Technorati and the liblog landscape

I’ve seen a number of comments on Technorati’s recent State of the Blogosphere / 2008. This year’s report goes far beyond most of the earlier ones (quarterly in some years, annual recently), with lots of analysis based on a survey of 1,000 bloggers. I’m going to ignore all of that because it’s not terribly relevant to my own interests–that is, liblogs and library blogs.

Seems like most observers focus on the polls demonstrating how “mainstream” blogs have become (which I don’t doubt) and the growth in blogging–and ignore history, even though Technorati provides a direct link to the 2007 report and earlier reports.

This is sort of a crude version of material that will be added to The Liblog Landscape 2007-2008, and I think is worth noting here (and it gets it down on, well, LISHost servers if not paper).

Here, then, a few facts about blogs and related facts about liblogs. I assume that Technorati’s actual numbers are factual; I see no reason to assume otherwise.

Mostly a ghost town

The “blogosphere” (if you must) is much like Second Life: If you compare actual residents (active blogs) to counted residents (started and tracked blogs), it’s mostly a ghost town.

What’s “mostly”? 94% or more, depending on how you measure.

To wit:

  • The 2007 report said there were 70 million blogs as of April 2007, with 120,000 new ones emerging each day. If that 120,000 rate continued, there would be (or have been) about 120 million in June 2008, when the new study was done. (I note that the new study does not state the number of blogs or the number of new blogs each day–although it says “133 million blog records” since 2002, which presumably means 133 million blogs at some point.) Technorati also quotes Universal McCann as saying that 184 million blogs have started as of March 2008. So let’s say there are (or have been) somewhere between 133 and 180 million blogs.
  • Meanwhile, Technorati says that 7.4 million blogs had at least one new post within 120 days–a pretty modest measure of “active”–and just over 5 million posted in June. But if 120,000 new blogs were being created each day (each with at least one post), you could reduce that 5 million to a mere 1.4 million returning blogs. Of course, on that basis, the 7.4 million is actually smaller than the number of new blogs during the 120-day period.
  • Those figures make no sense, so let’s be as charitable as possible and say that between 5 and 7.4 million blogs are active, not just one-shot wonders. That’s somewhere between 5.5% of 133 million (best case) and 3% of 180 million (that is, 5 million active: worst case).
  • In any case, when someone spots off something about 100 million or 200 million or 300 million blogs, be aware that at least nine out of ten of those blogs are abandoned.
  • A liblog comparison? Excluding “friends and family” blogs, I come up with 533 liblogs (not library blogs) that were active (using a 90-day cutoff) in 2008–and at least 90% of those had at least one post a month. Have there been 9,700 English-language liblogs since 2001 (or 17,800 worst case)? It’s possible–but I doubt it. Roughly 10% of the “visible” English-language liblogs that were active in 2007 had no posts during the 90-day study period in 2008; that’s not a bad number.

40% drop in daily posts

That’s the impressive figure–and it does appear to be a direct comparison:

  • In April 2007, Technorati counted an average of 1.5 million posts per day.
  • In June 2008, Technorati counted an average of 900,000 posts per day: 40% fewer.
  • Extending back, Technorati reported 1.2 million posts per day in April 2006–and 900,000 in August 2005.
  • Here’s an odd figure: In August 2005, Technorati reported 14.2 million blogs and said 55% of them–or 7.8 million–were active. If that’s right, then the active blogosphere is basically where it was roughly four years ago, but with a whole lot of churn in between.
  • That also comes out to about one post every eight days for the active blogosphere (although of course the average doesn’t exist–1.5 million blogs had posts in a seven-day period)

Now compare that with liblogs:

  • For March-May 2007, I counted 523 blogs with countable posts, for a total of 22,969 posts.
  • For March-May 2008, I counted 533 blogs with countable posts, for a total of 19,616 posts. (That 533 doesn’t include 54 blogs that had posts in 2007 but not 2008–and does include 64 new blogs and blogs that didn’t have posts in the 2007 quarter).
  • That’s a drop–but a drop of 8.5%, which is a whole lot better than 40%!
  • The 533 blogs averaged about 213 posts per day as a whole, or about one post every 2.5 days per blog.

Liblog posting declined at a much slower rate than blogs as a whole–and active liblogs are about three times as active as blogs as a whole.

Other tidbits

  • One-third of bloggers in general operate anonymously or with pseudonyms. That compares with 18% for liblogs.
  • Roughly 85% of blogs as a whole have comment systems. Roughly 20% of liblogs didn’t have any comments in 2008–but that includes blogs that don’t allow them and blogs that just didn’t have them.
  • Overall, only 84% of blogs as a whole have archives. I’m pretty sure the figure is higher for liblogs, but I didn’t track that. Eighteen blogs (3% of the universe studied) didn’t have workable archives, but there were other blogs that didn’t have explicit archives–but I could page back to reach older data.

What’s the message?

First, while liblogs have fewer posts now than a year ago–and for both liblogs and blogs in general, it appears that the peak was probably early 2007–liblogs are doing much better than blogs as a whole.

Second, if somebody blathers about hundreds of millions of blogs or “everybody will blog in the future,” feel free to ignore them. It’s trivially easy to start a blog–but a lot of people (95%) find, sooner or later, that they really don’t have that much to say that they feel belongs in a blog. And why should that be a surprise to anyone?

Oh, and third: I’m making progress on the book. A key chapter in testing my starting hypotheses is complete (at least for first draft)–and it turns out the hypotheses are true. And also false. Which I could have guessed. (And, printing out the first five chapters for off-screen review, I see that a too-readily-linked graph has now turned blank because I cleaned up the Excel part. Only one, which can be easily recreated–by far the simplest graph in the book.)

2 Responses to “Technorati and the liblog landscape”

  1. Lazygal says:

    Walt, one other problem with their message: they’re having serious issues with indexing and updating. I know this because my blog (and many others that I follow) are not getting updated regularly; I’ve had to e-mail their support people five times in the past two months to get properly indexed. Now, I don’t care about “reach” or “ranking” for my blog, but many do and many think that Technorati is the gold standard… but if you’re using Blogger/Blogspot, it’s more like the iron pyrite standard these days.

  2. walt says:

    I don’t think of Technorati as the gold standard so much as it is the only game in town.

    As for the Blogger/Blogspot problem: I wonder if that’s related to the fact that SiteAdvisor frequently flags Blogspot blogs as dangerous places to visit–presumably because there are a lot of splogs and phishing blogs on Blogspot? I know Technorati takes pains to exclude splogs; they may be sweeping up a few hundred thousand legit blogs along with a few million illegitimate blogs. I have no knowledge in this area–but I am seeing that McAfee SiteAdvisor red flag more and more when a list post or email has a link to a Blogspot blog.