In the blogosphere, there are two polar opposite categories of bloggers: those who create content and those who link to the content of others. Though most blogs fall somewhere in between these two, there are a good number of bloggers that deal almost exclusively with finding links of interest and then posting them.
In terms of popularity, the blog Boing Boing – which became a blog in 2000 — is certainly the most well-know of the link blogs. In its “suggest a link” section, it states “Boing Boing publishes links — so if there’s no link, there’s not much chance we’ll link to it.” In other words, it only deals with linking to other websites.
This leads me to assume, then, that in order for a link blog to become popular, it must find websites that have a broad-based appeal. Not only that, it must find those sites first. Just as newspapers try to scoop each other to try and gain an audience, link blogs would theoretically have to scoop other link blogs in order to develop a following.
With this theory in mind, I set out to test it on Boing Boing. For a 24-hour period, I logged every single link that was posted on Boing Boing. I then removed every link that was promoting a project of one of the blog’s editors. For instance, if Cory Doctorow was posting a link to a new article he’d written, I didn’t include it. Why? Because Doctorow would have had an unfair advantage of reaching that URL before everyone else.
For this particular 24-hour period there were 16 links if you took out all self-promotion links. I then used various blog search engines — Technorati, Google Blog Search, Blogpulse — to find every single blog that had found and posted the link before Boing Boing. I then went in and manually removed every spam blog and non-English blog from the list.
In the end, there was a grand total of 112 blogs that had scooped Boing Boing for this 24-hour period. Divided by 16, that means that an average of 7 blogs scoop Boing Boing for every post. But this is a slightly misleading figure, because of the 16 links that day, Boing Boing was the first to post 8 of them. That means that for 50% of the links that Boing Boing posts, it was the first blog to find them.
I also noticed that the later in the day the links were posted, the more likely that other blogs had managed to scoop Boing Boing. This indicates that many of the links posted on Boing Boing are to URLs that were created within a 24-hour time span.
So what does this mean? Was my theory correct?
Well, in this particular instance: Yes. Boing Boing was consistently among the first blogs in the blogosphere to discover a link of interest and then post it.
Here are the results broken down:
Number of posts: 16
Number of blogs scooped Boingboing for those posts: 112
Average number of scoops per post: 7
Number of posts that weren’t scooped by a single blog: 8, or 50%