see the gun blogosphere in 5 years time?
Caleb: With the way things are developing, I honestly believe that in 5-10 years the vast majority of written words about guns and shooting will be published online. I think that you’ll start to see more “professional” bloggers writing for pay as publishers shift their distribution models to more online content.
Sebastian: It’s very hard to say, really. Five years ago I don’t think anyone would have predicted Facebook would become such a universal tool for horizontal communication within the movement. Five years ago Twitter didn’t even exist. Now everybody is using it, and it’s a very useful tool for activists, and also for engaging with our opponents in the issue. The blogosphere itself has changed a lot in the past five years, so it’s very difficult to predict what it’s future is. In many ways, I think blogging is less healthy now that it was five years ago, and gun blogging is suffering from a lot of the same problems.
Do you have any advice for new gun bloggers?
Caleb: Two major things: 1) create a schedule and stick to it. Whether that is publishing on weekdays, every day, three days a week, it doesn’t matter, but you have to get in the habit of writing. Secondly, if blogging ever stops being fun, it’s time to hang it up. There’s no sense in writing if it’s not fun anymore!
Sebastian: Tying into the previous question, it’s very difficult for new bloggers out there today because of changes in the blogosphere that have occurred in recent years. With the decline in usefulness of many tracking tools, it’s difficult to know at any given time who’s linking to you. Most blogs no longer accept or produce trackbacks or pingbacks too. The primary way for a new blogger to be successful is to get noticed by a more established blogger. You used to be able to do that through linking, but now it’s hard to notice incoming links unless they drive traffic. They won’t drive traffic if they aren’t an established blog, so newbie bloggers have this Catch 22 to deal with. This tends to lead to a conversation among top bloggers that’s very hard for an up and coming blog to insert themselves into. It’s definitely harder to get noticed, but it’s not impossible to start a successful blog, despite the problems that have cropped up with the medium.
The most important piece of advice I could give a newbie gun blogger is to find your voice, and find your niche, and do it quickly. You need to bring a unique angle or perspective to the table. Look at the Firearms Blog, for instance. No one else was doing “No politics, just guns” in gun blogging, and it turned out there was a significant audience for that approach. You found your voice, and found your unique angle, and it took off. I look at some of the crap I posted way back in the beginning, and it’s almost embarrassing. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what you can bring to the table.
No one is going to be successful in gun blogging rehashing the same old stuff we’ve talked about for the past decade. You need fresh content and fresh angles to help drive the conversation. If you do those things, you’ll get noticed, because you’ll be part of the conversation. So how do you find unique stories and angles? The only way to is to be involved in the issue offline as well as online. There’s still a lot of niches out there left unfilled, particularly state and local gun issues. Pennsylvania right now is at the front lines of Mayor Bloomberg’s attacks on gun ownership, so we’ve been studying the enemy, learning the players, studying his tactics, and trying to figure out weaknesses. Helping spread that information to other people in the issue is one angle we’ve been exploiting lately, but there are others. It takes a lot of work to make a successful blog, and a willingness and commitment to spend the time seeking out good information and doing things no one else is doing. This is probably the biggest key to success.
Thank you Caleb and Sebastian for your time and interest in this project.
Sebastian makes a good point. It is harder for gun bloggers to get noticed than it was three years ago. On the other hand, it was harder back then than it was six years ago! In my experience there is plenty of space for new gun bloggers to emerge who have what to say.
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Gun Blog Directory
This directory contains over two hunderd different gun blogs that have been classified into three main categories. The views and opinions expressed in these blogs varey widely and are not neccesserily the views and opinions of the author or of GunsAmerica.