Commenter I am not writes:
It’s an empirical question as to how much leeway a proprietor has to influence debate without losing eyeballs. What I think the leftist analysis misses is that proprietors aren’t the only ones exploiting this leeway – editors and journalists are too.
This is an empirical question, and it’s one I’d like to see studied in greater depth. (If you’re aware of existing research, please post links.) I would think that political polling firms, largely dormant when elections are further away, would be interested in studying the interaction between policy preferences and media. And if not polling firms, then perhaps academic social scientists.
On the broader point of media influence, I agree that media figures–owners, editors, writers, bloggers(!?)–have the power to influence people. I think that the liberal narrative I hinted at earlier can be paraphrased as: conservative media power is both more concentrated and, as a whole stronger, than liberal media power. Or in contrarian moderate terms, American conservatives, on average, tend to be lower down on the vertical axis of my two-dimension political axis. That is, the average American conservative is more to accept the arguments that a small number of conservative media figures proclaim than is the average American liberal.
I’m sympathetic to this broad claim, with the relative abundance of low-quality, high-popularity conservative media serving as evidence, but the extreme version of this position–that all tea partiers are mindless drones that can be converted to any position at any time at the whim of four people–is wildly absurd.