Are Blogs Losing Their Authority To The Statusphere?

What follows is the unedited Director’s Cut of my latest post on TechCrunch, “Are Blogs Losing Their Authority To The Statusphere?” My definition of Statusphere.


Source

Depending on which numbers you source or believe, all reports agree that the blogosphere continues to expand globally.

As the leading blog directory and search engine, Technorati maintains a coveted Authority Index which is considered amongst bloggers as the benchmark for measuring their rank and selling their position within the blogosphere. Authority is defined as the number of blogs linking to a website in the last six months. The higher the number, the greater the level of Authority a blog earns.

However, a disruptive trend is already at play. While blogs are increasing in quantity, their authority—as currently measured by Technorati—is collectively losing influence.

In its annual State of the Blogosphere last year, Technorati revealed that it had indexed 133 million blog records since 2002. In March 2008, Universal McCann published a report that indicated 184 million blogs worldwide were created, with 346 million people reading blogs globally.

Indeed, consumers, businesses, content publishers, and media channels are embracing blogs as a way of engaging existing and reaching new readers to build an ecosystem around relevant conversations. It’s the convergence of dialog and journalism, creating a new generation of interconnectedness between publisher and community.

Blogging is entrenched in the mainstream.

So why do I believe that blog authority is losing its authority?

It goes back to the definition of authority. Links from blogs are no longer the only measurable game in town. Potentially valuable linkbacks are increasingly shared in micro communities and social networks and its affecting detouring attention and time away from formal blog responses.

As the social Web and new services continue the migration and permeation into everything we do online, attention is not scalable. Many refer to this dilemma as attention scarcity or continuous partial attention (CPA) – an increasingly thinning state of focus. It’s affecting how and what we consume, when, and more importantly, how we react, participate and share. That “something” is forever vying for our attention and relentlessly pushing us to do more with less driven by the omnipresent fear of potentially missing what’s next.

We are learning to publish and react to content in “Twitter time” and I’d argue that many of us are spending less time blogging, commenting directly on blogs, or writing blogs in response to blog sources because of our active participation in micro communities.

With the popularity and pervasiveness of microblogging (a.k.a. micromedia) and activity streams and timelines, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are competing for your attention and building a community around the statusphere – the state of publishing, reading, responding to, and sharing micro-sized updates.

This new genre of rapid-fire interaction is further distributing the proverbial conversation and is evolving online interaction beyond the host site through syndication to other relevant networks and communities.

In most cases attention for commenters at the source post are competing against the commenters within other communities. Those who might typically respond with a formal blog post may now chose to respond with a tweet or a status update.

Attention is engaged at the point of introduction, and for many of us, we’re presented with worthwhile content outside of our RSS readers or favorite bookmarks. Relevant and noteworthy updates are now curated by our peers and trusted or respected contacts in disparate communities that change based on our daily click paths.

Retweets (RT) and favorites in Twitter, Likes and comments in FriendFeed and Facebook, posting shortened links that connect friends and followers back to the source post, have changed our behavior and empowered our role in defining the evolution of the connectivity and dissemination of information.

Now, we have the ability to instantly interact with, respond, or promote blog content away from the source blog, but that shouldn’t make the original post any less valuable. In fact, while blog authority isn’t capitalizing on these new sources for linkbacks, link authority is still affected, no matter the source, and helps increase the visibility and weight of the host blog in search engines.

The immediacy of publishing, sparking dialog, and receiving responses only reinforces this behavior. And, it encourages participation without having to write a blog post tracking back to the originator of each discussion. So, posts are missing out on a trove of valuable linklove that would otherwise contribute to their authority

Think about it.

There are supposedly 133 million blogs created, with far less in real use today. There are reportedly 175 million users on Facebook and another four million (and growing) on Twitter. The online social populace is necessitating the need for a new generation of establishing and measuring authority in the blogosphere before current blog metrics inaccurately paint a grim picture that they’re influence is declining – again as measured today.

One blog post can spark a distributed response in the respective communities where someone chooses to RT, favorite, like, comment, or share. These byte-sized actions reverberate throughout the social graph, resulting in a formidable network effect of measurable movement and activity. It is this form of digital curation of relevant information that binds us contextually and sets the stage to introduce not only new content to new people, but also facilitates the forging of new friendships with the publisher in the process.

With the right tools, everything is measurable.

