The State of the Blogosphere

Blog_growth_slide_slide00022

Dave Sifry of Technorati has released his latest update tracking the growth of blogs. The highlights:

  • Growth continues at an exponential rate: 27.2 million blogs total, 1.2 million blog posts each day
  • Slightly more more than half of all blogs are still active three months after they were created
  • About 10% of all blogs are updated each week

Read the full report here.

Email Design Guidelines

Lots of organizations are interested in email newsletters and fund-raising. What many people don't know is that most email programs are set by default to filter graphics from email. MIT Advertising Lab points to this article from Campaign Monitor with tips on how to design around how most people receive and read email.

The first guideline is to "Design for images being turned off," and the reason for that is because "anyone using AOL, Gmail, Outlook 2003, Outlook Express and the latest versions of many ISPs email software will never see images in any emails you send them by default." Below is their example of an Apple iTunes email that failed for most recipients:

 

Apple_emailboth_3

Media meltdown and some implications for non-profits

Chris Anderson at The Long Tail (via Emergic) highlights how the changing internet environment is affecting offline media:

Down:

  • Box Office: down by 7% this year (tickets per capita have fallen every year since 2001).
  • Newspapers: circulation, which peaked in 1987, is declining faster than ever and is down another 2.6% so far this year.
  • Music: Sales are down another 5.7% this year; although digital downloads (still just 6% of the business) are climbing nicely.
  • Radio: down 4% this year alone, continuing a multi-decade decline.
  • Books: down by 7% in 2004

Mixed:

  • DVDs: sales growth is slowing dramatically, from 29% last year to single digits this year.
  • TV: Total viewership is still rising, but as channels proliferate and the audience fragments the rating of the average show continues to decline.
  • Magazines: Ad revenues are up a bit although the number of ad pages is flat (they're charging more per page). Circulation is also flat, while newsstand sales are at an all-time low.
  • Videogames: it's the final few months of the current generation of consoles, which tends to [be] the trough of the buying cycle. Sales were down 20% in Sept, but will probably pick up by Christmas with the launch of the Xbox 360.

Up:

  • Internet advertising:
    • Banners: Up 10% this year
    • Keywords: Google revenues up 96%

TvratingsFor non-profits these changes mean that getting an event or issue covered by one of the top TV stations and the local paper will be less and less effective at reaching as much of our target audience, especially those under the age of 30. This is one reason blogs and other new forms of internet media will become more important.

The original article includes links to more details about the statistics.

RSS integration: Software developer uses RSS to notify users of updates

RSS Blog pointed to this FeedForDev example of ways that RSS feeds are being integrated into products. ClipMate is a clipboard extender:

Clipmaterssscreenshot[Feeds] can be used to notify users of:

- new releases - related products
- security alerts
- performance tips

How? Take a look at what Thornsoft Development did with their latest version of ClipMate.

The future of non-profit blogs (and more!)

NetSquared, a new project of TechSoup that is working to figure out and define how the non-profit community can get up to speed with the new technologies available to them. Or something like that. It's a project and an online community that is still being defined, one that needs your participation.

Chris Locke is the lead blogger for Net2. He's the co-author of The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual, author of Gonzo Marketing: Winning Through Worst Practices, and a tremendous and funny writer. Chris has this to say as an introduction:

"Net² is an invitation into the marvelous, messy world of the Internet as a participatory, interactive community: a community created by its users. This site, and the Net² conference, will help non-profit organizations move into that world -- byte by byte, blog by blog, RSS feed by RSS feed. We don't know exactly what the Net² community will look like, or how it will change the face of the non-profit web. What we do know is that both the online and offline work of every non-profit can be enhanced by a dynamic online community in which organizations and users support one another. And we know that the creativity and commitment of the non-profit world is crucial to achieving the creative and community potential of the Internet itself."

This project is likely to transform the non-profit world (at least!); at a minimum you should follow it, at best you should jump in and join the community.

Google RSS Reader Beta

Google_reader_beta_logoGoogle has joined Windows and Yahoo in offering people the means to aggregate RSS feeds. Google's web-based reader is in addition to the smart RSS reader bundled with the Sidebar application in the recently-released Google Desktop 2, and will dramatically increase the number of people using RSS feeds for their news. Internet News said:

The Seattle Post Intelligencer recently reported in its blog that Google Desktop accounted for 63.4 percent of the 4.26 million times its own RSS feeds were accessed last month.[emphasis added]

Blog Advertising reach and response: "People are talking about you whether you're listening or not"

Blog Champions: High Click-Throughs Offset Low Reach - 09/29/2005
This article reporting on a panel discussion includes mention of a campaign run for Audi in which one-half of one percent of the marketing budget was spent with BlogAds. The result: 29% of the traffic to the campaign's landing page came from the blog ads.

The panelists also discussed the reluctance by some companies of advertising on blogs because of the fear that people will post negative comments about them. Brian Clark, the CEO of GMD Studios, which ran the Audi campaign, said:

"If you're afraid of what users are going to say, there are two strategies: You get involved in the discussion, or you stick your fingers in your ears and pretend it doesn't exist," he said. "People are talking about you whether you're listening or not."

