A time-lapse video of the Techmeme front page created by Amit Argawal (see his blog post) shows how bloggers herd around stories. This entertaining video, which covers 50 hours in the life of the Internet--interestingly, the two days surrounding the Scoble Facebook kerfuffle--shows stories popping on and off the front page of the service, and it graphically illustrates how bloggers and other journalists report on items that have just been covered by their peers and competitors.
This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Each outlet and blog has its own perspective and should serve its readers without worrying too much about what is showing up on other sites. But Techmeme, and this video especially, illustrates how bloggers often herd around popular ideas. In the sheer number of stories that circulate around topics popular in the blogosphere, it also starkly shows the diminishing returns of publishing a story on a topic everyone else has already covered.
The "Techmeme effect" is not like the Digg effect. Links that show up on Techmeme don't drive a ton of traffic to their originating sites. Top stories--those written on original news or insight--generate some click-through, but secondary references are not traffic drivers. You'll notice in this video that there are a few instances when the story evolves and new thinking pops an item into a top spot. That's progress.
Yet some writers, upon seeing a topic get traction on Techmeme, rush in to the fray to get their stories added to the growing list of links. Sadly, hardly any of the stories posted into a blogstorm pay their writers back in a meaningful way.
I like and use Techmeme, but I encourage writers I work with not to chase it. It's not worth it.
Related: The Five Members of the Techmeme Family, by Jeremiah Owyang.