How many is many?

How many is many?

: Carl Bialik, the Wall Street Journal’s number’s guy, attacks the question of how many blogs there are. As Rex says, the bottom line is pretty much “a lot.”

The estimates of the number of blogs worldwide ranges from 10 to 60 million. But the definition of blog varies, as well it should, since blogging tools are merely publishing tools and can be used to say and do most anything. The percentage of active blogs varies, as well it should, since some people have no lives and post all the time (and it’s really hard to post when you do get a life, by the way) and others use it to update when updates are warranted and others try it out and move on. The estimates of the audience vary, as well they should, because there is no way to accurately count that today.

Bialik leaves out one important factor that must not be ignored: RSS. My Sitemeter stats say I had 340k pageviews in March but my server stats said I had 996k and the difference is mostly RSS (and things such as the page views I generate when I publish posts). But, of course, RSS is complicated because just because a feed is downloaded doesn’t mean it’s read (and what does it mean to read a feed vs. reading a post?).

If all this is only about bragging rights, it doesn’t matter. Brag away. Debate at will. Who cares? The power of blogs is not about the total or the biggest (that so old-media-think, so mass) but instead about the rising volume of individual conversations.

BUT… if this is about advertising, then we do need to establish real numbers:

: We need to count those blogs who want to be counted — those who say they are publishing.

: We need to put cookies up to get unique user counts and behavior (frequency) and demographics.

: We need to find the means, technical and definitional, to count RSS (probably at the post level).

: We need to measure the unique value of citizens’ media, finding measures of influence and conversation-starting and such. (See the discussion Ross Mayfield and I had with others over, in Ross’ words, the need to move past measuring impressions to measuring the impressed.) This is the unique value of citizens media — it’s about relationships, conversations, influence, not just about the coincidence of a word on a page (see: Google).

: We need to create the means to aggregate, share, and analyze this data so ad hoc networks of blogs can be found.

: We need an open-source ad call (I’ll keep beating this drum) so that advertisers can serve and analyze ads on those networks.

: And then, so we can brag in Ad Age and get Carl Bialik to poke at the bragging, we will want to have some sense of the ad revenue and audience volume to this subset of blogs: namely, those that have a reason to be counted.