Technorati’s Decline, Death of Blogging?

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Technorati Japan home page, Nov 2009

Technorati used to be one of the sites to see and be seen at. Your ranking there was highly prized; you’d add technorati tags to your blog posts and their State of the Blogosphere was a highly valued insight into blogging.

But now it’s a pale shadow of its former self, having recently closed its Tokyo office, and with dramatically lower traffic, from more than 400K visitors per day to today’s 40K:

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technorati.com traffic, Google Trends, Nov 2009

Indeed, in early 2009 Technorati was overtaken by a blogging search engine I must confess I’ve never heard of, blogcatalog.com in traffic:

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technorati.com vs blogcatalog.com traffic, Google Trends, Nov 2009

This despite calling itself the #1 blog search engine:

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Richard Jalichandra, Technorati Media CEO, says that while the company is now an ad network, Technorati.com is still a major component of the business, with 1.3 million registered users. Well, those 1.3 million registered users aren’t visiting or pinging the site very much, and the other two websites he mentions, blogcritics.org and twittorati.com, don’t seem to be making much of an impression either:

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blogcritics.org and twittorati.com traffic, Google Trends, Nov 2009

Richard, who has just raised another $2 million in funding, describes the business model thus:

Our model is often misunderstood or viewed as one part vs. the actual whole, but it’s relatively simple: an ad network focused on social media, the world’s largest blog search engine [sic] and directory, a large and passionate author community, and our newest site which tracks the tweets of the most influential bloggers.

Users, however, aren’t impressed. Some have noticed what they think is spam in the technorati search results. Others have noticed that despite their claims to index 100 million blogs, in 2007, they now seem to index less than 1 million. (The current number seems to be 853,799.)  Maybe this would explain why their State of the Blogosphere this year, despite claiming to be a “deeper dive into the entire blogosphere,” was all comment, survey and no data (presentation to Blog World Expo here.)

Now is this just Technorati, or is something bigger afoot? Is Technorati’s decline a reflection of its own failings or the broader decline of blogging?

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How to Monitor Your Flickr Album

The best way to keep tabs on who is linking to your Flickr photo album is through Technorati, the blog-tracking service. But it’s not as straightforward as it could be, so here’s a guide, based almost entirely on that provided by the Technology Evangelist Ed Kohler, for which I offer grateful thanks.

Setting up the Technorati end

Sign up for Technorati if you don’t already have an account.

Go to Technorati’s start claim page, and click on the Blogs tab:

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Scroll to the bottom of the page to the Claim a Blog section and paste in your Flickr.com page into the URL box:

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Click on the Begin Claim button:

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You’ll be taken through a four step process, the next stage of which is to choose your “claim method”. Use the Post Claim method if you’re offered more than one, by clicking on the blue link, as per below:

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In the next screen follow the instructions by selecting the prepared code in the light green box:

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Setting up the Flickr end

This is where it gets trickier: open a second browser window, go to your Flickr account and choose a recent photo that’s public. Choose the “Edit title, description, and tags” link on the right hand side:

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In the description box of the photo delete all existing descriptions (copy them if you like to a text file — you can always paste them back later.)

Copy the code from the Technorati box into the Description field of your Flickr photo, deleting all the stuff that isn’t the link:

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(Removing both other descriptions and the HTML code seems to be important. Without it, it might not work.)

Save changes to the photo:

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Wrapping it Up

Now go back to the Technorati page you were on before and click on the button “Release the Spiders!” This will instruct Technorati to go look at your Flickr page and look for the code:

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When this is complete you should receive a message on the Technorati page saying it’s successfully added your Flickr page to your list of monitored blogs. If it’s unsuccessful, go back to the Flickr image and check

  • the photo is public 
  • you’ve removed all other Description text 
  • you’ve removed the HTML from the link

and try releasing the spiders again.

Monitoring your Flickr photos

So how do you actually keep tabs on the Technorati page?

Once your Flickr page is “claimed” it should appear on your Technorati page (http://technorati.com/people/technorati/[YOURNAME]). Click on the green Authority button below the link to your Flickr page:

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You should see a list of those blogs and websites linking to your photos:

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Either bookmark this page, or else subscribe to its RSS feed. Either way, you should now be able to keep tabs on who’s linking to your Flickr photos.

Asia’s Obsession With Lists

Last week the WSJ asked me to dig around for sites in Asia-Pacific that are building on the new Obsession with List making, as reported by Katherine Rosman. Here is the result (subscription only), and are some of the sites I came up with. I’d love to hear more from readers, as I’m sure I’ve missed lots.

