Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

NICK DOUGLAS — Forbes 25 Web Celebs! Technorati 100! Never have so many lists given so little information about who the real top bloggers are. Why is this Jeff Jarvis dude so high up on Technorati's list if you've never actually read his blog? Why does Forbes think Nick Denton is so goddamned important? Here's a simple explanation of what these "top blogger" lists really mean (short answer: less than you think).

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

Technorati Top 100

What it does measure: How many sites have linked to a blog

What it doesn't measure: How many people read a blog

Blog search engine Technorati runs the most famous "top blogs" list. Getting on the Technorati 100 is the most-often cited sign of success among bloggers; at least 1800 blogs wrote specifically about the list; many bloggers want to get into it.

A high Technorati rank isn't directly related to high readership. For example, #3 is TechCrunch, a blog with just over one hundred thousand daily views, while #4 is Gizmodo, a blog with over a million daily views. A mid-range blogger like media expert Jeff Jarvis gets a disproportionate rank because so many of his readers are bloggers; they quote and link to his posts from their own sites. (So Jarvis does deserve to be on the list; the links show that his realm of influence extends beyond his own readers, out to their readers.)

Henry Copeland, president of the Blogads network, recently showed what top blogs get major traffic:

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

But the same graph shows there's an indirect relationship; a blog with one hundred daily views isn't going to pop onto the top 100, and a blog with millions of views a day will show up on the list, even if it's a bit lower than it should be. Note Perez Hilton, whose 100 million monthly readers probably aren't bloggers who will link to their favorite articles; thus his low Technorati rank.

Is it worth struggling to reach the top? Not really. Technorati counts links back to 2002 correction: back 180 days from the present. All of the top twenty blogs are over a year old; three of the top four are at least four years old. A high Technorati rank is not a goal but a sign of real dedication to a blog; it's more a lifetime achievement award than a "best of the year" prize.

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

BlogPulse Top Blogs

What it measures: The blogs most who got the most links today

What it doesn't measure: Long-term popularity

It's the daily version of Technorati's link-based list. Look at the list for today and, say, a month ago, and you'll get a feel for what's popular now. BlogPulse's list will show more new blogs than Technorati's, though a lot of Technorati's caveats still apply.

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

Forbes 25 (and other magazine lists)

What they do measure: What blogs are read by Forbes writers

What they don't measure: Anything objective

Why do bloggers feel they haven't "made it" until they get profiled in a magazine? After all, Forbes's top "web celeb," Jessica Lee Rose, gets anywhere from 100 thousand to 1.5 million viewers when she acts as "Lonelygirl15." What's one more million readers in Forbes?

Lists in Forbes, CNET, and other news outlets are editorially based. That means that inclusion depends on getting on the publication's radar. Copeland finds that it helps to be male and coastal.

So is it worth schmoozing reporters to get in Forbes? Please. These lists drive traffic to themselves, not back to the subjects. Some magazines don't even link to blogs from their online pages. What a waste of attention. But hey, if you'd rather feel famous than be famous, go ahead and suck up.

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

Bloglines Most Popular Feeds

What it measures: Which blogs have the most subscribers

What it doesn't measure: Which blogs have the most one-time visitors

Most blog traffic still comes from visitors clicking over to a web page. But more and more readers are subscribing to the RSS feeds of their favorite blogs. These dedicated readers won't see the ads, headers, and any other extras from the blog's web page. Instead they see just the new content, served in a feedreader. Bloglines, one of the most popular feedreaders, lists the most-watched blogs.

I presume this is a fair representation of the blogs with the most regular readers. Do note that Bloglines recommends certain feeds to all readers (like the Bloglines News feed), so those will be skewed high.

Two caveats: This list will skew geeky. A celebrity gossip blog like Perez Hilton attracts readers who've never heard of RSS. Hilton's regular readers are more likely to just type in PerezHilton.com every day. Also, some blogs rely on drawing loads of traffic to one post. Gawker Media's Consumerist earns loads of one-time readers with posts like "Confessions of a T-Mobile employee," but not that many people need to read each of its consumer-advocacy posts day in and day out. Measuring Consumerist by the number of Bloglines subscribers would be like measuring NBC by the number of people who leave it on all day: helpful, but not the whole story.

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

Blogads Network

What it does measure: Honest-to-goodness traffic for the blogs that sell ads through Blogads

What it doesn't measure: Traffic for anyone else

One thing can get bloggers to report solid traffic numbers: advertising. Blogads puts its own ads (served from a Blogads server) on partners' sites, so it can remotely track partners' traffic. Of course, plenty of blogs don't use Blogads, so this is only a partial list.

Who's Really The Most Famous Blogger?

Blogebrity's List

What it measures: What blogs are popular among a tiny third-party audience

What it doesn't measure: Any real numbers

Blogebrity, the blog about bloggers (but in a celebrity way, not that boring "how to optimize your SEO" way), recently relaunched with voter-determined A, B, C, and D lists. (Disclosure: I edit Blogebrity's blog. I don't manage the list.) Readers vote how famous a given blogger is, and the votes are combined to form the definitive lists. The site gets precious little traffic, so the rankings will be skewed until more people vote. Treat it like a Q-score: it's not about who gets read, but who gets known. Campaigning to top Blogebrity's A-list would demean you, even to that guy trying to get into Forbes.

Photo from Geek Entertainment Television. Nick Douglas writes for Blogebrity and is internet famous at his vlog, Look Shiny. Technorati thinks he owns Valleywag.