Wednesday, August 10, 2005

On the state of the blogosphere

Technorati CEO Dave Sifry has been posting a series of metrics about the "State of the Blogosphere". The biggest wow number is the 14M weblogs shown in this graph.

14M weblogs is a big number. But does it matter?

The important question is not how many weblogs there are, but how many useful and interesting weblogs there are. Many weblogs are spam, fake, or inactive. Readers don't care about these. Readers want useful news content. So, how many useful weblogs are there?

Dave did write about spam in his series, but he didn't provide hard numbers, so we have to turn elsewhere. Feedster folks have said that "at times we see upwards of 90% of the traffic from Blogspot being spam." Our experience at Findory is similar; the majority of new weblogs we see are spam or fake blogs.

Jim Lanzone from Ask was kind enough to post metrics from Bloglines, one of the most popular feed readers, on their view of the state of the blogosphere. And the Bloglines numbers tell a very different story from Technorati's numbers. Jim says there are about 1M interesting and useful weblogs.

In fact, the number is probably even lower. Since the 1M number Jim reports is the number of weblogs in Bloglines that have at least one subscription, the number of weblogs that are interesting enough to attract several subscribers is likely much lower, perhaps as low as 100k.

Nevertheless, the growth of the blogosphere is still impressive. While the number of useful weblogs may be one or two orders of magnitude lower than 14M number from Technorati, the Bloglines data graph still shows a clear exponential trend. Dave is right to talk about the importance of scaling in the face of this exponential growth.

But I'm not sure I agree with Dave on where the urgency is in scaling. Dave mostly talks about scaling Technorati to deal with this influx of data. Of course, users expect our services to scale to exponential growth in the blogosphere, and we need to do that. But that's not the urgent scaling problem for our users.

The real problem is scaling attention. Readers have limited time. As more and more blogs are available, it will become harder and harder to find and discover the gems buried in all the noise. We need to help readers focus, filter, and prioritize.

The real problem of scaling for growth of the blogosphere is not scaling the tools, but scaling the readers.

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