Secrets of the A-List Bloggers: Lots of short entries

A couple of weeks ago, when working on the entry about salaries for bloggers, I did a quick analysis of the entries in a day slice. Many people pointed out that this was a small slice and was not representative of what other blogs where doing. From there, I ended up with two questions basically bugging me: first, how many entries does the average blog produce on a daily basis? Second, what is the size of those entries? To answer the question, I decided to start analyzing the A-list of the blog world.

Method to the madness

The first thing in preparing for this analysis was to figure out who I should pick as a subject for the study. That was the easy part, as Technorati, the blogging search engine, is generous enough to provide a Top 100 list, highlighting the superstars of the blogging world.

Sitting at the top of the list were the following blogs:

  • Boing Boing, which is not written by a number of people, some of whom are are also advising the company
  • InstaPundit, a libertarian weblog run by Glenn Reynolds
  • Daily Kos, a left wing weblog run by Markos Moulitsas Zuniga
  • Gizmodo, a weblog about gadgets
  • Fark, a list of links
  • Engadget, a competitor to Gizmodo for the gadget audience

I decided to eliminate Fark from my analysis as it was the outlier, generally not producing more than four or five words per link and not separating entries but rather keeping everything in one page, making it look very different from the regular blog format. Having done so, I decided to pick a 24 hour cycle and analyze data from that cycle for the remaining five blogs. The day I picked, May 19th, was a good day for gadget news and political blogs: in the gadget space, the E3 show was closing down. Meanwhile, the potential of a dramatic showdown in the American congress made for a lot of material for political bloggers.

I waited until the day was completed to start my research. Picking every entry one by one, I cut the entry out, pasted it on Microsoft Word, did a word count on the entry, and recorded the number in an Excel spreadsheet.

So let’s take a look at the numbers:

 Boing BoingInstaPunditDaily KosGizmodoEnGadget
242310245 86
25429238 127
2668254  119
2742334  99
2856169  106
297233  65
30151   104
31    830
32    114
33    69
34    353
35    147
36    58
37    127
38    158
39    95
40    209

A cursory look at this shows a lot of interesting data. For starters, all the A list bloggers in that group posted at a rate of an entry per hour or more. However, looking at this, it was unclear how long each entry was.

I decided to massage the data a bit. Individual entry data did not provide much in the way of a clear view but aggregated information did give me a clearer picture. Let’s take a look:

 Boing BoingInstaPunditDaily KosGizmodoEnGadgetAverageTotal
Daily Total30933317746423965580437021850
# of entries302925234029.4147
Average words/entry103.1114.37931298.56104.173913139.5148.639456 

The data became clearer. On that particular day, the top five bloggers created an average of 30 entries, with each entry being under 150 words. This reminds me of something Phillip Greenspun, another A-list blogger, had said about why he liked blogs:

It allows me to experiments with the three paragraph form

Considering the size of the average entry from this, it seems very clear that an entry should be brief.

However, going beyond that is the number of entries that come in on a day. Looking at this, the average Top 5 A-list blogger wrote an average of almost 30 entries. Think about it for a second or two. 30 entries! It’s a huge number for a single day.

From the reader standpoint

So let’s say you popped up your news aggregator of choice and have subscribed to each of those blogs. How much would you read? How much information would you get? Our little analysis shows you would have read a bit under 22,000 words. That would amount, in terms of printed pages, to 44 single spaced pages.

Your alternative? Well, on that day, you could have picked up the New York Times and read every stories on the front page. That would have netted you 12,964 words, or about 22 single spaced printed pages. You could have listened to the evening news, are about 3000 more words. Ultimately, you would have consumed more words reading blogs than going with mainstream media: 5 TV shows would have netted you about 15,000 words. 5 newspaper stories (assuming a different report on each story) would have netted you about 8,000 words. So blogs are much more prolific in terms of words.

Blogger burn out

Notice that I’ve carefully avoided the subject of quality in this particular analysis. This seems to be an increasing issue in the blogging world. Some bloggers, like Joi Ito and Fred Wilson are starting to worry about the quality of entries. Is this the onset of a rush to more substantial but less frequent posts? Only time will tell.

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