Via CorporateBloggingBlog

Blogs are important because they are part of Web 2.0

Web_2_image_1If I were doing it today, I'd name this blog something much more all-encompassing than just "Blogs...", because there's a whole host of things coming together to make the web a much more effective way for non-profits to create relationships and communities with their constituents.

This article provides a long but interesting introduction to what Web 2.0 really means. O'Reilly: What Is Web 2.0?

New York Times posts podcasts

CyberJournalist.net - New York Times posts podcasts.

As part of a new feature in The New York Times Magazine called The Funny Pages, nytimes.com has posted a three-part podcast - MP3 audio files available for download. The podcasts include conversations with three Funny Pages authors:

Podcasts (mp3 format):
• Podcast Part One, featuring Chris Ware
• Podcast Part Two, featuring Elizabeth Gilbert
• Podcast Part Three, featuring Elmore Leonard



 

Examples: Search Engine Blogs as Public Relations Tools

Great examples of how Google, Yahoo, MSN and AskJeeves have improved their PR practices by using blogs.

Search Engine Journal - Search Engine Blogs as Public Relations Tools

What started as a a way to say hello to their users has now transformed into a cult of transparency and communications...these blogs have also begun to outshine the traditional forms of press and public relations, as the press and public has become as non-traditional and non-linear as the blogosphere itself.
No longer are journalists and bloggers pitched as often...by the boilerplate press release, which is usually as damn interesting as reading mattress tags. Instead, the new form of communication is an oxymoron; mass intimacy.

Bloggers as media hubs

Another good reason for non-profits to have blogs and feeds:
Emergic: September 13, 2005 Archives. quotes from a podcast between Steve Gillmor and Rafat Ali:

Steve has a concept called a "new newspaper" (if I heard it correctly), by which I think he means that a person can select a variety of super niche bloggers to cover all of the topics they're interested in reading on a daily basis. As Steve pointed out, what we as readers look for is authoritative voices that give us unique perspectives (or views) of general news and information that flows into the system.

Bloggers drive trends, MSM ratifies them - as Steve said. Rafat seconded that by saying that MSM journalists nowadays tend to get their leads from blogs.[emphasis added]

What CEOs should know about the 'recombinant Web'

What CEOs should know about the 'recombinant Web' by ZDNet's Dan Farber -- BusinessWeek recently published a list of 10 newer technologies to which CEOs (and CIOs, etc.) should pay attention, depending on their industry.

ZDNet adds the Recombinant Web to the list.

"Sometimes referred to as Web 2.0...the recombinant Web, Web mash-ups, Web 2.0 or just the next phase of Web evolution heralds the use of the Web as a platform for creating new kinds of user experiences and businesses. Jon Udell calls it remixable Web applications."

Zdnet_copy_smAs an aside, ZDNet provides a "Blog This" link at the bottom of their story, which creates formatted html to paste into your blog entry that links to the story and gives you an excerpt of the first few lines. Pretty smart.

Before and After: Gulfport, MS

Gulfport_before_and_after_1

Red_cross_logo2_1 Republished from my other blog as part of  International Blogging for Disaster Relief Day. If you haven't contributed, please do. If you can't afford to contribute money, volunteer.

RSS is breaking out all over!

I've long believed that the integration of RSS feeds into other applications was a key step to wide adoption. Here's a couple of examples of that happening:

Micro Persuasion: Google Adds RSS Reading to its Personalized Home Page

Torres Talking: the MSN Screensaver Beta will allow you to display customized content via RSS

Also, a couple of articles about businesses beginning to use feeds to reduce information overload, which is one of those benefits that's hard for people to understand until they've tried it.

Time Europe: Let RSS Go Fetch

Information Week: Order From Chaos Via RSS

 

Teaching people to subscribe

Like D. Keith Robinson, I've spent a lot of time lately trying to explain feeds to people. I've said before that I think feeds are the element of new web technology that will change people's use of the internet more than any other.

Keith wrote  Fixing (RSS/Atom) Newsfeed Subscription about how difficult syndication and subscription can be to explain to someone who doesn't understand blogs, aggregators and all the pieces that are central to the new web.

He recounts his conversations and struggles, and links to a study by Catalyst Group on the usability of blogs, which studied the reaction of experienced web surfers to a Business Week blog that was created as part of their web site. The users didn't understand that they were on a blog and were unclear on the functioning of many aspects of blogs that regular readers or posters take for granted, such as comments, trackbacks and categories.

Keith also provides some links to good explanations of how feeds and subscriptions work and articles about subscription usability. I'm beginning to collect descriptions of how to subscribe and how readers and feeds work. I plan to read all of them and list the best ones I can find, sometime in the (hopefully) near future. So if you've written or found an explanation that does a good job with the basics of feeds and readers, please leave it in the comments.

Update: It occured to me that this is a good use of del.icio.us, so I've created a tag "subscribetowebsites" and tagged all the sites I've found so far.
There's no evaluation or quality check, just anything I've come across in the last week or so introducing feeds and readers.

