Super Blogs, Content Shock and the Blogging Eco-System

One thing which occasionally gets mentioned in discussions around football blogging is the subject of the super-blog, or the mega blog. There is though no definitive definition of what constitutes a super-blog, but it can generally be taken to refer to one a blog which receives a very large amount of visitor traffic compared to other blogs – in other words an outlier.

In the survey bloggers were asked for their usual numbers of visitors with the top category being 1,000+ visitors per day. In total seven bloggers reported visitors in this top category. In the category immediately below 500-999 there were only two bloggers and the category beneath this 250-499 only three. By contrast just under half of bloggers reported receiving less than 99 visitors per day.

Blog visitors

The disparity between traffic is made clear if we assume that the seven receive the minimum 1,000 views per day whilst each of the remaining 34 blogs (one response was a Don’t know) received daily views at the maximum end of their category ranges. This rough-reckoning suggests that between them the 34 receive a maximum of 7,116 daily visitors while the seven receive a minimum 7,000 visitors. Therefore at the very least the super-blogs account for just under half of total traffic.

As the survey is limited in length it is hard to tell what sets the super-blogs apart in terms of their characteristics. One possible explanation though is age. Older more established blogs may have an advantage in possessing a readership and to benefit from search engine rankings. All but one of the 1000+ visitors per day blogs had been run by a blogger who had run football blogs for at least three years, with three being in the 5 years plus category. This characteristic alone though did not distinguish them as there were many other blogs operated by bloggers who have been football blogging for five years and over who reported having visitors in the less than fifty category.

The key difference between these 1000+ view-a-day blogs and the rest of the field appears to be the frequency of posting. All four of the respondents who reported posting on a daily basis were running 1000+ visitor-a-day blogs and an additional two respondents among the group reported their posting frequency as being more than weekly, but less than daily. What’s more it appears that many of these are planning on increasing their activity levels. Five out of the seven reporting that they expect their activity levels to increase over the next twelve months.

Blog int by visitors

It is here that I want to introduce another concept, that of ‘content shock’. This is the term used by Mark Schaefer who blogs on marketing (this link was made by Jake on the blog The Inside Channel). To begin with Schaefer conjures up a golden age

Let’s say that in 2009 I spent 5 hours a week creating content that would be consumed by my blog readers. This was a happy time because not only was the content competition weak, consumption was dramatically increasing too — more people were piling on to the web, on to social media, and on to mobile devices that extended the amount of time each day they could consume content.

His argument is that now however, thanks to content multiplying far faster than our capacity to consume said content we are approaching (or have already reached) the point of ‘content shock’.

What this means for bloggers, as content producers, is essentially the law of diminishing returns; the same effort now produces less impact in terms of readers than previously. As one blogger in the survey mentioned their biggest challenge was

Being satisfied with far less pageviews than articles of comparable quality would get 3 years ago.

How then to overcome this? In a follow up to his initial post Schaefer discusses strategies for overcoming content shock, stating that:

The only sustainable content strategy is to find an unsaturated niche and overwhelm the web with so much quality content that search engines only discover you. Effectively, you are creating content shock for your competitors.

You don’t necessarily have to be the best content creator if you are in this situation, but you have to be first and overwhelming. This is an uneasy fact we don’t often discuss but it is true.

What he calls a ‘shock and awe’ approach would seem to be a strategy which many bloggers would find difficult; As we also know from the survey one particular issue among bloggers is time. Any individual blogger seeking to post daily is also very likely to quickly achieve burn-out and/or run short on ideas.

If we choose accept this part of Schaefer’s arguments it would seem that in this new landscape the blogs which are better adapted to the environment are the ones which are more of a collective endeavour and benefit from at least several writers, or a community of writers. In fact Chris Nee defines the super blog as

sites that are written by (a large number of) multiple authors and have a layer of editing

It is these blogs which can best produce the necessary volumes of quality content to thrive in the current landscape.

There are of course counter arguments. Another marketing expert Joe Pulizzi suggested that content shock is something which will not occur. Using the analogy of the newsstand (think the magazine section in a large WH Smith’s) Pulizzi points to the developing of niches. This mirrors a debate which is also ongoing in football blogging. Beyond a doubt there is more crowding-out than before, but as one blogger in the survey drew attention to some areas they feel are underrepresented.

There need to be more good club blogs, especially in the lower divisions.

Others have pointed to similar areas of underrepresentation, women’s football for instance and in my personal experience I also find the posts which receive most attention relate to Wessex League football, a level which appears to be comparatively free of bloggers..

Pulizzi is also confident that real quality can still rise to the top, but beyond this he also talks of innovation and new platforms. In the context of football blogging this ties in with a discussion about whether blogging is more than just the likes of WordPress and Blogger.

Returning to the issue of the super-blogs, are they a bad thing?  Not necessarily. Many super-blogs have achieved their positions quite simply because they are good, very good. Think IBWM which manages to present an alternative to the mainstream and has maintained a distinct identity. It more than fully deserves its super-blog status. Even if there are lots of blogs which are creating content shock, there will always be a niche so long as your only area of interest isn’t Arsenal’s tactics (or if it is you’d need to be a sublimely brilliant writer)

As Chris Nee also points out occupying niches has been blogging’s biggest achievement

Football blogging is, in some places, still doing what it’s always done: providing quality coverage of the game where nobody else is bothering

To sum up in an increasingly crowded blogosphere super-blogs are those which are best adapted to survival in the current cyber-ecosystem. There do though remain niches where smaller blogs can survive and even thrive. The fundamental question though is what motivates someone to blog? It would be disingenuous to say that bloggers shouldn’t care about hits, but chasing hits is for the vast majority of bloggers is clearly now a fools-errand. Bloggers need to be seeking a different over-riding purpose, whether that’s as the case of the Caribbean Football blog to raise awareness of Caribbean football, or if it’s ultimately simply a case of having fun.

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