April 02, 2008

TechMeme Leaderboard's Top Ten: Six Months In

Gabe Rivera turned the world of ranking technology blogs upside down six months ago, seemingly overnight, with the debut of the TechMeme leaderboard, constituting the top 100 blog or news sources whose posts reached the popular site in the prior 30 day period.

A more focused and relevant measurement of a tech-oriented site's momentum and impact than the flaccid Technorati Top 100, the TechMeme leaderboard has already undergone significant change in the six months since its debut, as new sites emerged near the bottom. But in large part, the largest sites solidified their positions at the top, not yielding ground, and in the specific case of TechCrunch, increased their percentage of stories, expanding the gap between first and second place.

Utilizing the TechMeme leaderboard's archive pages for its debut and each of the following six months, our source data is:
TechMeme Leaderboard: The Top Ten

Of the original Top 10 sites ranked on the TechMeme leaderboard, six have maintained a top 10 position in each snapshot at the beginning of the month, with TechCrunch maintaining the #1 overall position in each month since the leaderboard was made public. In fact, those holding the top five positions today (TechCrunch, CNET News.com, New York Times, Read/Write Web and Ars Technica) have never been placed lower than #7 overall. (Read/Write Web was positioned at #7 from December 2007 to February 2008)

Outside of these elite sites, there has been some movement with the original ten leaders. Engadget, the original #2 overall source, has fallen to the #11 overall position in April, while GigaOM plummeted from #7 overall in October down to #20 in November, only now crawling back to the #10 position. The BBC, ranked 8th in the original survey, has been mired in the teens, before falling precipitously to #29 overall this month. Also, the Wall Street Journal, which owned the #10 spot back in October of 2007, slipped as low as #23 overall in January before recovering, where it holds the #13 spot now.

In their places, a number of other blogs and traditional media sites have at times clawed their way into the Top Ten, sometimes just for one month, and other times, longer.TechMeme Leaderboard: Percentage of Stories

TechCrunch has always had the leading position on the TechMeme leaderboard, with about 1 of every 16 stories coming from Michael Arrington's popular blog. But TechCrunch's percentage of stories on TechMeme has never been as high as it is now.

When the rankings debuted, TechCrunch was credited with 5.56% of the prior 30 days' stories, and Engadget was relatively close behind, with 4.84% over the same timeframe. By the following month, TechCrunch increased to 6.08% of the total, and expanded again, to 6.86% by December 1.

While the gap between TechCrunch and the second-highest position was closest in the March snapshot (6.14% for TC and 5.8% for CNET News.com), it looks to have been a one-time blip. In the ensuing month, TechCrunch jumped to 7.17% of all TechMeme stories, while CNET fell back to 4.57%, still good for the #2 overall position. Effectively TechCrunch grew their lead over the field from a 6% gap to 57%, a nine-fold increase.

The weight of the top ten ranked sites on the other 90 is interesting as well. Starting with the October rankings, the top ten sites encompassed over 27.5% of the stories on TechMeme. That number has grown to 31.29 percent in the April snapshot, and has been in the 30 percent range for the duration. With the top ten holding down about 30% of stories, that leaves the other 90 entrants, and not to mention the hundreds of other sites that may have made TechMeme sporadically in the last six months, to fight over the other 70% of stories.

April's data shows the other 70 entrants on the TechMeme leaderboard constituted 42.35 percent of the stories in the prior month. Combined with the top ten, fully three quarters of all TechMeme headlines were from the 100 sites that encompass the leaderboard, with one quarter coming from additional sources.

Is the Leaderboard Relevant?

The higher the positioning on the TechMeme leaderboard, the more accurate the rankings become, in my opinion. There's no question that TechCrunch enjoys the largest voice in the tech blogosphere, and has for some time. As the site adds more writers and posts with more frequency, it is extremely likely that the network can continue to grow and take share from competition with less funding or resources. Some have called for a TechMeme without traditional media, such as the New York Times or Associated Press, but the truth is that traditional media continues to have a voice and is relevant, starting discussions and getting bloggers to link.

While this data shows the top ten positions have a significant voice, I believe it's accurate. ReadWriteWeb, Engadget, Ars Technica, and News.com all have significant weight today. Even as we may at times instead enjoy the work of individual bloggers like Mathew Ingram, Robert Scoble, Steve Rubel or Steven Hodson, none of us have enough time and juice to take down the big blog networks, and so we are destined to play a role somewhere in the middle of TechMeme's leaderboard, or down a few rungs of the ladder.

The data also tells us that while the top ten players command about a third of the attention on TechMeme, there is the same amount of room available for those not even in the top 100. With good content, and good linkage from others, reaching TechMeme is available to anyone. While Gabe's algorithms are a well-kept secret, it's unquestioned that the data is driven mathematically, and doesn't smack of human intervention to push one site's stories over another.

It's been an interesting six months for the TechMeme leaderboard. In this time its moved from an intellectual curiosity to a respected measure of influence. It should be fun to check back in six or twelve months from now and see what's changed.


  1. Maybe the four of us should join forces into our own blogging network?

  2. You read it here first, Louis -- I am going to take down TechCrunch singlehandedly. mathewingram.com FTW!

  3. Louis, this is GREAT examination (as usual) on your part, and shows that the strong are getting stronger. A key question from that is, as (if) that continues, will such entities come to, in some respects, more closely resemble traditional media outlets in terms of organization, structure and processes.
    Hey, how does Scoble wind up first so often (across the blogosphere). I think he has a staff that no one knows about (joking), or he types like 10,000 wpm (that would explain a lot).

  4. Have you also looked at Yahoo Buzz? It has a very different ranking for its Sci/Tech category, which is heatlhy. If you looked at both Techmeme and Yahoo Buzz Sci/Tech, my guess is that Arstechnica would come out on top.

  5. Another wonderful, analytical post, Louis.

    The only note I have to add: I check the leaderboard a few times a week, and it seems like there's even more fluctuation on it than what your data is showing.

    I think this is because one week a particular group of blogs might be especially strong, then the next week other blogs might be especially strong, then the next week yet more blogs are especially strong. So eventually, a month after the first group of blogs is strong, their strong week will pass out of the Techmeme leaderboard and their %s will take a hit.

    Hope that makes sense.... I'm still waking up after another late night of blogging :)

  6. @eldon, there's definitely a lot more fluctuation at the bottom of the list than at the top of the list, and weekly intervals would expose that more than my monthly snapshot view did.

    I recognize I don't have all the stat tools (or time) to fully analyze the top 100, which is why I stuck with the top 10 for now.

    @robert, you'll have to pay big bucks to get Mathew on board, it appears, but who knows? Some day!

  7. I think it'd be cool if we could all make our version of Techmeme, kinda like Corank, where we get to include the people we want to include.

  8. ...let see if something can come out of new competition with techmeme. Today was the launch of naubo.com a Google tech News/techmeme style of site where users can comment, submit their own stories and add their own blogs to the list. It look cool and has the news organized by traditional media, blogs and submitted stories. Techmeme will have to keep up with the competition and add new features.

  9. Fascinating post, Louis, and great articulate analysis. What strikes me is the correlation between investment and reach; what used to be true for *big media* is now becoming true for blogs as well--the sites that can afford more writers to post more frequently to update more often have much of the news juice that readers crave--it would be interesting to chart the rise and fall of solo bloggers and see how they are faring compared to their mega blogging enterprises.

  10. Thanks for the Idea! :)