March 17, 2005

State of the Blogosphere March 2005, Part 3: The A-List and the Long Tail

Today I'll discuss the impact of weblogs on traditional media, the impact of the A-List, and the power of the long tail.

First off, some terminology and an understanding of what we're measuring. This graph is a measure of influence or authority of a site or blog as measured by the number of people who are linking to it. Note that this is not a measure of page views or website "hits". Rather, Technorati looks at linking behavior as a proxy for attention and influence. In other words, the more people who link to a site or blog, the more influence it has on others. Note that influence is not an indicator of veracity - lots of people link to The Drudge Report, for example, which implies that Matt Drudge gets a lot of attention and influence, but not necessarily that he is truthful.

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OK, now on to the fun stuff: First, the growing power of weblogs when compared to the mainstream media. As the chart above shows, the most influential media sites on the web are still well-funded mainstream media sites, like The New York Times, The Washington Post, and CNN. However, a lot of bloggers are achieving a significant amount of attention and influence. Blogs like bOingbOing and Instapundit are highly influential, especially among technology and political thought leaders, and sites like Gizmodo are seeing as much influence as mainstream media sites like MTV.com. A note on counting: Some organizations with multiple domains or highly syndicated strategies like the Associated Press and Reuters, are underrepresented in this chart, given that their impact is not easily countable using our methods. An interesting statistic to note is the current placement of subscription sites like WSJ.com (the Wall Street Journal). While the WSJ has begun to offer some content outside of its subscriber-only site, the policy is clearly costing them some influence and attention in the blogosphere, as bloggers find it difficult to link to articles in the subscriber-only sections. Also interesting to note is that even though The New York Times and The Washington Post require free registration to view the articles, bloggers are still linking to the stories. In addition, sites like the NY Times have worked out ways for links from bloggers to continue to be valid even after the article goes behind a paywall.

Some historical perspective: Last October's chart shows a similar distribution of the top media sites and blogs. Most of the names in today's chart are also in last October's, showing that there is indeed a power law forming around reader attention. Some people might argue that this is a bad thing, because of the implied stratification of the blogosphere. However, I don't believe that this is the case. For example, there are a number of new names in the Technorati Top 100, for example, showing that new voices can make themselves heard.

However, what is more important than the Top 100 is what is happening in the long tail, which is where blogs as a media type really start to look different from mainstream media. To get a better look at the power law in action, here are two charts that first show the existance of the long tail (note the flatness of the power curve), and the power of the conversations going on in the long tail.

Note that these charts are actually Flash, so you can right-click and zoom in on the details of the graph, to see names of blogs, for example. The chart below shows the aggregate number of linking activity (which implies conversation) going on at the long end of the tail. In other words, the fact that the A-list exists does nothing to drown out the immensely larger set of conversations that are going on among smaller groups of people, like friends and niche topic bloggers. In fact, even though the amount of influence that a single blog may have is less than that of a single blog on the A-list, the aggregate influence of all of the long tail far outstrips even the mainstream media.

This also has implications for enlightened marketers and media companies. There is power in the conversations going on around you, and not necessarily from the places that you'd ordinarily expect. Companies that work in conjunction with the trends going on in the long tail: e.g. fostering peoples voices, listening to and incorporating their comments and feedback, and fostering a community have a tremendous opportunity awaiting them.

Next in the series, hopefully posted tomorrow because I'm on a business trip: Some information on tags and tagging.

Posted by dsifry at March 17, 2005 05:58 AM | TrackBack | View blog reactions