It turns out the Daily Dot’s network extends to a million people. Does that shock you? It shocked the hell out of me—especially considering we’re still in beta.
The readers, writers, subscribers, followers, and friends of the Daily Dot, according to our audience study, have more than four times the average number of friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, connections on LinkedIn, and so on. Thus a nascent community of a few thousand is connected to more than one million people.
Of course, it’s a little exhilarating—and a little terrifying—to know we are already part of such an enormous network. It’s obviously a good sign for the Daily Dot as a business, and I very much hope that we can serve you well enough that you’ll share us with your friends and followers.
But what is truly remarkable to me is how it quantifies a difference between on- and offline communities.
My first reporting job was at a small newspaper with a circulation of 9,000. Considering that a couple people read each copy of the newspaper, you’ve got to assume that five or six times as many people read the Norwalk Reflector as read the Daily Dot. But the notion that that group of people in Northern Ohio connects to another million is simply unbelievable.
To cover such a sprawling world, we need new tools and techniques, such as our developing data-journalism efforts, or Project Cascade, a fascinating new tool from The New York Times that explores how stories spread socially.
Malcolm Gladwell has argued that online communities can’t produce real social change because while they allow us to connect so broadly, they inherently produce only weak ties. Forget the fancy sociological arguments for a second: Surely the frequency of Match.com and World of Warcraft weddings argue convincingly against the idea that online communities don’t produce strong ties.
Of course, you’d expect me to say that. The belief that online communities truly and profoundly matter is at the core of the Daily Dot’s mission and motivation. But regardless, we’re in an age when our problems are increasingly global in nature. For the last 20 years, our ability to confront those problems has been undermined by a cultural tendency toward division and polarization. So the fact that a few thousand people can be even tenuously connected to more than a million, a group too large for homogeneity, is cause for hope.
Photo by karen_neoh/Flickr