Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Power of the Individual Blogger

A friend of mine gave me the November 14, 2005 issue of Forbes magazine and asked my opinion about an article called "Attack of the Blogs" by Daniel Lyons. There's a lot to this article, and many bloggers have already effectively covered many of the issues discussed. Reading the magazine cover phrase "They destroy brands and wreck lives", I decided to try and analyze just how much an individual blogger can really affect the blogosphere.

To illustrate how much influence typical bloggers really have, let's look at my Corporate Alien Blog. I started blogging about three months ago, so I'm relatively new to the blogosphere. Currently the largest blog directory is called the Technorati and claims to list 21.5 million blogs. The Technorati rate a blog with a number that gives you an idea of how influential the blog is. The smaller the number the more powerful the blog. At the time of this writing my blog's Technorati rank was approximately 500,000. (It fluctuates a little from day to day but does not change drastically unless your blog picks up or loses high ranking links.) I monitor how many visitors I get per day. That's approximately 30 per day or 900 per month. Since many of my hits come from blog traffic exchanges like Blogexplosion, I guess that at most only 25% of the people actually stop and read the blog. That's only 7 visitors. That translates to around 210 people who read my blog per month. This number drops some more when you consider that some of these people may be repeat visitors. Let's assume that my unique visitor count is 200.

So what's the point of this analysis? It shows that I'm getting roughly 200 readers per month and maybe only half of them agree with me. That leaves 100 readers. What the Technorati rank means is that I rank 500,000 out of 21.5 million blogs, and therefore 499,999 blogs have more influence while 21 million have less. So, although the majority of bloggers interact with the entire blogosphere, they get less than 200 people per month that actually read their blog.

The powerful blogs that have many readers get their readers, and consequently, their power from the entire blogosphere, which includes the 21 million less influential bloggers. The powerful bloggers start campaigns in which they try to involve all their readers. For example, even if you're politically non partisan, let's say you oppose the war in Iraq. You see a powerful left wing blog that asks you to place an "Impeach Bush" icon on your site. You do this. Even though you only have a small amount of readers, you encourage your readers to get an "Impeach Bush" icon. Some of them do, and they encourage their readers to get the icon and so on. Because the powerful left wing blog has many readers, a huge number of these icons wind up on many sites. This has actually happened. I'm sure that you have seen numerous "Impeach Bush" icons scattered throughout the blogosphere.

You may be asking yourself if a blogger with a small readership could initiate such a campaign and have it explode throughout the blogosphere. To tell you the truth, I've tried. In my October 31st post, I started a campaign against credit card companies polluting the mail with their credit offers. I told bloggers to print a pdf letter that I wrote, and send it back in the post-paid envelopes provided by the credit card companies. At last count, I counted 72 views of my credit card letter, and since this post is over three weeks old, the hits to this letter have already ceased. So my campaign has ended. Needless to say, I expected a much better reaction. Everybody seems to hear how all kinds of rumors spread throughout the internet like a nuclear chain reaction.

I'm pretty sure that we can liken a blog chain reaction to a nuclear fission chain reaction. The same statistical rules that govern the chain reaction when the atom is split, also govern blog campaigns. In order for fission to occur you have enough material to react. Physicists call this the critical mass. In order to have a blog chain reaction occur the blog must have enough readers, I call this the critical traffic. When a nuclear chain reaction occurs, you have an atomic explosion. When a blog chain reaction occurs you have a blog explosion in which your campaign traffic grows exponentially.

Not all nuclear material can undergo fission. The same is true about blog content. My guess is that my material could have undergone a blog explosion if my blog had exceeded the required critical traffic. I'm pretty sure that if you reach a Technorati number that is low enough, you can have a campaign that starts picking up an exponential amount of hits. What is the Technorati number needed to create a chain reaction? It probably depends on the blogger interest in the content of the campaign, and how well it is presented. But no matter how popular the crusade is, I don't think it will explode unless the blog gets enough traffic to cause the chain reaction.

