There's lies, damn lies, and Technorati statistics...at least that's the line I would have traditionally run over the last 5 years covering Technorati State of the Blogosphere reports. And yet today, Technorati under Richard Jalichandra is looking the best it has for years, and their ability to track accurate numbers has improved vastly. This is not to say that they are perfect, but they have more authority now. Notably, the index has cleaned up spam blogs, so numbers out of Technorati are no longer skewed by millions of autogenerated blogs.
The first part of the 2008 State of the Blogosphere report has been released, and the numbers show some interesting trends. The primary number is that active blogging (as measured by Technorati) is in decline. According to Technorati, only 1.5 million blogs have been updated in the last 7 days, out of 133 million blogs tracked. The number over 120 days goes out to 7.4 million blogs, but it's still a small number in the bigger scheme of things, particularly in 2008. Marshall Kirkpatrick at ReadWriteWeb goes so far as to headline his post "Technorati Numbers Indicate Blogging Is Niche and Slowing" and at first glance it wouldn't be hard to agree.
But the headline is wrong. Blogging isn't declining, nor is it in any way, shape or form niche. The numbers highlight the changing nature of blogging, and an evolution into a social media space today where we may see a decline in stand-alone blogging, but not to the exclusion of blogging as a concept. The definition of blogging is the challenge, and Technorati doesn't track the new wave of blogging platforms.
Blogging as a social networking service
Years ago I got into an argument about what should be included in a count of blogs. At the time MySpace was growing rapidly, and offered blogging as a standard feature. I argued then that if MySpace users were using the blogging feature within MySpace, that their blogs should count in any collective assessment on the state of the blogging world. Years later, MySpace blogs still aren't tracked by Technorati, and yet there are hundreds of millions of users on MySpace: even if a small percentage blog, and a smaller percentage again do so regularly, we've could have just easily doubled the active blog counts in this report.
That blogging was offered as a service within a social networking site in 2004 was a novelty, but in 2008, there's very few social networking platforms that don't offer their users a blog, or the ability to undertake blogging like activity. Where as in the past, if you wanted a blog you had a stand alone blog, say self hosted or on a service such as Blogger, today blogging is everywhere. As people have found alternative blogging platforms within social networks, some have abandoned their stand alone blogs and switched instead to blogging within social networks....and yet they aren't counted here.
I post a thought or a link to a page that can be seen by others. Readers can comment under the original entry. The item can be linked to, is indexed by Google, and has its own URL. Sounds like a simple description for a blog doesn't it, but I didn't just describe a blog, I described FriendFeed. Social sharing sites are part of the evolution of blogging, and at their core are really hosted blogs with improved sharing and networking. Every activity on FriendFeed is blog like, but they're not counted in blog numbers. Why is FriendFeed or similar services excluded when we consider any "decline" in blogging. Like the social networking sites, FriendFeed highlights the changing nature of blogging, away from a standalone site towards the social space, and these sites are booming.
We might argue over the use of the term "micro-blogging" to describe services like Twitter, and yet the name serves a purpose. Twitter is part of the evolution of blogging, and micro-blogging can be pointed to as one of the driving forces behind the decline of traditional stand alone blogs. Anecdotal evidence would suggest that many Twitter users now blog less. We know that Twitter users are more likely to share a funny link or quick thought on Twitter where in the past they would have shared via their stand alone blogs. Twitter has become a substitute for much of the noise that use to happen in the blogopshere, but Twitter isn't counted in the blog numbers. We may not call posting to Twitter blogging, but it shares a common genealogy with blogging itself, and is a blogging type activity.
The challenge for those of us who work in the blogosphere is to address the notion, presented in these numbers, that somehow blogging has past its peak. Traditional blogging has past its peak, and it was always going to, but people are not participating less, they are actually participating more, and blogging, and blogging like activities are more popular than they have ever been. The new blogosphere is social, interconnected, and more varied than we could ever have imagined.