Sunday, December 21, 2008

How many blogs should we read?


How many blogs should we read? Seems trivial - as long as we find it interesting and care to afford the time, we might as well read as many blogs as we can, right? Not quite. For most of us, there are far more interesting blog posts out there than we have time to read.
So, to rephrase the question - if I want to get a good coverage for a topic I care about - how many blogs should I read?


According to Technorati there are ~4600 blogs discussing knitting. Many of them are interesting enough to attract a large group of readers. Personally, knitting is not one of my topics of interest. But between social media, scifi, software development, parenting, enterprenourship, program analysis, taichi, ..., my choice of blogs is quite staggering.

I know I'll have a great time reading the latest in these topics, I know that there is excellent content in the blogosphere about them and I know how to find the most popular blogs. The question remains - how many blogs should I read in each topic to get a good coverage of the top stories? Will picking just the top blog in each topic be sufficient? How much of the top content will I miss this way?


Given my academic background, I want solid numbers to guide my decision ;-)

I looked for statistical evidence on the number of interesting blog posts in a specific topic. I found two great resources - Techmeme and Digg.
Techmeme employs AI algorithms to find the best technology news and is considered by many in the field as the definitive resource for breaking tech news.
Digg is a social news website that relies on its readers and the "Wisdom of the Crowd" to find the the best stories in a variaty of topics. With these two resources, all that we need is to check the distribution of blogs that made the front page - will we find a single dominant blog?
How many blogs are needed to get an 80% coverage of the top stories in my areas of interest according to Digg and Techmeme?


The results were quite surprising, both by their conclusiveness and their implications.
As you can see below, the top technology blog, TechCrunch is responsible for less than 6% of the headlines on Techmeme! that's quote a low over-all tech coverage... still, maybe TechCrunch cites the rest of the 94% of the interesting stories? looking further into the data, I found that TechCrunch appears in the discussion threads of about 6% of the stories. These means that according the Techmeme, if I read only the top technological blog, TechCrunch, I would miss about 88% of the most interesting tech stories! Not a very good coverage.

In fact, looking at the chart below, I'll need to read more than 100 blogs (!) to get coverage of 80% of the top technology stories. That means sifting through 20,000 blog posts per month(!!).
Lucky for us tech guys that Techmeme is around to bring some order into this torrent of information...

Is this fragmentation a problem of the technological blogs or is it common to other topics as well?
I turned to digg and checked the top "Gaming", "Science" and "Health" stories in the last month (unfortunatly digg doesn't have much coverage for my more niche topics of interest).
The results, below, were amazingly consistent with the Techmeme numbers.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

How many blogs should we read in each of our areas of interest? One is certainly not enough! Fifty seems to be the magic number, but is quite absurd.
So how can we reach the stories that are most interesting to us? Techmeme and Digg do a great job but only for a few selected topics.
Hopefully, in time, we will be able to tackle this problem with our own news service - Newsodrome.

How many blogs do you read on each of your areas of interest? what other resources do you follow for the best relevant stories? do you feel it's a problem worth solving?


Anonymous Rajeev Edmonds said...

Very interesting analysis.

Many of us follow large number of blogs of same niche, but I suspect anyone of us ever read every single post carefully that we receive in our inbox, except some popular blog posts.

I follow about 72 blogs, but mostly I give a glance to all the posts I receive in inbox, except some chosen posts of 10-15 blogs that I religiously follow.

December 21, 2008 5:37 AM  
Anonymous education in India said...

very good analysis

December 21, 2008 9:25 PM  

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