Monday, November 19, 2007

Let's not get carried away with blogging

A confession - I love what we in the business call social media, but let's not get carried away with the power of all social media. Last week I was at a conference in Barcelona where many of the panelist spoke about bloggers as if they were a huge army (11% of all those online blog, according to one presentation), but in my experience the number of 'real' bloggers is substancially smaller.

For example, we recently tried to contact some bloggers to talk to them about digital music. You'd have thought, given the stats, that it would be easy to find people in the UK who blog about digital music, and MP3 players, but it was actually really hard, because so many of the blogs we saw wer not 'real' (or rather did not suit our purpose) because they were:

1 - not updated regularly
2 - very off-topic
3 - completely unread (or rather no one had ever commented)
4 - spam exercises to get high rankings for words like iPod
5 - professionally run operations with infrastuctures (Engadget officially counts as a blog), rather than personal endevours

Yes, there are 'real' blogs out there in the UK, but they tend to be about either politics, marketing (like this one), or very geeky technology. The idea that there are millions of people writing daily accounts of their lives that other millions are reading is a bit of a myth, at least according to my experience.

What you do get, however, is lots of people contributing to social media in other ways, like posting reviews, and especially talking in forums and in social networks. That stuff is real.

In the days of the dotcom boom I used to use a 'Craig Test' when deciding whether to buy tech shares or not. That is, would any one other than my mate Craig (Hi Craig!) actually bother to use this? In such a way I managed to avoid investing in shares like Scoot, and The Money Channel (& Calluna for the real obscurists out there), but managed to do pretty well on Pace (set top boxes), TrafficMaster (traffic info) and Baltimore (encryption). But I'm glad I cashed in even on those in early 2001.

These days I try to imagine if my mate Jon (Hi Jon!) would use different sources of social media. I've had long debates with him about the point of blogs (which he sees little point in), while he has become a very keen Facebook user in the last few months. The point is that some parts of social media are more mainstram than others, and let's not get carried away with the potential power of things called blogs, while a lot of the real power is with more mass market things. (In fact Jon probably uses a 'Dan Test' - is this something that only someone like Dan would do?)

I would say that it is currently hard to overstate the power of things like football forums, Amazon reviews, Facebook, YouTube and MySpace, but let's not get too carried away with blogs, unless you're after certain audiences, like, but not exclusively, media, movies, technology and politics.

Update - I should have also mentioned that there are brilliant 'real' food blogs, like the amazing Tamarind and Thyme, and many of the other blogs that appear in her blogroll. This is a perfect example of what I was moaning about the lack of earlier - dedicated amateur, spreading opinions and knowledge, regularly. But, as i said, these are sadly few and far between, except in certain areas.


Oli said...

I'd be interested to know what your metrics where for:

1 - not updated regularly
3 - completely unread (or rather no one had ever commented)

How regularly would you want the blog to be updated?, and are you looking for consistent updates of an average of updates?

what other guides do you use for seeing how much a blog is read, other then comments on posts. (just from personal experience, blogers with little tech knowledge that are overrun with spam, turn off comments)

Dan said...

My metrics are pretty unscientific, and more based on frustration with looking for 'good' blogs, followed by being at conferences where we're told that bloggers are all-powerful and all-seeing.

The tools I use mostly are Technorati and Google Blog search, and I've found a lots of blogs that do not get posted on at least once per month. In Technorati when they review the blogosphere they talk about blogs that have been updated in the last 3 months, but I'd be stricter than that.

I take your point about the comments, and I have also had problems with comment spam in the past. In truth I have no way of seeing the number of readers that a blog gets, but you can get a sense of this from reading posts and trying to identify if the writer is getting any feedback online of offline.

So yes, I was perhaps a bit unfair, and definitely unscientific in my post, but this was partly written out of frustration with the conference I had just been at.

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