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How brands can win in the blogosphere

How brands can win in the blogosphere Joe Kutchera

Technorati released its 9th State of the Blogosphere report this week, which featured a first-ever survey of Technorati's registered users. iMediaConnection sat down with Richard Jalichandra, CEO of Technorati, to find out how he interprets the growth of blogging into a mainstream media, how marketers are utilizing blogging and what he sees ahead for the blogosphere.

iMedia: Four of the top entertainment sites today are blogs. Is there a difference between blogs and regular sites anymore? Will blogs morph into looking like other sites and vice versa in terms of design, staff, ad sales?

Richard Jalichandra: We're already seeing this. It's getting harder and harder to define. Many mainstream media sites are adding blogs and blogging styles into their mix, many of the larger blogs are taking on features of mainstream sites and some blogs have transformed into full-blown mainstream media sites themselves with editorial staffs and business functions. Also, some people use their social networking profiles to blog, and how do you categorize microblogging like Twitter? Think continuum versus category.

iMedia: According to your study, bloggers skew younger -- more male, tech-savvy, more affluent, and they tend to live in urban areas, much like internet users in the early days. Will those demos change to reflect the overall population in the years ahead?

Jalichandra: Multiple studies showing the overall numbers of bloggers and blog readers tell us that blogging is moving from early adopters into the mainstream. Look at the amount of attention advertisers are paying to "mommy bloggers" this year. Although our study skewed slightly toward male early adopters, 44 percent of bloggers we surveyed are parents, 34 percent are female and 73 percent do not live in the New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Chicago metro areas. It's also important to note that it's not just who writes blogs, but who reads them: three quarters of the total internet audience.

iMedia: In looking at the incredible amount of activity in the blogosphere (94 million readers and 22 million bloggers, according to eMarketer in 2007), blogging has obviously had an enormous impact on media, corporate communications, customer service and not to mention teenagers' lifestyles. What has blogging NOT had an effect on that it soon will?

Jalichandra: Blogging is diverse in many ways but largely remains the realm of the young and affluent. In the coming years, it will start to move across age and economic lines. Right now, only 8 percent of survey respondents are more than 55 years old. As the digital generation ages, we'll see a change there as well. That said, I think the biggest shift will be blogs as an advertising and marketing medium. The contextual nature of the content, combined with loyal audiences who view the authors as credible, makes blogs akin to advertising on any mainstream editorial site. And as many bloggers raise their game to professional status, advertiser concerns with UGC are significantly lessened.

iMedia: Your blogger survey was in English and yet responses came in from 66 countries across six continents. If you had done the survey in other major languages (e.g., Mandarin, Spanish, etc.) how would the statistics have changed?

Jalichandra: That's hard to say until we actually do it, but if we look at our index data, the highest number of blog posts are in Japanese, English, Spanish and Chinese, in that order. It's very difficult to accurately gauge the number of Chinese language blogs since there is a huge proliferation of spam blogs published in Chinese.

iMedia: Seventy-nine percent of bloggers responded as writing about personal issues, 46 percent as professional and 12 percent as corporate. Will those percentages remain stable or do you foresee those changing?

Jalichandra: I'd expect the percentage of corporate bloggers to dramatically increase as more brands launch their social media strategies, as well as an even higher overlap between the categories. However, the biggest impact that a marketer will have won't be on their own blog, but rather engaging and associating their brands with contextually and demographically relevant blogs. The levels of influence and trust are higher between independent bloggers and their audiences, so an effective strategy needs to encompass both.

iMedia: Your report states that one in four people blog 10 plus hours a week. Where did that time come from? TV? Leisure time? Work?

Jalichandra: While we didn't specifically ask them what activities they had cut, looking at their media consumption can probably tell us the answer. Bloggers spend almost twice as much time online as the general internet user. They spend three times as much time online as watching TV. And they spend one third of the time watching TV than that of the general internet user.

iMedia: A number of famous bloggers recently have suffered from serious health issues because of excessive time spent blogging. Are we blogging at the expense of our health?

Jalichandra: All of us, as part of the always-on medium of the internet, are probably doing all kinds of things at the expense of our health. There's a huge demand for blog content, and bloggers put a lot of pressure on themselves to keep their audiences happy. We also see that blogging frequency is one of the factors that contributes to a blogger's Technorati Authority (Technorati Authority is calculated by the number of other bloggers linking to your content), as well as their traffic, revenue and other success metrics.

iMedia: The majority of blogs have advertising on their sites and yet blogging as an advertising category represents a very small percentage of online ads, about 1.5 percent of all online advertising, according to eMarketer. Why?

Jalichandra: Scalability. Until recently, there hasn't been an easy way for advertisers to reach past the very top blogs. As more blog ad networks offer advertisers large aggregate audiences across mid- and long-tail blogs and the kinds of high engagement programs you see on mainstream sites, we'll see that number increase dramatically. As I outlined earlier, blogs have great media qualities and are just beginning to be accepted as "just media" versus some internet fringe. The opportunity for marketers is huge.

iMedia: Your report says that four out of five bloggers post brand or product reviews. Have marketers tapped into the blogosphere to maximize marketing with advertising, customer service and/or public relations efforts?

Jalichandra: One in three of the bloggers we surveyed have already been approached to be a brand advocate -- so we're definitely seeing the brands engage. A lot of the brands we talk to are in the early stages, but they're definitely listening to what the bloggers and their audiences are saying about them. The blogosphere offers very safe environments for advertisers, especially when compared to other social media, but it's still important to plan your full strategy before jumping in.

iMedia: How has Google posed a threat to Technorati with blog search, Google Analytics, Google Reader and other blog-related services?

Jalichandra: If anything, it helped by validating what we're doing. Having a company on the scale of Google launch a blog search tool made everyone sit up and take notice that the blogosphere is hugely important and influential.

iMedia: What are Technorati's goals for 2009 and beyond?

Jalichandra: The company is doing better than we ever have. The performance of the site and the search engine are the best they've ever been in our five-year history. We launched Technorati Media in June, and by any measurement, it's been a big success. We have tremendous data and technology underneath us, and we've now hired a strong team to transform that foundation into a unique media business. So overall, while there's a ton of work in front of us, I'm very happy with where we are.

iMedia: Of all the statistics that you see here, what is most interesting to you? What do you see ahead for blogging in the years ahead?

Jalichandra: What I found most interesting was the level of sophistication and professionalism. The average blogger has been at this for three years, and more than half have more than one blog. Bloggers are making serious investments both in terms of time and money, even more so with bloggers who have advertising on their sites. They're also incredibly advanced in their use of Web 2.0 tools and traffic generation, and this last fact has big implications for marketers who advertise with bloggers, as these authors are all about information and influence. They're everywhere in the social media space, always linking back to their blogs as part of their identity.

Joe Kutchera is the director of Spanish-language markets at ContextWeb Inc., a leading contextual advertising company, and operator of the ADSDAQ Exchange.

Joe Kutchera is the founder and managing partner of Latino Link Advisors where he advise clients on how to best develop content and digital marketing strategies, with an emphasis in Hispanic/Latin American markets. He worked with Flipboard on...

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