I sometimes hear people argue that blogs are unworthy of various legal protections -- for instance, journalist privileges, exemptions from campaign finance laws, and the like -- because they aren't Serious Journalism. Let me offer a few thoughts about this.
1. As I've argued before, it's hard to say what "blogs are," just as it's hard to say what "books are." Blogs, like books, vary widely in topic, readership, quality, depth, breadth, and more. Most blogs, like most books ever published, aren't particularly good or useful. But if we are to evaluate blogs or books, the focus should be on the ones that do attract a broad readership, not to the great majority that are ignored.
2. We should thus focus on the most prominent blogs (not just the 10 most prominent, but still not blogs #1,000,000-2,000,000). And we should compare those blogs not against the Best of the Best, but against other media as they actually are. I've generally argued that the high-readership blogs tend to be most analogous to magazines, because both tend to offer opinion and commentary on the news (with "news" defined broadly). And in fact many special legal protections for the media include magazines alongside blogs.
3. This having been said, what are those magazines that get protection under many journalist privilege statutes, under many campaign finance statutes (including the federal one), and more? Well, here's the list of the Top 25 magazines, by circulation, based on Audit Bureau of Circulations data (note that this includes both weeklies and monthlies, and perhaps other magazines):
|AARP THE MAGAZINE||23,250,882|
|BETTER HOMES AND GARDENS||7,627,046|
|LADIES' HOME JOURNAL||4,136,462|
|TIME-THE WEEKLY NEWS MAGAZINE||4,082,740|
|AAA GOING PLACES||2,528,014|
|AMERICAN LEGION MAGAZINE||2,525,264|
A mixed bag -- just as blogs are a mixed bag. Some news, some gossip, some lifestyle, some hobby, just as is the case with blogs.
I don't know of an authoritative list of top-visitor blogs, and I'm not sure how to evaluate the relative quality of the ones I've seen, or to judge whether top-link lists are good proxies for influence or likely visitor counts. (Please do let me know what you think are the best lists of most influential blogs.) But my guess is that the profile of the top blogs won't be radically different from the profile of the top magazines. And I'm pretty sure it won't be far "worse" -- if the criterion of quality is either focus on Important Issues, Seriously Discussed, or the credentials of the authors -- than what we see among the top magazines.