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Keeping Track of the Ever-Proliferating Number of Blogs
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Link-Up Digital

Technorati has been one of the major websites that tracks and rates blogs and helps readers identify them. But even Technorati was overwhelmed by the millions of blogs in the blogosphere, and it undertook a recent redesign in fall 2009. Prompted by the profusion of blogs, it decided to narrow down the number of blogs that it tracks.

What started out as bloggers wanting to share their ideas on the internet has blossomed into a revolution. For years, Technorati (www.technorati.com) traced 112.8 million blogs, which were multiplying faster than a herd of rabbits. Publisher Eric Olsen said that new venture capital ownership wanted to change its business model, introduce original reporting, and eliminate many blogs that were obscure or marginal.

Defining a blog is no easy task. Olsen acknowledges that the definition of blogs has changed. "It's become almost impossible to distinguish what's a blog from a blog site. There are hybrid sites of blogs and news, and mainstream blogs such as Atlantic.com," he said. He noted that most blogs have become more like mainstream media, more professional, less subjective, idiosyncratic, and better fact-checked. Though most would consider The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast websites, Technorati considers them blogs.

Starting in September 2009, Technorati, which is based in San Francisco, altered its business model. First, it launched original content. In addition, it acquired Blogcritics (http://blogcritics.org), which Olsen had started and which continues to run as a separate and independent site. It also launched Twittorati, which has bloggers posting on Twitter, and merged all three into an ad network. Technorati now publishes about 20 original articles a day, written by bloggers who aren't paid but who write to promote their blogs or themselves. In the future, Olsen expects that number to grow.

The name Technorati is an amalgam of technology and literati, so it's trying to combine tracking technology with a literary sensibility. It was started in 2002 by Dave Sifry, who now serves as its chairman of the board. It now reaches 100 million unique users monthly, said Jennifer McLean, its vice president of marketing.

Despite the removal of certain blogs, Olsen said that Technorati still tracks "hundreds of thousands of blogs." He acknowledges that some bloggers who were eliminated protested and felt excluded; however, most Technorati readers will likely not notice that millions of blogs have been excised from consideration.

Technorati provides order to the vast universe of blogs. The Technorati homepage is organized into major areas such as technology, business, entertainment, lifestyle, sports, videos, and blogging. Technorati offers readers a chance to explore blogs in these areas and then find many subheadings to discover the latest and most newsworthy blogs on more specialized topics. Users interested in entertainment could hit that heading and then explore stories on film, games, music, and TV.

Olsen advises that readers use "tags," which is the internet term for "keywords," to find blogs not covered by the major topics. Just plug your keyword into Technorati's search screen for blogs and posts, and you'll be able to identify blogs on any subject. For example, plugging in Genealogy triggered hundreds, if not thousands, of blog postings including genealogy insider, tracing the tribe, and GenBlog, which would take hours to read. Imagine how many blog postings would be listed before Technorati removed millions of obscure ones.

Besides trying to make sense of the blogosphere, Technorati is known for its ranking of blogs and websites. Technorati's top 100 ranking of most heavily trafficked sites is highly respected, and its Topical Authority, which measures a blog's influence within a particular subject category, also carries clout. A blog's rating is based on Technorati's special algorithm, which is proprietary but includes the number of posts that it links to, among other factors.

A recent ranking revealed Technorati's top 10 blogs as 1) The Huffington Post, 2) TechCrunch, 3) Boing Boing, 4) Gizmondo, 5) Mashable!, 6) Gawker, 7) Engadget, 8) The National Review's Corner, 9) The Daily Beast, and 10) Think Progress. The Huffington Post rated 951 and the Daily Beast rated 847, so it's quite precise in its numerical ranking.

However, Olsen does not see Technorati as the Nielsen ratings of the blogosphere. Nielsen's ratings determine what a network can charge for its ads, while Technorati's rankings aren't connected to ad rates but are aimed for the reader's interest.

Technorati is not the only website that helps identify blogs. Icerocket can unearth blogs, and so can Google Blog Search. Ironically, a Google search on finding blogs lists Technorati first followed by Google Blog Search.

On the day Olsen was interviewed, major news stories on Technorati concerned what was behind Tiger Wood's automobile accident and pressure being placed on Iran to limit its nuclear power. Olsen noted that Technorati has no reporters based in Windemere, Fla., where Woods resides, that can offer insight. Instead, Technorati's articles offer a summary of how bloggers are reacting to the Woods' incident or the Iran nuclear conflict. The goal of the original content is to have writers "see issues from a blogging lens. That's what makes us unique," Olsen said.

Olsen pointed to a spike of interest in a major technology story about TechCrunch, a website that was trying to develop a notebook computer but recently abandoned the project. Technology-related articles often trigger the most interest on the site.

Though Technorati appeals to a wide range of people, Olsten noted that it also attracts many bloggers themselves. Since there are 112.8 million of them, that's a huge audience.


 Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.


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