The Power 50: Most Influential Blogs
In the eleven years since Matt Drudge broke the news (“online”) about a woman name Monica Lewinsky, an elite group of bloggers has emerged that can compete with traditional media on both credibility and expertise. Bloggers, in the eyes of mainstream media at least, have officially won influence. Or have they? Does the emergence of an elite few call into question the credibility of everyone else?
That’s the gist of a new study by Context Analytics, the research arm of Text 100, which we’ll be rolling out in a series of posts this month. We’d actually planned to announce the findings later this month but the blogosphere’s neither neat nor orderly. It’s only fitting that a related conversation happening over on TechCrunch (Survey Says: PR People Love Our No-Embargo Policy) would create a timely opening to share a relevant piece of our study.
The survey referenced on TechCrunch points to the most popular blogs as ranked by 246 tech PR pros. We took a different approach by analyzing which blogs were most frequently cited by mainstream media* and ranking the top 50 blogs across five categories: Business, Technology, Lifestyle/Entertainment, Gossip and Politics.
For the Technology category, we found that references to blogs in traditional media are concentrated on a few names, particularly TechCrunch, Engadget, and Gizmodo, which received 56% of all technology blog citations among the Power 50. References to the remaining tech blogs in the study were less frequent and more evenly distributed.
It’s interesting that most references to top technology blogs in traditional media featured bloggers’ opinions on an event or topic used in an article. Put another way, the findings tell us that tech bloggers are often treated as expert analysts in their field, something we found to be less common in other categories.
And while business blogs are less frequently cited in traditional media than technology blogs, the findings seem to embody the core of the study. Winning credibility and expertise in this category of blogs is a different and much tougher ball game for a few reasons.
1. Compared to many topics, traditional media tends to have relatively strong coverage of business and finance. The volume, quality, diversity of opinion, and real-time nature of business reporting is unparalleled in traditional media (e.g., does any other industry have anything close to Bloomberg Terminals?), so there may be less of an unmet need for greater amounts of information, delivered faster to consumers of business press.
2. Consumers of blogs and other forms of social media typically consists of a younger demographic than those that typically read the business sections of daily newspapers. Journalists may feel that the inclusion of blog content in their stories could alienate their audience.
3. Prominent business and financial media outlets generally operate under stricter editorial constraints than some publications in other categories due to the nature of the content. Tight parameters around information sourcing narrows the potential universe of citable blogs.
VentureBeat was the most frequently mentioned business blog in traditional media, and its author, Matt Marshall, has written occasional columns for The San Jose Mercury News (those columns were not included in the rankings). [Update: Matt Marshall comments on our study on Venturebeat.] When VentureBeat is mentioned in traditional media, it has usually been used as a source for facts and figures about VC funding of technology startups in San Francisco Bay Area newspapers. The second most often cited business blog, Seeking Alpha (actually an aggregator of blog content) was typically sourced for transcripts of earnings calls and investor meetings by traditional media; its bloggers were rarely quoted in traditional media stories.
While traditional journalists have begun to rely on blogs as sources of news, they’re still warming up to the idea. But still, we’ve come an incredibly long way since bloggers were dismissed as a fringe element or “basement jockeys.”
So what does all of this add up to? Influence can be sliced and diced in several ways, and measuring media prominence is just one angle for approaching the topic. In other cases, intimacy and personal connections via blogs mean more than media references ever could. Since there’s no magic formula, we wanted to kick off a conversation and learn what you think as we roll out the rest of the findings from the study.
Are your favorite technology or business blogs on this list? What do you think the rankings mean and what are the implications (and causes) in each category? Looking forward to your thoughts as we dig further into this discussion in the coming weeks.
*100 most circulated U.S. newspapers during a two year cycle between January 1, 2007 and December 31, 2008