  • China’s answer to 43thingsAimi — looks a lot like it, right down to the colors and design. Compare 43things
     
    with Aimi:
  • Japan has been more creative, with some pretty cool looking sites including Ultra Simple Reminder, check*pad and ReminderMailer.
  • Australia’s reminder service Remember the Milk is Big in Japan — 15,000 active Japanese users have signed up since its launch in July. Omar Kilani, the guy behind it, tells me “the service is also available in both Simplified and Traditional Chinese and we have a soon-to-be launched Korean version as well.” I’ll keep you posted on that.
  •  Jon Anthony Yongfook Cockle, a 26-year-old Briton based in Tokyo, has developed a very cool, simple reminder page called OrchestrateHQ, where users can enter quick reminders in either English or Japanese. He’s also about to launch a suite of simple Web-based applications called Jonkenpon (nothing up there at the time of writing).
  • Lastly, from the guys at Alien Camel, a new service called Monkey On Your Back which allows users to make a to-do list for things that they want other people to do:
     
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Copernic’s New Search

Copernic have officially launched version 2 of their excellent Desktop Search software. It’s been around in beta for a while and it’s excellent, though I’d still like to see more economical use of screen space. Not all of us are working on high-res big screens. Press release isn’t out yet but should be here when it is. Pre-release page is here.

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Has PR Taken Over The Conversation?

Here’s the hot news for a Monday: PR firm Edelman has teamed up with Technorati to develop localized versions of their offering in German, Korean, Italian, French and Chinese. Edelman’s PR teams worldwide will retain exclusive use of these sites as they are being developed, beginning with French this summer. These localized versions – which will include keyword/tag search and more – will evolve into more robust public-facing sites that everyone will be able to access beginning in the first quarter of next year.

Interesting. And, I have to say, puzzling. What is a PR firm doing developing content for what is basically a blog search engine? (I’m sure both companies consider themselves more than that, but strip it away and that’s what you’re left with.) Here’s to me what is the kicker, from Steve Rubel’s blog (Steve now works at Edelman):

This is the first in what we hope will be a series of collaborations with the Technorati team. It is designed to help our clients participate in global conversations. In addition to working with Technorati, we also plan to align ourselves with other companies that are developing outstanding technologies that will help us further this important goal. We look forward to hearing your reaction and ideas.

Now, I’m trying to think this through. Edelman’s interest is in promoting its clients. Fair enough. Technorati would be a great place to do that through advertising. But are there not conflicts of interest, and if so, where and when do they arise? What happens if blogs critical of Edelman’s clients start appearing on Technorati? How do readers know that the rankings are not being tweaked to hide such blogs lower down the search results? How do we know that faux blogs or PR-sponsored material is not finding its way up the rankings, or that the material being translated on these non-English Technorati sites is being developed in-house, so to speak?

I guess I worry too much. Perhaps this is all good stuff, a merging of minds intent on the same transparent goal: better information for all. But some of this new blogosphere world is starting to sometimes sound like a parody of itself; of a court full of people spouting all the right buzzwords, but lacking a lot of their original meaning or sincerity. Or maybe I misunderstood it all in the first place. Technorati man Peter Hirshberg, for example, writes about the Edelman/Technorati deal thus:

With the incredible growth of the blogosphere, brands and media companies worldwide realize that their communications environment is also in for big changes. The clout that bloggers have developed the U.S. is going global. The lessons that marketers have begun to learn here— get a clue, listen, participate, engage— will soon apply everywhere.

Yes, it’s true that the blogosphere is big and going global. Well, it already has gone global. And it’s true that a lot of marketers still need to get a clue. But does it mean that a PR firm takes what sounds to me like a board-like, potentially gate-keeping position in one of the key starting points for anyone looking for information in the blogosphere?

I’m no staunch fan of traditional media. But it spent decades, centuries even, building Chinese walls between the marketing and the editorial departments (and, in some cases, between the opinion pages and the news gathering pages.) This was so that what you read wasn’t influenced (or unduly influenced) by the guy paying the bills, whether it was the proprietor or the advertisers. It didn’t always work. At some places it never worked. But you kind of knew where, as a reader, you stood. For sure, we’re all struggling to find this new balance in the blogosphere, and there’s no reason it needs to look anything like the old model. But we should be talking about it, not just gushing about it, just because everyone is using the same satchel of buzzwords.

Perhaps the key to all this lies in Richard Edelman’s blog. He goes into greater detail about the deal, and it’s clear he’s focusing on the analytics side of Technorati — it’s phenomenal ability to track the blogosphere, not merely in terms of users, but in terms of what they’re talking about. This is a goldmine for marketing folk, of course, and having a global presence Edelman is going to love to get its hands on the analytics of Korean and Chinese blogs — a relatively unknown territory to anyone who doesn’t read those languages. There’s lots in there for them, as there is in the idea that “every company can be a media company”, although I think this one, too, needs a bit more analysis.

But the key is in the last two goals Richard mentions: “make PR people valued contributors to the discussion, not the often-reviled spinmeister or hype artist lampooned in the media.” This means, at best, PR becoming more honest and factual in their presentation of information, rather than spin. At worst, it means that the average user will increasingly find it hard to sift between what is PR and what is objective, impartial commentary. For every independent blog there will be a spin blog, or a blog that might be independent on 99 subjects but one. After a while, you’ll forget which one, and that’s when the message finds its way through.