Because of what I deduced from my blog, I believe that the majority of bloggers can obtain only limited results from the campaigns they initiate. Any blogger's campaign can be extremely successful if he/she can get a very powerful blogger to join the crusade. If a powerful blogger posts your cause on his/her site, you will get the critical traffic you need and a chain reaction will occur. Look at it this way. The majority of bloggers are similar to reporters working for their local neighborhood newspapers. Local newspapers do not get world press. Power bloggers are like reporters that work for the Washington Post or the New York Times. If the New York Times picks up your article, you're bound to get noticed. But unfortunately, that rarely happens.

What do you have to do to get a lower Technorati number, or improved rank? From what I've read and deduced, there are several factors that influence your ranking.

  1. Time - The longer your blog has been around, the more readership and quality links you can pick up.
  2. Hard Work - Write interesting content and submit some of your original works to ezines. Join traffic exchanges, and link exchanges. Get listed in blog and web directories. Advertise. Use different types of web gimmicks to get an audience.
  3. Luck - If your content is interesting enough some powerful blogs or websites may link to your work. The more good links you have the more visitors you get and the better your rank.

There is a quick way to get a blog to be highly influential. Powerful corporations and political parties already have websites with millions of readers. If they start a blog, all they have to do is post a link to it from one or more of their high ranking websites and they get instant traffic and instant influence. These types of blogs can be specifically designed to run smear campaigns that attack their competitors or political enemies.

If there were no blogs, they would use other forms of media to attain their goals. I'm sure we've all seen how the candidates attack each other on television during a typical election campaign. Expect to see political parties use such smear tactics and dirty tricks in the blogosphere during the next major election.

To see an example of how powerful political blogs affected the blogosphere, do a Google search for the words "miserable failure". Currently the first item on the resulting list is President Bush's website; the next item is Michael Moore's website. From this it can be deduced that there are more powerful left wing bloggers than right wing bloggers, but the right wingers are gaining momentum.

The Forbes article assumes that if you want to harm your enemies, all you have to do is start a blog and then you can spread a campaign of lies and your target has very little recourse. Before any smear campaign will work, your blog has to have a critical amount of readers. The attacker must also convince his readers that the attack is worthwhile. The examples Daniel Lyons gives about blogger attacks, are only possible if they were initiated from powerful websites or blogs. This is not the case with over 99% of bloggers. Without the endorsement of high traffic bloggers or websites, their campaigns yield insignificant results.

17 Comments:

At 3:59 PM, Blogger Christopher Trottier said...

When will people realize that a blog is simply a website with really easy updating tools?

 
At 6:56 PM, Blogger dog1net said...

Well written and presented review on blogging. Enjoyed.

 
At 4:47 AM, Blogger Kathryn Beach said...

You mean a blog didn't start that tsunami? That's what I heard...spread the word...

Nicely written and researched, by the way.

 
At 11:24 AM, Blogger Uncle Pavian said...

Where is this credit card letter of which you speak?

 
At 7:37 PM, Blogger George Lunt said...

To uncle pavian:
There is a link to it in the October 31st post. Click here to read or print.

 
At 5:28 AM, Blogger Corsarius said...

great post. you wrote this very very well. more power to you!

 
At 1:26 PM, Blogger Hiddenson said...

Although I enjoyed reading your post, I do not agree with all you say.

The analogy to a nuclear chain reaction was well thought of, and admirably accurate.

What I do not agree with is about your reasoning under Technorati. Correct me if I am wrong, but your Technorati number of 500,000 does not mean you're 500,000 out of 21.5 million blogs! You see, I am ranked at 197,200 and believe me, I have no pretention of claiming my superiority over 21.6 million others. While I believe in the quality of my content and work, I do not think this ranking reflects that in any way. Could you please explain how did you come to this conclusion?

Additionally, the way you calculate your monthly statistics seems highly subjective to me: you assume that your unique visitor count is 200, and I applaud you if that is the case. I would say the effective number is a 10th of that, with no offense whatsoever.

I have a small audience of regular readers, and from time to time, I attract new comments. I see the critical power of my blog writing in terms of influence and trust over my readers, not in terms of the Technorati count. Any teenager girlie can have a blogroll of 30+ blogs and be high ranked, which does not mean she is actually interesting to anyone. Many people exchange links but do not read each other, another sad fact.

Ultimately, your analogy and your three point conclusion (time, hard work, and luck) wrap it all. Well thought of.

