Content Marketing, Digital Marketing, Social Media Strategy, Blogging and Content Creation, Social Media Marketing

The Inefficiencies of the Reputation Economy

social-media-abacusNothing gets bloggers more excited than a discussion about blog rankings. Many conversations I had at South by Southwest touched on this subject.

Jason Falls asked Guy Kawasaki to move his Social Media Explorer up the list on (a great resource to find first-class blogs, by the way).

Mack Collier told me that his longstanding weekly posts listing the Top 25 marketing and social media blogs are routinely his most popular.

Valeria Maltoni had more comments on her post about top women bloggers than any of the other 800+ posts she’s written.


New Media Lacks Scoreboards

You know where you stand in old media. Flawed though they may be, entire industries have been built around measuring and ranking traditional media like television (Nielsen), radio (Arbitron), and print (Audit Bureau and others). I can use Google to find the top 10 TV shows, top 10 daily newspapers, top 10 magazines and an almost limitless supply of other data points about who’s garnering the most eyeballs.

New media has more data, but less insight.

Technorati estimates that there are hundreds of millions of blogs, but there isn’t much reliable information about which are best, or even biggest.

Technorati itself uses “authority” to rank blogs based on how many other blogs link to them (somewhat similar to Google’s Web page ranking algorithm). A viable metric, but more a barometer of influence among bloggers than readership. allows you to compare the number of people that have “subscribed” to blogs using RSS, meaning that they are notified via an RSS application or email each time a new post is added to the blog. If you use Feedburner to power your RSS feed you can also display the number of RSS subscribers on your blog (as I do in the top right corner of this page). This is an indication of popularity but not of actual audience, since just a fraction of all blog readers will subscribe to the blog (just like a fraction of single issue readers of a magazine will subscribe)., and Google Ad Planner use various methods of tracking the behavior of a subset of Internet users to estimate and project the overall traffic of Web sites. As chronicled by the aforementioned Jason Falls on his blog, this data can have wide fluctuations in accuracy. Further, it is fundamentally useless for all but the biggest blogs, because there aren’t enough visitors for reliable estimation.

In the marketing realm, there are a variety of multi-faceted rankings that strive to recommend or rank blogs based on quality and/or size. My three favorites (in addition to Mack’s list) are AdAge Power 150, Alltop, and Junta42. But they combine the flawed data points mentioned above with human-powered scores. A good, but not perfect, methodology.

And social media listening software like Radian6, Techrigy, Scoutlabs or Spiral16 typically has blogger influence scores, but those are complex, fee-based packages more suited for comprehensive social media outreach programs.

Give Me Data, or Give Me Death

If you’re not a blogger, you may not care about a lack of reliable scoreboards for blogs. Although if you’re trying to find influential bloggers to engage with on behalf of your company or client, this topic may be important to you on a daily basis.

But for bloggers, having a way to keep score is important and affirming.

The time it takes to blog regularly cannot be justified in any direct way financially, unless your blog is so popular that you’re selling a lot of ads (a tiny, tiny slice of the overall blogosphere). Indirectly, blogging helps a ton in terms of credibility and developing your thinking, but it doesn’t pay the bills per se.

Your comments are fantastic and a great way to stay engaged with readers, but they aren’t a measuring stick, either.

That’s why blogging can be a lonely proposition. When you first start blogging, it feels like you’re writing in the dark, wondering if anyone will ever see your work. If a laptop falls on a blogger’s head in the forest, and nobody is around, will you hear her scream?

I believe we’ll be seeing plenty of answers to this problem cropping up soon, and just as social media and social networking have advanced and improved, a new “reputation economy” will rise up to meet the challenge of blog to blog comparisons.

Perhaps Hubspot, who have done a great job with their Twitter Grader, Website Grader and Facebook Grader applications, will create a Blog Grader. That would kick start this reputation economy, and set the bar for additional developments.

(photo by Ansik)