One thing struck me as I read through the latest State of the Blogosphere report from Technorati boss David Sifry. It wasn’t that the total number of blogs in the known world had leapt once again, to something like 837.4 trillion. Rather, it was the rapidly shrinking presence of blogs among the top media sites as ranked by Technorati. To put it in popular terms, blogs are being squeezed out of the short head and pushed ever deeper into the long tail.
Just two years ago, in October 2004, blogs accounted for 16 of Technorati’s 35 most influential and authoritative media sites. They represented, in other words, 45% of the short head, with mainstream media (MSM) sites holding the remaining 55%. By March 2005, the number of blogs in the top 35 had dropped to 13, or 37%. By August 2005, it was down to 11, or 31%. By February of 2006, blogs held only 4 of the top 35 slots – or 11%. Finally, in Sifry’s new October 2006 report, just 2 blogs – Engadget and Boing Boing – were in the top 35. Blogs’ share of the short head has fallen to a piddling 6%. (See the chart below for a look at the trend.)
At the very top of the long-tail curve, there’s been a similar erosion. Back in October 2004, there were three blogs in the Technorati top 10. Last year, there was one. Today, there are zero. Defining the short head more broadly, as the top 100 sites, provides an even starker picture of the rapid downtailing of blogs. Today, only 12 blogs show up in the top 100, down from 18 in February of this year – a drop of 33% in just a few months. There are now fewer blogs in the top 100 than there were in the top 35 in October 2004. It’s worth remembering that the last two years have been a time of remarkable growth and even more remarkable publicity for blogs – almost certainly the peak on both counts. Yet, still, blogs’ share of the top media sites – the sites that set the public agenda – has been shrinking rapidly. Even as the blogosphere has exploded in size, its prominence in online media has been waning.
What this seems to indicate is that the mainstream media is successfully making the leap from the print world to the online world. The old mainstream is the new mainstream. (Whether the MSM’s popular success translates into economic success remains to be seen.) As for blogs, they’re taking their place – and it’s an important place, if a more modest one then some might have hoped – as niche publications, as the new trade journals, newsletters, and zines. The idea of there being an A List of bloggers, then, is something of a misnomer now. The real A List of online media is made up almost entirely of the sites maintained by mainstream media companies. Bloggers seem fated to be, at best, B Listers.