Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Blog demographics

Apparently there are millions of blogs out there. We're told by blog evangelists that blogs are the new media. Yet looking at who is consuming this new media is hard to tell.

Take the popular blogs on Technorati, one of the most popular blog search engines. Of the top ten blogs, three would fall into the popular culture category (Boing Boing, Post Secret, and maybe the Chinese language one at number ten which I have no idea about), two are oriented towards people interested in gadgets, and the other five are blogs about American politics.

Iraq war aside, American domestic politics (Alito nomination, Tom De Lay scandal, etc. etc.) gets very little coverage in the "MSM" outside the US. Therefore the fact that five of the top ten most popular blogs on Technorati are about American politics shows that either a vast majority of the blog consumers are Americans keen on politics or that coverage of American domestic politics is something sorely in demand by citizens of other countries left unsatisfied by the sparse coverage in their national print media.

Actually a strict interpretation of Technorati's ranking mechanism means that what this actually means is that when people who write blogs ("bloggers", if you will) link to content on other blogs (let's not forget that Technorati doesn't count traditional sites in it's ranking, except in the separate news ranking which is also American-domestic-news-heavy) a lot of them link to American domestic political news.

Looking at the top 50 sites as a sample reveals some interesting (and perhaps even meaningless) stats:

37 of the 50 are English language
9 of the 50 are Chinese language
3 are Japanese language
1 is Spanish

Of the nine Chinese blogs, all of them are on MSN Spaces.
Of the top 50 blogs, none of the non-Chinese blogs are on MSN Spaces.

Of the 37 English language blogs, 12 are about American domestic politics (and another one, "Igf", is a disturbing blog which seems to be one long rant about the various political situations in the Middle East with a distinctly anti-Arab slant).

The number of sites linking to these blogs falls from ~19 thousand for the number one blog, Boing Boing, to ~five thousand for the number ten blog, to ~three thousand for the number 50 blog, to ~two thousand for the number 100 blog. Is this the "long tail" in action? A handful of extremely popular/interesting blogs and then a few hundred ones of interest to various sub-demographics?

With nine of the top 50 blogs being Chinese, does this indicate the rise of a parallel internet of Chinese language content? One that is unintelligible to most non-Chinese internet users? Also, what does the popularity of MSN Spaces with the most linked Chinese bloggers mean? Are Chinese internet users getting into blogging through msn messenger? (On my own buddy list I'm noticing more and more people start to use MSN Spaces, some for uploading photos, some for blogging as well)
If we were to look at a broader sample of blogs, would we find the trend similar for most people who have started a blog in the last year or two? Certainly the "My MSN Space" button in MSN Messenger is a great way to give people easy access to their blog, and advertising peoples' blogs through their buddy list contact cards helps spread the meme of blogging like a worm through the international MSN Messenger web of buddies.

There are still lots of unanswered questions about the blogging market and medium such as "Why does it matter to anyone other people who advertise on blogs or own a blogging company?" (to which I answer "Touché") and "Who cares about stupid blogs anyway?". These thoughts I've posted here are my off-the-cuff observations late in the evening on having a bored glance through the Technorati popular blogs. Wan an.

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