It’s the niches, stupid

Chris Anderson puts the list kerfluffle in context, arguing as I have that counting the top blogs is not only old-media think but is also a meaningless shuffle of unrelated things that share nothing more than the tool that created them:

To use an analogy, top-blog lists are akin to saying that the bestsellers in the supermarket today were:

1. DairyFresh 2% Vitamin D Milk
2. Hayseed Farms mixed grain Bread
3. Bananas, assorted bunches…

Which is pointless. Nobody cares if bananas outsell soft drinks. What they care about is which soft drink outsells which other soft drink. Lists only make sense in context, comparing like with like within a category….

My take: this is another reminder that you have to treat niches as niches. When you look at a wildly diverse three-dimensional marketplace through a one-dimensional lens, you get nonsense. It’s a list, but it’s a list without meaning. What matters in the rankings within a genre (or subgenre), not across genres.

The first question is how to organize these things into niches; that’s not easy. The next question is what you measure: Traffic, unique audience, link love all matter but all say different things . And we need to measure new things: meme-starting (the cutting edge), meme-sniffing (cultural canaries), influence (mavens).

And why does this matter, besides mere ego? Because if we are ever to convince advertisers that citizens’ media offers much greater value — greater influence, deeper relationships — than mere content, then we need to provide aggregations and data in a meaningful manner. Oh, yes, there are other things to measure, too: quality and trust. But machine rankings won’t do that. People will. Remember that blogs aren’t technology and they’re not just content. They’re people.

: Take this: A Wall Street Journal report on personal finance blogs.