Are Blogs Losing Their Authority To The Statusphere?

Depending on which numbers you source or believe, all reports agree that the blogosphere continues to expand globally.

As the leading blog directory and search engine, Technorati maintains a coveted Authority Index which is considered amongst bloggers as the benchmark for measuring their rank and selling their position within the blogosphere. (At least until recently). Authority in the index is defined as the number of blogs linking to a website within the last six months. The higher the number, the greater the level of Authority a blog earns.

However, a disruptive trend is already at play. While blogs are increasing in quantity, their authority–as currently measured by Technorati–is collectively losing influence. For instance, just last November, Technorati counted 32,493 links towards gadget blog Engadget’s “authority.” Today, it counts half that amount (16,326). Even TechCrunch’s link authority as measured by Technorati is down by several thousand links, yet its relative position in the overall ranking (No. 3) hasn’t moved.

In its annual state of the blogosphere last year, Technorati revealed that it had indexed 133 million blog records since 2002. In March 2008, Universal McCann published a report that indicated 184 million blogs worldwide were created, with 346 million people reading blogs globally.

Blogging is entrenched in the mainstream. Indeed, consumers, businesses, content publishers, and media channels are embracing blogs as a way of engaging existing and reaching new readers to build an ecosystem around relevant conversations. It’s the convergence of dialog and journalism, creating a new generation of interconnectedness between publisher and community.

So why do I believe that blog authority is losing its authority?

It goes back to the definition of authority. Links from blogs are no longer the only measurable game in town. Potentially valuable linkbacks are increasingly shared in micro communities and social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, and FriendFeed and they are detouring attention and time away from formal blog responses.

As the social Web and new services continue the migration and permeation into everything we do online, attention is not scalable. Many refer to this dilemma as attention scarcity or continuous partial attention (CPA) – an increasingly thinning state of focus. It’s affecting how and what we consume, when, and more importantly, how we react, participate and share. That something is forever vying for our attention and relentlessly pushing us to do more with less driven by the omnipresent fear of potentially missing what’s next.

We are learning to publish and react to content in “Twitter time” and I’d argue that many of us are spending less time blogging, commenting directly on blogs, or writing blogs in response to blog sources because of our active participation in micro communities.

With the popularity and pervasiveness of microblogging (a.k.a. micromedia) and activity streams and timelines, Twitter, Facebook, FriendFeed and the like are competing for your attention and building a community around the statusphere – the state of publishing, reading, responding to, and sharing micro-sized updates.

This new genre of rapid-fire interaction is further distributing the proverbial conversation and is evolving online interaction beyond the host site through syndication to other relevant networks and communities.

In most cases attention for commenters at the source post are competing against the commenters within other communities. Those who might typically respond with a formal blog post may now choose to respond with a tweet or a status update.

Attention is engaged at the point of introduction, and for many of us, we’re presented with worthwhile content outside of our RSS readers or favorite bookmarks. Relevant and noteworthy updates are now curated by our peers and trusted or respected contacts in disparate communities that change based on our daily click paths.

Retweets (RT) and favorites in Twitter, Likes and comments in FriendFeed and Facebook, posting shortened links that connect friends and followers back to the source post, have changed our behavior and empowered our role in defining the evolution of the connectivity and dissemination of information.

Now, we have the ability to instantly interact with, respond, or promote blog content away from the source blog, but that shouldn’t make the original post any less valuable. In fact, while blog authority isn’t capitalizing on these new sources for linkbacks, link authority is still affected, no matter the source, and helps increase the visibility and weight of the host blog in search engines.

The immediacy of publishing, sparking dialog, and receiving responses only reinforces this behavior. And, it encourages participation without having to write a blog post tracking back to the originator of each discussion. So, posts are missing out on a trove of valuable linklove from other blogs that would otherwise have contributed to their authority

Think about it.

There are supposedly 133 million blogs created, with far less in real use today. There are reportedly 175 million users on Facebook and another six million (and growing) on Twitter. The online social populace is necessitating the need for a new generation of establishing and measuring authority in the blogosphere before current blog metrics inaccurately paint a grim picture that they’re influence is declining—again as measured today.

One blog post can spark a distributed response in the respective communities where someone chooses to RT, favorite, like, comment, or share. These byte-sized actions reverberate throughout the social graph, resulting in a formidable network effect of measurable movement and activity. It is this form of digital curation of relevant information that binds us contextually and sets the stage to introduce not only new content to new people, but also facilitates the forging of new friendships, or at least connections, with the publisher in the process.

With the right tools, everything is measurable.

BackType tracks tweets associated with a source URL regardless of the shortener used to link back to it. twInfluence measures Twitter influencers, not just by followers, but also by reach, velocity, social capital and centralization. Retweetist tracks the most “retweeted” people, URLs, and also those who actively “RT” others. Tweetbacks, Disqus, and Chatcatcher are tracking related tweets and directly connecting and listing them as traditional trackbacks at originating blog posts.

FriendFeed already released APIs and with Facebook opening up the News Feed to developers, apps will emerge that can track blog posts by volume of likes and shared links.

At SXSW, Klout will debut a new service that helps bloggers and content publishers measure Link Authority and a conversation index by tracking the frequency of shared URLs tied to the weighted stature of those sharing them compared to other links shared during the same time frame. The service will eventually provide a foundation to compare source URLs ranked within the service over time.

The ideas are abundant.

Shortly before publishing this post, I contacted Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, and we discussed the future of blog authority in the era of micromedia. His response was positive and immediately revealed that the team is actively entrenched in the creation of a modified platform that embraces widespread, distributed linkbacks to blog posts in order to factor them into the overall authority for affected blogs. He also, on the spot, set up a briefing to review where they’re at in terms of development as well as new options to factor into the equation.

Widespread blog responses are dwindling in favor of micro responses.

Authority within the blogosphere demands a new foundation to measure rank and relevancy that is reflective of the real world behavior and interaction of those who are compelled to link back to the post and extend its visibility in new, engaging, and prominent communities.

Blog authority as measured by Technorati is declining. However, blog authority as measured by links is booming. It’s now more authoritative than ever before as bloggers can reach and resonate with new readers outside of their traditional ecosystem to cultivate a dispersed community bound by context, centralized links, and syndicated participation. Microblogging will only grow in importance and prevalence. It’s just a matter of embracing the inevitable and measuring the linklove beyond the blogosphere.

But forget about blogs. This discussion begets a bigger question. Will we need a separate Technorati-type index for measuring the authority of content publishers on Twitter and other micro-media in their own right? Of course we do.

(Photo by Humbolthead).