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Feedster Top 500, the Long Tail and measureing true success

Those of you who read/subscribe to a lot of blogs will no doubt have seen a number of posts about the Feedster Top500.

The Top500 is Feedster’s take on the Technorati 100, but obviously increasing the number to 500. The cynic in me reckons it’s a clever ploy to create more advocates for the Feedster service – particularly as it looks like Technorati is about to be sold (to Yahoo!, Google or Rupert Murdoch depending on who you read).

Assuming the Technorati 100 also appear in the Feedster 500, Feedster are likely to have 400 new bloggers (top bloggers too) who might just start using and pushing Feedster over Technorati. Smart.

This blog didn’t make the Top 500 – so I won’t be pushing Feedster, lol. In fact according to Feedster I only have 188 in-bound links, and you needed 809 in-bound links to scrape in at #500.

I’m not very popular, you see – but then that makes me exclusive, doesn’t it? You are my exclusive readership. 🙂

Don’t worry, if I ever organise a camping event, I’ll invite you!

The site did make it – in at #315 with 1,148 links. I guess I should be happy as I’m obviously paid to run that blog!

But this is all fluff, isn’t it? What I’m really interested in writing about is how this fits with the Long Tail.

The serious bit

You see apart from Amazon and iTunes, blogging has always cited as a great example of the Long Tail. A place where niche publishing is occurring, etc. Plus we are all being told “There’s money in that there tail!“.

So, given the above, why is everyone pushing the Short Head? I reckon it’s because Technorati and Feedster can’t think of a very good way to representing the Long Tail – despite having the data to do it.

And it just doesn’t make any sense to be perpetuating the Short Head. In doing so the “rich get richer” (not only in hits, but arguably in ad revenue) and ‘the beast’ continues to skew to an even longer tail/shorter head – more people subscribe to the head and are less likely to be checking out the tail. Surely this waters down the richness of the blogosphere?

Going forward

There must be mutually beneficial ways for services like Feedster and Technorati to be pushing folk towards “tail material”? Mutually beneficial in the sense that it’s good for the niche publishers, and good for the blog aggregator/search services. And I’m taking about ways that go beyond Technorati tags (which is a start, but not much else).

I think you also have to question the validity of measuring the top 100/500 by the number of inbound links. The most linked blog isn’t necessarily the most read blog, and vice-versa. (I know that might sound like sour grapes considering I have a low inbound link value, but it’s not)

The key to both issues, I believe, is a valid way of measuring readership. Which is tricky when you consider people read blogs in different ways:

  • Via the website
  • Via the RSS feeds which contain full content (and don’t require additional click-through, but can’t be measured as to whether the feed is actually being read or just forgotten in an ever growing list of links in an aggregator)
  • Via the RSS feeds which contain just summaries (and require additional click-throughs to view the full content)

If there was a way to do this – which was open (ie not Feedster) and enabled the results to be aggregated – then not only could a genuine “Top 100″/”Top 500” be created, but gems in the Blogosphere Long Tail could also be represented by working on spikes in readership.

I’m talking about something like a standardised XML feed that represents the number of hits to blog posts and/or the blog in general. This could then be included in the meta tags of a site, and picked up by anyone who wants to use it.

In order to achieve this, you would need to come up with a way to measure the three different viewing models listed above. A feat I am currently working on – but you are more than welcome to join me!

Let me know if you have ideas!

Published in Thoughts and Rants


  1. Where are you working on this feat? Anyplace posted publicly? We’re happy to support open relevancy efforts (like if we’re invited. We’re just doing the best we can within our resource constraints until then.

  2. As a low inbound link value bod I empathise with you Ben and I’ll come to your camp 🙂

    Pushing people more effectively to Long Tail content is all well and good but I think that happens anyway. The Head tends to get much of it’s material in the Tail of the beast and more-often-than-not it references that source. Most in the head are, after all, aggregators.

    Are you saying the ‘spikes’ in blogs that don’t usually get a lot of readers represents a higher proportion of actual readership relative to the vast swathes of sheep that follow the rss of Head blogs but rarely read them? That’s an interesting assumption and if you;re right then that would alter the power curve make up a little.

    I’m also unsure about your premise. Are you saying that people actually want a fairer measure of thier blog/ranking? or are you saying there needs to be a better / more meritocratic means to navigate through Long Tail content?

    If it’s the former, I think that most bloggers are blogging for the hell of it not for any vanity value. And I also believe [though have not got the stats to prove it] that the spikes in the Long Tail are a result of referrals in the Head and from there a kind of serendipity [sorry, hate that word] occurs where you happen upon stuff that you like. Do the aggregators accentuate the Head? I’m not sure. I think the tag functionality works to push people around quite well and I’m not sure that any measure of ‘readership’ would greatly differ from the ranking system we currently have ie you’d still have a short head.

    Another productive avenue may be social clustering. I think that Dunbar’s number [the maximum number of people that can be supported iat any one time by one individual] supports the view that it’s only effective to be engaging actively in around 30-40 blogs [reading, commenting, ‘knowing’ the writer etc.]. If that’s the case then it may be interesting to look at clusters of engagement and the social network rather than the ‘measure’/ranking itself. Are there 1st and 2nd level clusters? does this mean one is more active [social groups.friends you actively engage with?] and the second more passive [reading in the Head?]? No idea how you’d do this though as only the imperfect inbound/outbound link and feed take-up are available.

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