BackType tracks tweets associated with a source URL regardless of the shortener used to link back to it. twInfluence measures Twitter influencers, not just by followers, but also by reach, velocity, social capital and centralization. Retweetist tracks the most “retweeted” people, URLs, and also those who actively “RT” others. Tweetbacks, Disqus, and Chatcatcher are tracking related tweets and directly connecting and listing them as traditional trackbacks at originating blog posts.

FriendFeed already released APIs and with Facebook opening up the News Feed to developers, apps will emerge that can track blog posts by volume of likes and shared links.

At SXSW, Klout will debut a new service that helps bloggers and content publishers measure Link Authority and a conversation index by tracking the frequency of shared URLs tied to the weighted stature of those sharing them compared to other links shared during the same time frame. The service will eventually provide a foundation to compare source URLs ranked within the service over time.

The ideas are abundant.

Shortly before publishing this post, I contacted Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, and we discussed the future of blog authority in the era of micromedia. His response was positive and immediately revealed that the team is actively entrenched in the creation of a modified platform that embraces widespread, distributed linkbacks to blog posts in order to factor them into the overall authority for affected blogs. He also, on the spot, set up a briefing to review where they’re at in terms of development as well as new options to factor into the equation.

Widespread blog responses are dwindling in favor of micro responses.

Authority within the blogosphere demands a new foundation to measure rank and relevancy that is reflective of the real world behavior and interaction of those who are compelled to link back to the post and extend its visibility in new, engaging, and prominent communities.

Blog authority as measured by Technorati is declining. However, blog authority as measured by links is booming. It’s now more authoritative than ever before as bloggers can reach and resonate with new readers outside of their traditional ecosystem to cultivate a dispersed community bound by context, centralized links, and syndicated participation. Microblogging will only grow in importance and prevalence. It’s just a matter of embracing the inevitable and measuring the linklove in and out of the blogosphere.

Looking into the crystal ball, this discussion also begets the question, will we need a seperate Technorati channel for measuring authority for content publishers on Twitter, in addition to blog authority?

Feel free to share your ideas…

Update 1: At 11:00 a.m. PDT, BackTweets had tracked over 350 Twitter links to the original TechCrunch post, none of which are contributing to the overall authority index.

Update 2: Technorati published a blog post and a Tweet that explains new data-set modifications to blog links and authority, not including Twitter and other forms of micromedia linkbacks.

Update 3: I am meeting with Technorati within the next two weeks.

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  • AussieWebmaster

    Personally I agree but also think there are many niched blogs being read by small groups that have no applicability to Technoratti topics.

    And many just are not about being measured… they are a conversation held in an intimate room and not launched for very public communication.

  • The Betsy

    Great thought here Brian. Really love the post. As media changes the ways to measure impact must also adapt. Thanks for turning me on to some new tools. I also agree with AussieWebmaster niche blogs are not being adressed, but for the bigger “‘Neilson-like’ ratings system” picture, we need to create best-practice measurement system for the 80%. before we even try to measure the elusive 20%.

    Cheers

  • Shelby White

    Whats funny is that this post is about people not reading blogs, yet we’re still reading this one :)

    Good points though.

  • Boca Beth

    Can you say OVERWHELMING?!?!?!

    Whether we use social marketing for business or pleasure or both, each day finds us with new communities to join, new friends to follow, and new techniques to stay on top of it all!

    I now have to schedule in my time to ‘work’ on my Facebook site, my Blog, my Twitter, my LinkedIn and on and on and on!

    Help us stop the madness (please).

  • pierreloic

    Great post, Brian! For me, the take away from this is that Technorati’s measure of Authority is outdated and that looking at user-generated content through the lense of a specific medium (blogs, micro-blogs, video-blogs, etc.) only gives a very partial view of a publisher’s true performance.

  • Alice Hancock

    I believe there is a shift, but I like it. I use twitter for quick micro tips for myself and ones I share. I’ll link to my blog for those who wish to read more. No I’m probably not getting as man to my blog, but those I am getting are more focused. Personally I hate going to blogs where there is a bunch of twaddle before I get to what I wanted.

  • borges

    Doesn’t all this race to ratings lead to spam and other ways to game a system? Why do we have to know who’s on top?

  • Junior

    the title is a bit sensationalist as is the first part of this article – you make it sound as if blogs are becoming obsolete.

    Beyond that, you bring up a valid point. But who really gives Technorati that much weight anyway?