"My RSS" Portals' Mistake

From Emergic.org: Russell Beattie on what's wrong with all the "My RSS" portals

Rssaggs1_1"... according to FeedBurner, Yahoo! is currently enjoying nearly 60% of the aggregator market. Though it's nice to see that mainstream portals are jumping onto the RSS bandwagon...the problem is that all of these services generally suck.

Why? Because they all break a very simple rule: You should only see an RSS item once. If I go to a page and see the weather for the day, that's it. I don't need to see the weather again until it changes drastically or tomorrow...I don't need to see it again unless there is something new...There's too much information out there in the world to constantly have to search for updates on my own customized news page. New information should stand out, and old information should go away."

Google News Feeds: add custom news to your web site

ONE/Northwest provides a great explanation of how non-profits can use Google's new RSS feeds to capture and share information from news searches. For example, you can set up a search for your organization's name, and then display updated results on your home page so that visitors see the latest news mentioning your activities.

See this article for more information on what RSS is and what it can do.

Blog readership up 45%

David Hayes' column in today's Kansas City Star reports on a study by comScore Media Metrix that found that there were 50 million visitors to blogs, an increase of 45%, for the first three months of 2005 compared to the same period in 2004. According to comScore that's equivalent to about 30% of all US internet users.

Comscore_tableThe study, funded by blog software maker Six Apart and blog network Gawker Media, said that political blogs were the most popular, and that the four most popular blogs had more than 1 million unique visitors each during the study period. As an interesting side note, there were actually five blogs with more than  a million visitors. At number three in the rankings, and unmentioned other than in a chart in the results, is the porn blog Fleshbot.

The full study confirms demographics reported in other studies that blog readers tend to be more affluent and good target markets, and is available here (PDF).

Free tools for non-profits

Marnie Webb of Compumentor (Tech Soup) noted and asked for examples of how non-profits are using Flickr in ext337: Wonder what flickr has to do with nonprofits? Flickr is a free photo-sharing site that is set up to enable and foster communities. The service includes the ability to organize and search for photos with tags; Marnie pointed to four different tags that are being used around issue areas: domestic violence, homeless, poverty, crime.

In Marnie's post's comments Kris noted that she's been "pointing non-profits toward the Creative Commons section of Flickr for free (w/attribution) stock photography. For those who post news on a regular basis, they love this."

Then Chris Dover, who maintains the RelayBlogger blog for the American Cancer Society (ACS) pointed to the Relay for Life group photo pool. Relay for Life (RFL) is a nation-wide event to raise money for ACS research and programs.  Chris wrote about the Flickr group and several other online resources that were created and maintained by RFL volunteers. The Flickr group includes discussion lists that allow volunteers from across the country to share photos, ideas and stories.

Luminary_for_grandpa_1One of my continuing themes in non-profit work is how much volunteers are willing to do if we ask them and let them. This is a terrific example of how an online resource can enable volunteers to connect with each other and share resources.

There are currently 371 photos posted to the group, most of them with a license that allows free use with attribution, such as this "Luminary For Grandpa" from Onion.

Blog readership higher than previous reports?

Mouth_openThe surveys that report how few people read blogs are probably wrong. Johnathan Carson of BuzzMetrics Mouthpiece. reports on a study presented at the Word Of Mouth Marketing Association (WOMMA) Metrics Conference that provides evidence for the oft-repeated claim that blog readership is probably undercounted.

Charlie Buchwalter, head of research for Nielsen//Netratings, delivered the results from a brand new study they did on blog readership.

They asked the general population, do you:
a) Read blogs every day
b) Read blogs occassionally
c) Know what a blog is but dont really read them
d) Have heard of a blog but don't really know what it is
e) Never heard of a blog til right now

The numbers were pretty dismal on blog readership - only about 6% fit into a) and b), and it was over 60% that said they had never heard of a blog. These numbers totally don't line up with the Pew research on blog readership that is typically quoted.

They asked those individuals whom they had observed visiting blog sites the same question as I listed above, and 13% answered (e)!!! 13% of the people trafficking blog sites had never heard of blogs. Even more astounding, a full 50% of the individuals answered c) or d)!

That means that almost 2/3 of blog readers don't realize they are reading a blog. It is a fairly common theory amongst folks analyzing the blogosphere that blog readership is underreported in surveys - but Charlie's team found a way to quantify that with staggering results.[emphases added]

Image source

Next »

Introduction To Blogs

  • Introducing This Blog
  • Rethinking Web Strategy I: Web Sites Should Be Structured Around Email
  • Outline of Blogs Introduced presentation
  • Stanford Email Newsletter report

Other Blogs

  • Common Craft
  • Corporate RSS - Applied
  • CorporateBlogging.Info: Guide to Business Blogging, Corporate Blogging
  • Deborah Elizabeth Finn :: Main Page
  • Extension 337
  • Independent Publishing News, e-Marketing Articles, Online Collaboration Reviews by Robin Good
  • InfOpinions
  • Nonprofit Stuff
  • Robert Paterson's Weblog
  • Scale|free
  • Vermont Nonprofit CommunIT
  • Weblogg-ed - The Read/Write Web in the Classroom

NPO Bloggers

  • Mark Carr