Wednesday, April 27, 2005

The Blogosphere - Part One: Industry Facts

This is by far, not an extensive report on the state of the blogosphere, rather it is an amalgamation of some of the research available online.

However, though it focuses entirely on individuals who blog, I believe that a great majority of bloggers would also be interested in the creation of a social networking / folksonomy crossover and therefore, perhaps this preliminary research will indeed prove valuable in the future.

Firstly, I think it’s important to begin with a description of the blogosphere, as it currently exists.

Technorati is now tracking over 8.3 million blogs[1], and the number of blogs it is tracking doubles every 5 months. It is not clear if this effectively describes the number and rate of growth of blogs, or Technorati’s effectiveness at tracking them. However, it is expected that Technorati will be tracking 15 million blogs by August, and 30 million by January 2006 if the trend continues[2] (but there isn’t much evidence to show why it would).

There are a number of blog providers in the industry, most notably Blogger (which was acquired by Google in 2003, and has gone from 169 thousand users in 2001 to 8 million blogspot.com blogs[3], though the number of active users on the service is unknown), MSN Spaces (4.5 mln bloggers have set up an online presence at MSN Spaces, according to Microsoft and reported by MarketWatch. Only 170,000 of them (or fewer than 4%) are updated daily) and LiveJournal.com (which has a reported 5.6 million accounts[4]; 2.4 million of which are active). But there are many more providers out there including: Typepad (for hosting blogs), Moveable Type (software installed on your own site to host your own blog, also used on Typepad), Tripod (a blog provider, with easy access to photos, polls, etc, charges $9.95 per month, and has advertising), etc.

According to Heinz Tschabitscher, a writer for about.com, the “top 10” aggregators are:
1) Newz Crawler
2) FeedDemon
3) SharpReader
4) Bloglines
5) NewsGator Online Services
6) intraVnews
7) News Gator
8) Awasu Personal Edition
9) Blog Navigator
10) Mozilla Thunderbird

It's interesting to see that Omea Reader wasn't included on this list, perhaps the word isn't out yet. (note: the author works for JetBrains, and uses Omea Pro all day, everyday)

Here's another list of the most popular aggregators.

Some of the industry trends are:
1) Consolidation – large providers get larger, while smaller providers struggle to grow. Though LiveJournal’s software powers a number of sites, of the 13 looked at by my source only 4 experienced growth in active users. (were they the big 4?) (are the early entrants the current leaders?) (if you have this info on your site, please make yourself known and i'll include credit)

2) Though there are a lot of fish, most end up leaving the river. Though blogging itself is gaining popularity, the vast majority of users are still abandoning their blogs or defecting to other services (eg, between Aug 2004 and Jan 05, Live Journal had over 2 million new people try their service, but only gained 170 thousand active users.) What helps ensure that users stay?

3) Aggregators are gaining popularity because they make it easier for users to look at a lot of information that interests them, in a shorter time. How many people are using aggregators now?

4) Big information providers are beginning to use RSS content. Wall Street Journal has added RSS feeds, and New York Times has 27 feeds, which drive a million page views per month. As RSS becomes a trusted method for receiving news of interest, more and more big information providers will join the field.

This is the first installment of information on the blogosphere. The next one will be focused on bloggers, and blog readers:
Who are they?
What are their Interests?
Why do they blog?
What makes them different from non-bloggers?
What encourages them to keep blogging?
Are they willing to spend their money to blog?

References:
[1] http://www.technorati.com/
[2] http://www.sifry.com/alerts/archives/000298.html
[3] Found via a Google search on the .blogspot.com domain
[4] http://www.livejournal.com/stats.bml

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