The blogosphere matures

Michael Alan Hamlin

Posted on April 11, 2007

Blogging is about distributing personal brands

According to the latest “The State of the Live Web” report, a quarterly report by Technorati founder and CEO David Sifry, the blogosphere is showing signs of maturing while its legitimacy as a valued information resource is growing.

Technorati is a popular blog search engine, and currently tracks 70 million blogs worldwide. Sifry’s latest report shows that blogs are increasingly at par with traditional media as a valued source of news and information, that growth in blog creation and posting is strong but slowing, and that English isn’t the number one language of the blogosphere – Japanese has regained the top spot.

While the rate at which the blogosphere doubles in size has slowed as the sheer number of blogs has increased, Sifry reports that growth remains decidedly torrid, with 120,000 new blogs created on an average day. That’s about 1.4 blogs per second.

Our own research reveals many instances suggesting that bloggers are becoming increasingly innovative in their efforts to distinguish themselves from other bloggers, leverage blogging for financial gain, and grow their personal brands. Jeremy Blachman is an excellent example. Blachman is a lawyer and the author of Anonymous Lawyer (anonymouslawyer.blogspot.com).

Blachman’s blog is one of the most popular blogs on the Internet, and has been profiled by The New York Times. About a year ago, Blachman apparently decided to exploit the popularity of his blog by writing a book of the same title. Unlike his blog, the book is fiction. Like his blog, it consists of blog entries, but in this instance they are “made” by an imaginary hiring partner at a global law firm.

The entries tell a progressive story that rips away the opaque mystique often associated with law firms to reveal the raw humanity, and inhumanity, of seemingly marginally fictional, emotionally flawed legal professionals. Although a paperback edition is now available, the hardcover original remains a top seller on Amazon.com.

Blachman’s popularity, both as a non-fiction blog author and as a fiction author is impressive, but it is his innovative approach to using these channels to distribute his brand that distinguishes him. While his content draws readers, compelling content is a means to achieve his ultimate objective. As a blog author, the Harvard Law School educated lawyer rankles the legal community with his irreverent criticisms of his peers and their practice of their professions.

As a book author, Blachman accomplishes the same goal, showing highly educated professionals charging upwards of $700 an hour for their services as ordinary, frequently petty, individuals at their core. Yet Blachman himself is a highly paid lawyer. And just how highly paid in significant part is influenced by the prominence of his personal brand which owes its visibility almost entirely to his blog. His popular book serves to extend his brand.

In fact, the ultimate purpose of blogging is not to entertain, inform, and provide thoughtful or irrelevant perspective, although effective bloggers do all of these things. The purpose of blogs, by serving as a distribution channel for this content, is to communicate and build awareness of personal brands. Because blogs are inherently personal in character, they perform this task exceptionally well. And this accounts for their rapid growth.

Sifry reports that in 2004 and 2006, the number of blogs doubled every five to seven months. Because the blogosphere has grown so large, it now takes longer, about 320 days, to double. Still, the total number of blogs globally is doubling in less than a year. Top bloggers do seem to be becoming more thoughtful about their posts, rather than mindlessly posting stream-of-thought blather.

That perhaps accounts for the fact that growth in the number of daily posts is declining somewhat, despite continued rapid growth in the overall number of blogs. Sifry reports that about 1.5 million posts are made daily, or about 17 per second, compared to 1.3 million daily posts in the previous report, or 15 per second. That’s an increase of about 22 percent. Slowing growth in daily posts may also suggest that bloggers understand readers don’t have all day to soak up their musings.

But as blogs have grown, so has reliance on them for news and information. In the third quarter of 2006, there were 12 blogs in the top 100 most popular blogs on mainstream media sites. By the next quarter that number had jumped to 22, almost doubling. Sifry says that this suggests that the “audience is less and less likely” to distinguish a personal blog from one on, for example, nytimes.com.

It is also interesting that the Japanese, with about half the population of the U.S. are the world’s most prolific bloggers. Thirty-seven percent of all blogs are posted in Japanese, followed by English at 36 percent. This result is even more notable since many bloggers in different countries around the world post in English, while the vast majority of Japanese-language posts are made by Japanese. Chinese places a distant third, at eight percent.

Sifry’s latest report shows that blogging is becoming mainstream globally. But the bottom line is that blogs have a dramatic impact on the visibility of personal brands, and that accounts for their rapid growth.

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