The fourth goal Richard mentions is this: “we are certain that this tool will be useful to brand marketers and corporate reputation experts alike. Look at the corporate reputation benefits for Microsoft, GM and Boeing, all three getting praised for new openness as they initiate blogs such as Scobelizer or Randy’s Journal.” What I think this means is that companies are getting praise for setting up blogs  — although one should distinguish between Scoble and Boeing, I fear; one was a guy and a laptop, carving something out of nothing; the other was a major initiative using hired help. Richard concludes: “For brands, the blogosphere will be a unique way to solicit expert opinion, to mobilize the base of enthusiasts and to monitor worldwide trends (avian flu if you are KFC). A globalized world needs global tools and analysis.” Several different issues at play here, not all of them compatible. “Solicit expert opinion”. Does that mean listen to the bloggers who know what they’re talking about, before it becomes a big mess, a la Kryptonite? Or is “mobilize the base of enthusiasts” put out the word to people who understand its importance, or mobilize as in pass around freebies to key bloggers in the hope they’ll say nice things about your product?

Many bloggers, I believe, do a great job, even a better job than journalists in their transparency and sourcing. But that doesn’t mean the genre is settled and invulnerable to manipulation. Perhaps we’ve already hit the intersection where these potentially conflicting interests collide and merge into something new. If so, what is it? PR was invited to the conversation; they may well be the smartest people in the room, and, while old media was wringing its hands, they may have already taken the conversation over. If so, what was the topic again?

Another Blog Posting Tool

Not always being online, I love to use software that allows you to compose blog posts offline. My current favorite is BlogJet, but it’s not cheap and it often throws up error messages. I keep a list of those that are worth looking at (and more suggestions are always welcome.) This post is being written with a new one I’ve not come across before: SharpMT produced by Randy L. Santi. So far it looks pretty good, though it only works with Movable Type-based blogs, and it doesn’t have the WYSIWYG feel of BlogJet. Still, it’s great to see more contenders out in the field. I’d love to see the ability to add technorati tags a la Flock but perhaps that’s in the works.

Peering Into The Blogosphere

Has the blogosphere disappeared into itself, like some 18th century salon of elitists? Probably not, but sometimes I wonder. Clearly others do too. The second comment on a new website that purports to measure the Top50 bloggers is actually more entertaining than anything else on the site: The writer fires off both barrels at the technorati:

This illustrates the subjective nature of blogging and the real-world irrelevance of the self-appointed, self-promoted “A-list”. If you love to write, then write, but don’t publish a “blog” that’s got more ads than a mal-ware link-page and expect me to read it. When I see an ad-infested blog (as most “A-list” blogs are) I see a whore looking for the next trick (or next ‘click’, in this case), not a contributing member of the blogosphere.

It goes on in a similar vein. Strong stuff, and in some ways not fair, particularly the ads thing. The A List bloggers I read don’t have any ads at all that I can remember, certainly less than the number I have. That, in most cases, is not their motivation. And their content is often very interesting stuff, and a great place to hear about new gizmos and Web 2.0 thingamijigs first. But that said, there is perhaps some fire inside the smoke. The A List of bloggers hasn’t changed hugely in the past three years, and while it’s fascinating to watch them evolve (or not, in some cases) you can’t help but wonder why, when blogging has grown in popularity, both in readership and authorship, the A List remains such a small club.

And when that happens, how relevant are the musings of that club to outsiders who may recently have joined the blogosphere?  How useful is a blogosphere so dominated by such a narrow group of people? At what point do the musings of the A List just become a cross-referencing, back-slapping (and occasionally bitchy) salon of folk who have lost their sense of perspective? What I’d like to see — perhaps it already exists — is a visual representation of all the cross-linking that takes place among the A-List. Perhaps then we’ll get a clearer picture of what the A List actually is.

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Technorati’s New (Beta) Look

Dave Sifry on Technorati Weblog announces a new Public Beta:

I’m pleased to announce the launch of the public beta of this major redesign of the Technorati service. We’ve been listening to your feedback, and we hope we’ve reflected that in this release. This is a beta. So, if you have feedback, please tell us because we want to know what is of value to you, our users. We’ve made a big step with this release. Having said that, we also know we have more improvements to make and we’re working hard to implement them. Here are some of the highlights of this beta release:

* We’ve improved the user experience, making Technorati accessible to more people and, specifically, people who are new to blogging. We’ve tried to make it very simple to understand what Technorati is all about, and make it easy to understand how we’re different from other search engines.
* We’ve learned from the incredible success of tags, and brought some of the those same features into search, as well as expanding tag functionality. Now, if your search matches a tag, we bring in photos and links from flickr, furl, delicious, and now buzznet as well.
* We now have more powerful advanced search features. You can now click the “Options” link beside any search box for power searching options.
* We’ve added more personalization. Sign in, and you’ll see your current set of watchlists, claimed blogs, and profile info, right on the homepage, giving you quick access to the stuff you want as quickly as possible.
* New Watchlist capabilities have been added. For example, you no longer need a RSS reader to watch your favorite searches. Now you can view all of your favorite searches on one page. Of course, you can still get your watchlists via RSS, and it is even easier to create new watchlists. You can also get RSS feeds for tagged posts, just check the bottom of each page of tag results!