Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Technorati's Topics and the Changing Value of Blog Rank in an RSS World


Today, Technorati announced its new Technorati Topics feature. In its own inimitable way, Technorati is indeed responding to what blog readers want--giving them a continuous "river of news" (as Harrison Hoffman describes it--even though some couldn't figure out how to make it stop long enough to click a link...)

And of course there's been lots and lots of feedback on this--but something I'm noticing in all the feedback, is how things have changed out here in the blogosphere regarding how we view authority--and even rank--of blogs...some of this may have to do with RSS readers and trackbacks, as much as it has to do with keeping the non-blogger blog readers happy.

Now I'd been thinking quite a bit about this since Dave Sifry's resignation and all the talk about Technorati's "irrelevance"--because when I came into blogging (almost 3 years ago now--with my personal blog which is no longer viewable) Technorati was pretty much the gold standard for figuring out where *you* were in relation to all the other bloggers out there...we talked about things like "linklove" and "link whoring" and that sort of stuff because it was through linking to one another that many of us even got readers.

These were the days before RSS readers became popular and before Google launched its blogsearch.

Blog readers were mostly other bloggers, and it was other bloggers who helped the news consumers find good stuff by pointing to the good stuff via blogroll permalinks and post links. This was how you, the lowly blogger, built influence and authority--esp. if you could get in an A-lister's blogroll....

So, how did Technorati figure out your rank? And why was the A-list so important? I'll state right out that I don't know all the machinations of the algorithm that does this, but let's go back to both permalinks, posts links and "linklove" for a moment. Permalinks occurred when someone put you in his/her blogroll in their sidebar (now, we have widgets and stuff that do this.) A-listers were always getting bugged for blogroll permalinks because those links could send major traffic to a new blog and build reputation (one of my first big A-lister blogroll links was from Halley Suitt, which did indeed help--see this discussion)

Because many A-listers got so many requests for permalinks, many stopped keeping blogrolls (including Jeff Jarvis--wish I could find his 2005 post on it--was a good explanation.)

Blogroll permalinks never "aged out" of Technorati's calculation of rank--because this particular link was always present whenever blogs were scraped...

Enter the post link--which was a link in someone's blog to one of your posts. This could also bring in reader traffic, but it "aged out" of Technorati's rank calculation after a period of time.

And "linklove"--well, that was a concept that I'm not sure we really care about anymore...now that some blogs are more about advertising and making money from advertising than they are about building friendships, community, and thought-influence...

Ways of measuring and reading blogs have dramatically changed since 2005--with the popularity of Trackbacks, RSS Readers, Tags, and other social news sites like Digg and Reddit and a plethora of other ways to find blogs beyond Technorati...

But the strange thing is, the traffic and links and popularity generated by these new services are very, very hard to pull together. Technorati's ranking system (as long as it was pulling in all your links on a timely basis) was really the best for figuring out your importance...

This raises the question of why was Technorati rank so darned important that we'd bug the bejebus out of someone for a permalink? Well, as I recall, part of this had something to do with discussions at the time about advertising on blogs. Before Google Ad-Stuff became ubiquitous (notice I did not say good) ads got to blogs only if blogs had big traffic. And still, blogs that make anything beyond what might be considered "pin money" have to have really, really big traffic. But back then, the chance of even getting, say, Henry Copeland's BlogAds to look at you, you had to be a high-traffic blog--and those were only the A-list...

Now, though, the idea of the A-list is even a bit strange. Who constitutes the A-list nowadays? Does it even matter when there are so many different ways and devices for people to keep track of one particular blog? Will A-list status one day depend on how many subscriptions one has through Feedburner, Netvibes, Bloglines, MyYahoo, and GoogleReader, linked with how many trackbacks and comments occur on a post on a particular day (yes, even popular blogs don't get comments *every* day, so this is a specious measure.) And what about pageviews? Well, maybe that's irrelevant, if we consider time spent reading a blog vs. clickthroughs (which can easily be gamed--sometimes just by adding "sex" somewhere in your blog)--a change in thinking about metrics that was recently proposed...

Or will the A-list go away totally--and one's "authority" or "popularity" or whatever you want to call it become contingent on the influence one has in a particular community or with a particular group of people? Is it now more about the readers and newshounds--folks we used to call "lurkers"--and not about what goes on *just* among the bloggerati?

The landscape is changing quickly, folks. No dobut about that....and maybe in the end it won't matter about the community of bloggers as much as about meeting the needs of the "customer."

one quick note: as a compulsive stat and rank watcher, I've noticed that Technorati hasn't kept up with gathering up my post links in the past week or so, some of which have come from great places like Dennis Howlett at ZDNet and Richi Jennings at Computerworld's IT Blogwatch (who may, for all I know, have found me via Techmeme.) So, my rank has stayed the same. Does it matter? To me, in some ways yes--because folks still look at that. In others, it's being acknowledged by Dennis and Richi that means, perhaps, a bit more. I am, though, waiting for all those links to catch up...please...

3 comments:

Ted said...

It is fascinating how "authority" has taken over the blogosphere and web, in general. It is re-defining what is news, really.

Great tips!


Ted

Richi Jennings said...

I'm not 100% sure, but I think I found your post for IT Blogwatch from Google Blog Search.

Tish Grier said...

hi Richi...thanks for the heads up. I'm always wondering whether or not this blog is hitting google. That's great if you found it there:-)

and a belated hi, Ted...I'm fascinated with the "authority" idea when related to blogs. It's definitely having an effect on news--but I'd hate to see news turn into blogging. The reason I read TechCruch is far different than my reason for reading the NYTimes.