Please correct me if I'm babbling nonsense here.

 
At 12:29 AM, Blogger George Lunt said...

To hiddenson:

The Technorati rank may not be as accurate as we would like, but it is the best way that I've found to compare blog standings within the entire blogosphere.

A teenage girl who has a blogroll of 30+ may not always have a high rank. If her content is bad, no one will blogroll her back. It's the people who link to her, that will determine her rank. It's not only the number of incoming links she gets, but how powerful the linking blogs are (that is how many significant incoming links they themselves have) that will greatly influence her rank. She can only attain a high rank by being interesting to bloggers who themselves have significant rank.

Her Technorati rank would also drop off as her links age, so to stay up there, she would have to keep obtaining new noteworthy links. That's not always easy.

 
At 3:36 AM, Blogger Hiddenson said...

Thanks for your answer.

The aging factor is a good point, yet it seems like another rat race... I'm sick of them :(

Take care.

 
At 10:34 AM, Anonymous Athene Aquinas said...

I agree with dog1net, very interesting. I've been bloggin' now 4 months and have come to the conclusion that people simply want short information filled posts with a lot of lateral links. I've also noticed that emerging ow is the new code for RSS2 which basically has revolutionized content management and changed the way Google will attack the market now. Though I think Blog exchanges are great for starting out, the key, from what I understand is getting your feeds out there and suscribed to ie: Feed Burner, My Yahoo etc.

 
At 6:38 AM, Blogger Peter said...

Sigh!!! Enviroman Says

I read through your whole post BTW

 
At 7:35 AM, Blogger Orikinla Osinachi. said...

I am blogging as another easy medium of writing and rankings are good for the services they provide in the further development of the media.

Technorati is becoming very authoritative and I want it to succeed like Google as I want other great ideas to develop for the benfit of humanity.

My country Nigeria needs my "Nigerian Times" and other blogs I have developed to balance the equation of media power in the global village to bridge the communication gap between developing countries and the developed countries and from my Technorati rankings within only seven months of being a novice blogger, I am making the positive impact since "Nigerian Times" is already below 100,000 and "Kisses & Roses" is below 70,000. The fact is I am going to have millions of readers from my country alone as more Nigerians come on line. There are over 3 million Nigerians on line. But most of them are totally ignorant of weblogs. Even 90% of our college students don't know what is a weblog and once they know, there will stampede my blogs. So, I am already in the future waiting for them.

 
At 11:51 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

great post.
Count me as one of those who just stopped by c/o blogclicker and stayed a lot longer than 19 seconds.

http://whereitstands.com

 
At 1:28 PM, Blogger cube said...

Interesting post. I'd add that in blogging you're only as good as your last post.

 
At 2:59 PM, Blogger Daedalus said...

Links are just the starting point for lower ranking. Honestly, even if the people who link to you don't read your site very often, the more links you have, the higher your place in a blog search, hence the more people who read you.

As for Christopher's comment, a blog is not the same as a website. Blogs differ from traditional web sites in that, rather than being composed of many individual pages connected by hyperlinks, they are composed of a few templates into which content is fed from a database.

Anyway, when articles are written about how blogging is changing the world, they aren't talking about us peons. They are talking about blogs like Kos and TPM, blogs who get tens of thousands of hits a day. And how did these blogs get to be so popular? Links, links, links!

Cheers.

 
At 1:43 AM, Blogger prying1 said...

Good article.

One thing I would throw into the mix is talk radio. When a subject comes up on the blogosphere it seems it really does not take off until the radios announce the story. I think Dan Rather and Eason Jordan would have made it through their separate crisises had it not been for national and local hosts on the radios pressing the subjects.

 
At 9:05 AM, Blogger edjog said...

Yes, like all campaigns, a bloggers efforts need exposure and links are the currency of the web.

I'm probably barking up the wrong tree here because i only read a couple of your articles, but i'm trying to run 1 now:
War Against Conservativism.

This campaign seeks to satirise the nature of "Wars" on concepts and as such point out the hypocrisy of an avowed 'conservative' supporting anything which tends to inculcate the idea that an individual is not capable of making a wise decision without being coerced.

The logo is the 'banned smiley giving the finger' you see on my photo. Have fun.

 

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