Michael Arrington, writing about how many blog networks are trying to raise capital, describes the natural state of linking on the web:
And now that the big guys in the Gang are being injected with capital, hiring tens of employees and expanding their businesses, they suddenly have a lot more to lose. Linking is never done just because. Rather, links are your political capital that must be expended appropriately. Don’t link at the right time and in two weeks when you’re pushing your own headline, you’ll wish you had. When you stop seeing other blogs as people you admire and want to discuss things with, and start to see them as your competitor, your brain shifts and you stop linking the way you had previously.
Luckily, the newbie bloggers are there to fill in the links when they’re needed. That’s why, if you are a mid-level blogger, you are likely courted by the bigger blogs looking to get your support. If you know what’s going on and are willing to play the game, you can see your blog rise very, very quickly. Choose the wrong blog, though, and you may find yourself alone and lonely in your forgotten blog.
Launch something new? You better beg at least a dozen people to help spread it if you are in a saturated market. Hopefully you just them some favors too! This fending for your own self interests + backscratching is the new reciprocal link. Depending on how selfish we get, bloggers could make the mainstream media irrelevant or just make ourselves irrelevant.
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