We’ve seen several attempts to rank blogs by influence, traffic or other measures. Public relations are among the groups that like producing such lists. They often send us these lists hoping we’ll link to the study to give it some publicity. Well, this time I’ll bite.
We got one survey in our inbox this week conducted by public relations firm Text100. It scoured the mainstream media to count and rank the citations made to different blogs, assuming that is a strong measure of how credible blogs are. Since the media references are mostly made for factual analysis, this is arguably a good approach. And VentureBeat was ranked as the No. 1. business blog.
Meanwhile, in a separate ranking that emerged last night, conducted by PRSourceCode, a group I’ve never heard of before, VentureBeat showed up as the No. 5 tech blog (the survey was apparently based on a random sampling of 250 public relations people).
It’s pretty cool to be ranked in the top five in both categories (tech and biz), and it does reflect our Gemini-like personality: We try to write about the coolest technologies, but we’ve also always got an eye on the business side of the companies that produce that technology. Are the companies making money, how are they doing it, and what should decision-makers take away from that? It’s easy to get split up in people’s minds. But we’re really both.
The PR firm doing the survey has been around for some 25 years and has a staff of 500 people in 30 cities. It represents companies like IBM, Cisco, Fujifilm, Lenovo, SanDisk, Skype and PayPal. It took quite some pains, with nine pages of summary, based on some work done by its research subsidiary, Context Analytics.
So while the group is credible, and while it’s an honor to be ranked so highly, I should also say that it’s really hard to come up with an objective ranking of “influential blogs.” You can slice and dice data in countless ways. By tracking mainstream media for their citations of blogs, you’re essentially asking the bloggers’ main competitors to do the ranking. Is that fair? Well, Text100′s Joseph Kingsbury told me “the data is just one viewpoint on what influence means and we recognize that some people will disagree with us. That’s okay, we want to start a conversation about it. Either way, we thought the fact that VentureBeat was mentioned more than any other blogs in your category might be of interest to you.”
Another fairness question concerns size and funding. Some individual bloggers are enormously influential because they focus on a niche topic and they know more than anyone else about it. Blogs like VentureBeat have grown to a team of several people, and we cover more areas. That means we’re more likely to get cited by outside sources, including the mainstream media. There are the blogs, such as GigaOm and Ars Technica, which have either raised millions in venture capital, or been bought by a large media company — and so have more resources, more writers and so churn out still more copy — thus making it more likely they’ll be cited.
Then there are the mega blogs, such as Huffington Post, which has raised $35 million, a treasure chest that makes a publication even less like a “blog.” (Huffington Post ranked No. 1 in the politics section of the Text100 study). And finally, there are sites like Seeking Alpha, ranked No. 2 in business, which basically are aggregating work by outside bloggers (they approached us once to syndicate our content), so its not really a blog per se.
Aside from technology and business, the study also ranked politics, lifestyle/entertainment, gossip. I got a sneak peek at the study and permission to run the rankings for tech and business, but Text100 says it’s now moving up the release date, and the initial findings should be online shortly. I’ll update with a link. [Update: Here's their initial blog post about it; more coming later.]
Note: The survey did remark that VentureBeat was syndicated in mainstream newspapers, the Mercury News and the New York Times, but it said it factored out that syndication while doing its analysis of citations by mainstream media.
Separately, TechCrunch, which landed at the top of the PRSourceCode survey I mentioned above, believes it’s ranked so high because PR people love its policy of not holding to embargoed news. Well, we believe differently. Many PR people hate the policy because it means bloggers can’t take the time to research a story because they’re frantically trying to post before someone else reports the news. And there are some idiotic PR firms that take their news to TechCrunch while expecting us to live by the embargo — which is foolhardy because someone is going to always get burned in that scenario. Just last week, one well-known entrepreneur found himself in a real pickle. He prepped us with a story under embargo, and then went and visited TechCrunch. He texted us as soon as he got out of his meeting — all in an extreme effort to placate the both of us. I bet if you ask him about it, he’ll say it wasn’t worth it.