    A legitimate blogger will not glean their info from one source when trying to prove how “authoritative” they are, and metrics can be tailored for any set of circumstances – for example, I’m a finance blogger. So if I want to prove to x agency how “important” I am as a blogger, I’m not going to point to my Technorati rank (although that’s a single factor in a group of factors), I’m going to point to my reader base from StatCounter statistics (saying I’m loyally read by major financial institutions is more important than saying 623 random blogs have linked to me, don’t you think?).

    Technorati needs to catch up. But how can they?

    If anyone is drawing their rank or level of blogging “importance” solely from Technorati, that in and of itself shows how little authority they truly have as a blogger.

    I’m just sayin.

    Are you suggesting also that Technorati should monitor private email messages saying “hey check out this great blog” and phone calls about “this wonderful post I just read on xxx blog”? What you are suggesting is a great idea but not feasible. At least for now. Someone will come up with a solution but it will not come from Technorati…

  • dtheus

    Brian:

    Great insights. You’ve tapped into the way the microblogging/statusphere is more “conversational” than blog/comment formats. I documented this recently in my “Twitter Defense” post (we all have to register our opinion for some reason) because to me the Twitter format is more naturally conversational and thus compelling in a different way than more polished blog communications tend to be. As you point out the tracking mechanisms still have some catchup work to do in this area.

    Thanks for your thoughtful attention to our new industry overall, btw. I always enjoy reading your perspective.

    I like Junior’s question also about incorporating email into the authority index. Scary, but an excellent thought.

    Dana

    (My Twitter Defense Post for those who are interested: http://www.member-to-member.net/2009/02/twitter-reflections-from-dtheus.html)

  • Dan

    Do you think that what’s happening in the blogosphere is mirrored by patterns in the mainstream media? Take investigative reporting for instance – papers are cutting resources, and replacing it with news subsidy, which is easier to source and (arguably) easier to digest.

    As far as I can see, this is happening for two reasons. firstly, from the content providers, resources are depleting (for bloggers, this could be reflected in the time they have to spend researching and writing their blogs); and for readers, their attention is being hijacked by more easily digestible forms of media.

    Sorry that this is probably quite a pointless observation, as I’m not suggesting anything we don’t already know, but it clearly shows that we’re heading towards a singularity of minimal input and output – rather than universal interaction and sharing of knowledge, which we’ve always expected from the web.

    Brian – have you noticed commenters on your blog increase or decrease in the past year? Are debates now taking place on Twitter, rather than your comment wall?

  • Brad West

    This is Great News Brian,

    We do real time personal posting on blogs. We have a system that includes automated stuff, we are hooked up to massive feeds. But the meat is to personally get involved. I have always said Content rules. Our focus is on deep linking, give your content recognition not just your domain.

    We could see this coming a year ago. I say good, if you are not using every type of site possible, I believe you will fall behind. There are way too many people using just one or two automated devices to gain authority.

    Great piece
    Brad West ~ onomoney

  • Tiffany Monhollon

    Thanks for so clearly articulating a trend that’s impacted my personal and professional blogging so much already over the last year.

    The so-called “fragmentation” of conversations outside of blogs themselves is not a bad thing – it spreads the influence of your message and increases relationship capital as your ideas spread.

    Which is fabulous – the only real gap is with the measurement, which is still mostly conforming to a blog-only paradigm of “social media” that really hasn’t been true for years. Or else, something that models that method and measures only the impact on one social network.

    Good to see measurement moving to a more integrated paradigm, but I’m sure the challenge of measuring across so many platforms may never be fully perfected. As soon as there’s a measurement tool or tactic that works, it’s reflecting the state of conversation at that moment – and every new social media tool that comes out changes that conversation in some way.

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ABOUT ME

Brian Solis is a digital analyst, anthropologist, and also a futurist. In his work at Altimeter Group, Solis studies the effects of disruptive technology on business and society. He is an avid keynote speaker and award-winning author who is globally recognized as one of the most prominent thought leaders in digital transformation.

His most recent book, What's the Future of Business: Changing the Way Businesses Create Experiences (WTF), explores the landscape of connected consumerism and how business and customer relationships unfold in four distinct moments of truth. His previous book, The End of Business as Usual, explores the emergence of Generation-C, a new generation of customers and employees and how businesses must adapt to reach them. In 2009, Solis released Engage, which is regarded as the industry reference guide for businesses to market, sell and service in the social web.

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