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When Micro-blogging Grows Up

Will Twitter and other micro-blogging services start resembling the blogosphere down the road? We are in the early days of micro-blogs and I still remember when Twitter was used mainly for “status” reporting. But more people are using Twitter instead of blogs, following links from trusted sources essentially using Twitter as a highly filtered blog reader. Just like the early days of blogs, the most popular Twitters are heavy on technology and “personal” micro-blogging. On the other hand, given that blogs are perfect for short opinon pieces, politics was and remains popular among bloggers.
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The chart is the result of quickly categorizing the Top 100 blogs and Twitter users with the most followers. I used Twitterholic’s data from June 7th. Technorati’s authority is a social network metric, Twitterholic measures “popularity”. The top blogs are heavy on tech, politics and news, with “personal” blogs less popular than their micro-blog counterparts. The more mature blogosphere is definitely dispersed across more categories. A casual glance at the oldest copy of the Technorati Top 100 available online indicates that back in June 2005, technology and politics dominated the list even more. “Personal” blogs were also more common in June 2005. The current top 100 has its share of blogs from traditional media: Wired magazine alone has 5 blogs in the most recent list.

Three categories (technology, tech/personal, personal) accounted for 56% of the total “subscriptions” to the top 100 Twitter users. Compared to the blogosphere, politics is less represented in the Twitterholic Top 100. The top Democratic presidential candidates were it as far as politics. In contrast, more than ten political bloggers made the Technorati Top 100. Of the three, Obama dominated, accounting for 80% of subscribers in the politics category, with Edwards and Clinton splitting the remaining 20%. Looking beyond the top 100, Obama alone has more than nineteen times the combined subscribers to the different John Mccain users. The analogous Democrat/Republican split, using the Technorati authority of the top political blogs, is 2 to 1. In terms of location, over 70% of the Twitterholic 100 are based in the U.S. Blogs are popular worldwide with some of the biggest blogs based in Asia.

Once more stable services and business models emerge, I still think micro-blogs will evolve to share some of the properties of the blogosphere described above. Micro-blogs from traditional media sources will be among the most popular. The liberal vs. conservative split will be less pronounced, with conservatives narrowing the micro-blogging gap. The top micro-blogs won’t be as dominated by technology, although I’m not sure the format is really ideal for political topics. OTOH, I’m surprised gossip isn’t as big – at least not yet. The top micro-blogs won’t include as many “personal” ones. Micro-blogging will be just as popular overseas. We definitely will have several micro-blogging services and not be as dependent on the pioneering folks over at Twitter. More likely, micro-blogging will be just one component of broader platforms like FriendFeed. As always, spammers and phishers will try to ruin everything.

A post that was meant to highlight some of the differences between the two top 100 lists has led to forecasts – definitely not my original goal. What are your predictions?

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  • barry.b

    while you may have valid points, it strikes me that both are chalk’n’cheese.

    Blogs themselves have grown up. They are now serious content containers. most of the technical answers or philosophical points I find come from blogs. They are starting to have a longevity.

    So much so that Adobe have created a focussed search of their technology (with help from Google) based on blog content:
    http://community.adobe.com/help/search.html

    Twitter, however, is disposable. it’s for the hear and now and not tomorrow.

    but that’s put to good effect: here’s an example of how a conference is being tracked:
    http://twemes.com/webdu

    both are still evolving, just like the web itself did … you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet.

  • http://TwitterHandbook.com Warren Whitlock

    I love it when an article takes the author in a direction other than the one he started with, and likely different than any the reader thought.

    As long as the service holds up, and censorship kept to a minimum with no rules saying what one “should” put in his 140 characters, the trends you site appear like as good bet.

    I’d add to that MORE. More total messages, more topics, and faster adoption of micro-blogging (just think of how many don’t blog because that is a commitment they don’t want to make).

    It’s not “will Twitter replace blogs”.. no, we will demand both.

  • http://www.demo.com Mary Fallon

    No surprise that tech gets the most tweets – that’s early adopters are tech-centric and will micro-blog about what they like and don’t like.

    I wondering what you think about CellSpin Soft’s announcement yesterday that enables sending “unlimited” voice and video messages via Twitter and Pownce via hundreds of mobile phone models.

    Here’s the story link from DEMO.com http://www.demo.com/community/?q=node/95335

  • http://tim.oreilly.com Tim O'Reilly

    Also really interesting is how quickly the power law has taken hold.

    Also fascinating to see different tweeting behaviors evolve in real time. It’s like watching evolution in bacteria vs. mammals.

    For example, among the top twitterers, it’s pretty clear that many of them are simply following anyone who follows them, which drives their “popularity.” But that makes clear that they aren’t actually following any of those people — the volume is just too great. So ironically, if you follow everyone, you follow no one. (Unless you “friend” them, and only really follow your friends.)

    So you can see that there are three categories of twitterers: those who use it for its original purpose, by following and being followed by a small group of friends; those who use it for marketing, by broadcasting to many but following none; and those who recognize the asymmetry, and are followed by many, but follow fewer.

    I count myself in the last group. I joined twitter a while back, but didn’t start twittering a lot till I was sucked into it by the pressure of large numbers of followers. So then I felt the urge to give them something to follow.

    And then all kinds of wonderful things happened. I found it’s a great medium for distributing attention. So my twitterverse has evolved. I started following interesting people I knew, then started retweeting their stuff (because I had more followers and wanted to give it more attention); then people started sending me stuff to retweet, and the ones who send me interesting stuff, I’d start following. Wonderful virtuous circle.

  • Boris Anthony

    Can’t wait to see decentralized services take hold. That or Twitter becomes “evil”, whichever comes first. :)

  • http://scabr.com Scabr

    Now microblogging Plurk also has fast growing trend.

  • Abdul Koroma

    I think microblogging is here to stay because it perfectly suits the internet. Now we’ve seen people using twitter for different purposes other that the ones it was original intended for. As you mentioned, once a business model is configured out of this twitting and other microblogging applications, we will see their popularity rise.And as one article aptly stated it, there is much to be gain from microblogging:The Value of Microblogging your Life (http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=526&doc_id=143318&F_src=flftwo)

  • http://www.research2zero.com Kris Tuttle

    I’m fascinated by Twitter as are many. I’ve had a blog for a long time but it’s really be business-related. I never built a personal one out where I’d mix posts on work, hobbies, family and fun.

    Twitter has a very different feel. It’s easy to say “working on a valuation table” or “designing a new coffee table” or “listening to the new David Byrne compilation” or “feeding the boys while mom is out at a meeting” or “look at this amazing essay on oil supply [link].”

    I also really like knowing what my friends and colleagues are doing without them having to explicitly send me an IM.

    It’s also much more dynamic. I have hundreds of blogs that I read in the reader but twitter reminds me of the hallway or trading floor discussions we always used to have in the brokerage and investment banking world. (Electronic trading has quieted those down.)

    We still have our IM and IM multi-person chat windows but Twitter has certainly filled what turned out to be a hole in the communication need hierarchy.

    It could be worth doing an experiment with our clients on a private Twitter but they are still learning about IM and RSS.

  • http://avanturb.com Primus Luta

    My prediction, blog post counts will decline as microblog post counts go up. And I do think they will continue to go up. The authority torch will be passed similar to the way ‘the news’ is behind blogs. Blogs are behind ‘microblogs.’ As more people microblog, blogs themselves will become either aggregates of micro-blog thoughts (Tweet digests) or a collection of focused micro-blog thoughts further expanded on.