Friday, November 14, 2008


In the blogosphere, everybody can hear you scream. At least that's the theory - but does the blogosphere's attention economy work in practice? Economists are now studying blogging and beginning to explore the non-monetary interplay of free content, attention and reciprocity that perpetuates it.

A recent paper from MRPA - Blogs and the Economics of Reciprocal Attention - uses archive data from LiveJournal to test two hypotheses:

H1 Bloggers who display higher levels of content production and general blogging activity have a higher number of readers.

H2 Bloggers with less/more friends than readers produce more/less content than others.
The first hypothesis is confirmed (not that surprising) the second is less certain - and requires more research (and more research papers: naturally :) Nevertheless, I found a lot of the insights from the study did make sense in light of my own experience (I know, confirmation bias ...) and it was great to read a serious economic analysis of a subject (and hobby) that I'm very interested in.

But if something can't go on forever it will stop and there is an emerging view that blogging is a waste of time - or that those thinking of blogging have left it too late. Particularly in terms of business/corporate-related blogging. I'm not so sure. I'm inclined to agree with the folks over at Experience Matters (from whom the chart above) when they argue that blogging isn't just about content and attention - it's also about presence. As Geoff Sowrey puts it:
The internet is a noisy place. It’s filled with every type of company and personality, all trying to make themselves heard all at the same time ... Like standing in the middle of a loud party, it’s hard to be heard. That’s why presence is so important — people will pay attention to those they perceive as important. You need to be staking claims in a variety of places, and investing time and effort in key areas to ensure the quality and intensity of your signal can rise to the top.
In Ireland, my own company's research (pdf) shows that 17% of Irish internet users have commented on another blog or written their own at some stage (though three times that percentage have their own bebo/myspace page). So I reckon in economic and commercial terms the blogosphere is here to stay - even if not all the null hypotheses can be rejected.


  1. I believe their may be another dimension to this. When someone needs to "validate your areas of concern", a demonstrated, and path dependent investment in maintaining a blog, shows a genuine level of commitment. I can't just say "I am interested in Communications Enabled Business Processes", I have to have some "social proofs" that this is true. My "following" other blogs, or other micro-formats such as Twitter, also act as validations. Just as in offline/online advertising spend, they bleed over, and affect other streams of activity.

  2. Good point - in a 'knowledge economy' a blog is a good way of demonstrating you have the 'knowledge' and you're keeping it up to date.

    But I'm also with Willem Buiter - who writes today about the reason for his own blogging, namely: "I don't know something unless I have written it down"


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