Technorati and the size of the blogosphere: it can’t be THAT hard to figure out, surely?!

by Lee Hopkins on December 26, 2009 · 9 comments

in academic research,marketing,pr,Uncategorized

the technorati 'state of the blogosphere 2009' leaves key questions unanswered 

Oh! Endless frustration.

I have spent HOURS trying to find a single number that would tell me the size of the blogosphere.

Technorati used to tell you that back when Dave Sifry was king, but Technorati no longer do. Is it some sort of ‘top secret’, ‘secret squirrel’ type number that the release thereof would create untold panic in the western world? Is it a number too dangerous to world peace to release on an unprepared blogosphere?

For goodness’ sake!

You’d think that Technorati, the old blog search engine of choice until Google got its act together, would know. Even the big ‘G’ itself could easily run a query.

I even put out a request on Twitter to see if any of the usual suspects knew of the number – nope.

I asked if Technorati were still alive, as their old ‘State of the Blogosphere’ reports were brilliant and answered such a simple question.

tweet from richard jalichandra at technorati, telling me they are alive and well

All I got was a tweet back from Richard Jalichandra, one of the Technorati folks who reckoned the annual State of the Blogosphere October 2009 report would reveal all. Wrong!

tweet from richard again, telling me about his keynote address at blogworld 2009. click on the image to visit Richard's page and the video

No answer there, Richard! Lots of psychological profiling of US bloggers (and great fodder for those who would market to them), but again (surely I’m not the only one who thinks this) USA doth not the world make (Mark Pack, in response to Emily Braham’s post, shows I am not alone – at least on this point).

Here’s what Dave charted in October 2004 (4 million blogs):
dave sifry's 2004 chart showing 4 million blogs tracked

March 2005, and Dave had this to say (7.8 million blogs):dave sifry's chart showing 7.8 million blogs tracked

By February 2006 Dave was reporting (27.2 million blogs):
dave sifry's chart in Feb 2006 showing 27.2 million blogs are being tracked

In October of 2006 Dave was back to give us more (57 million+ blogs):
dave sifry in october 2006 showing 57 million+ blogs being tracked

Dave Sifry (the founder of Technorati) last gave us hard numbers back in 2007, showing the blogosphere was 70 million+ strong. If, as George Kittredge asserts, based on what was reported at BlogWorld (I presume 2008), the blogosphere was STILL 70 million, then where are the 3 million new blogs a month going to? Or are they part of the well-recognised condition, ‘45% Blog Fade’, wherein a new blogger suddenly realises how much work a blog actually entails and gives up, the novelty having worn off.

Somewhere in late 2008/early 2009, in research for the 2nd Digital Summit in Auckland, New Zealand (you can view my slides on slideshare), I read on Technorati’s own ‘About us’ page that the number of blogs they were following was about 200 million. Unfortunately, I have no screen shot to verify this. As I type, their ‘About us’ page merely says that Technorati “indexes millions of blog posts.”

Here’s what Wikipedia said as I wrote this (9pm Australian CST, 26 December 2009) :

screengrab from wikipedia showing 112.8 million blogs being tracked as at June 2008 

But in 2009 there IS no number. Nowhere on their website. If, as George suggests, it’s now only 70 million-and-a-bit, then are we going backwards? Has Twitter eaten into our blogging?

Why ask the question, Lee? Surely it’s not important?

Well, sorry to burst your bubble Technorati, but it IS important to the CEOs, CFOs and CIOs that I talk to. They like the reassurance of numbers – big numbers. Even if just to satisfy their own curiosity and/or to have some ammo to take to the Board.

Richard, you can give me all the marketer-friendly psychological profiling of US bloggers you like — let’s face it, any statistician will tell you that your findings are pretty useless; kind of like inconveniently forgetting that nearly all psychometric tests that came out of the USA in the 1960s-1990s were based and ‘standardised’ on that very weird subset of humanity called ‘North American university student’ – if you weren’t such a human being, you probably weren’t going to fit the ‘normal’, ‘healthy’ response to that test.

What I and my clients want are ‘hard numbers’. Please give them to us, Technorati. Here’s what my clients and I are asking for:

  • Size of the blogosphere
  • Size of the twittersphere
  • Percentage blogfade
  • Percentage twitfade

Not exactly rocket science for a search company that only looks at the ‘live web’, one would think…

Ask not what bloggers can do for you, Technorati, but what you can do for bloggers and their clients. As Paul Simon once sang, “when times are mysterious, serious numbers are eager to please.”

  • Allan Jenkins

    But what IS the blogosphere anymore? Does that have meaning after Twitter, FriendFeed, Posterous and Facebook?

    Many “personal” blogs, for lack of a better term, have moved to FB. Many “relinking” blogs (the original use for a blog, btw) have moved to Twitter. I'd say about 80% of what I used to publish on my blog ends up on Twitter or FB.

    And then… tons of people/bizzes are running their websites on WordPress, even if they don't operate it as a blog.

    And then… who cares about Technorati? Do you have your blog registered there? I have only a vague idea that I might.

    In short, Technorati has zero chance of calculating the blogosphere. I doubt Google could manage it and, since they don't try, I am not sure they think they could.

    So, relax… the answer is “bunches and bunches.”

  • Lee Hopkins

    But as I say, Jenko, it matters a lot to the C-level types I meet with. They ask the CMO the size of the market, percent of market share, and so on; why does social media think itself so elitist that it doesn't want to soil itself with such grubbiness. The technorati keynote address that Richard gave (that I referenced in the post) was totally geared to marketers looking to 'engage' with key bloggers; all the data points were about psychographics, not 'hard numbers'.

    When the C-levels I meet ask me, “How big is the blogosphere/twittersphere” and I reply, “Dunno” it kind of looks unprofessional on my part.

    And giving the numbers on the Twittersphere should be a piece of cake! I accept that calculating the number of blogs *might* (and only *might*) be marginally tricky for a high school student (yet PhDs in mathematics at Google would have no problem, I'm confident to assert), due to the number of platforms, whether commenting is allowed or not (a la Seth Godin and his 'no-follow' policy so nobody gets any G Juice from trackbacking to him – grrrr….), etc., but Twitter is one platform. SURELY they can track that and give us both the 'total size' and 'twitfade after 3 months' numbers…

  • Lee Hopkins

    My frustration is such that I may have to turn this over to minds far wiser than mine; to wit H & H…

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  • dsmutum

    My PhD research is on blogs and my search for an estimate for the size of the blogosphere led me to your blog. I guess the best we can do is use the 2008 numbers. Disappointed with Technorati for letting us down as well which leads me to question whether it is still the best blog search engine.

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  • Noval Adams

    With the growing population of online and internet users, everything connected to social networking including blogging has great scope! So i do think that the Blogosphere has way more potential than we can imagine…

  • Gen

    Yes! I finally found someone who is looking for simple and plane stats about the blogosphere and can’t find it! I also wrote to Technorati, and got the same answer : No, Technorati, who generates reports on the state of the blogosphere every year, does not have this kind of information!!! Unbelievable! The “old” versions of Technorati’s State of the Blogosphere were great and extensive. Why change a winning formula?

    Does anyone have other hints?

  • Lee Hopkins

    I think they’ve put it in the ‘Too hard’ basket, Genevieve, which is a pity. Still, on a positive note, Eric Qualmann has released an updated version of his own ‘Socialnomics’ video, which is handy for presenters and speakers like me who need to share information with social-media-shy audiences.

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