Why Tech Blogging is Broken



Last night I attended a book launch party here in Honolulu. At that party I met a marketing person from a SEO startup who told me a little about what they were doing in the search optimization space. I found it very intriguing and as competition is very tough in the SEO space he was not willing to say a lot about their strategies.

But I do know it includes mainstream “A” list bloggers in their “specific” categories who are paid to link to specific sites. While this is not new per se, some of the other things he hinted at (such as how the linking was done), were unique, in at least that I have not heard of the practice before.

So as I was driving home I got to thinking about the way tech blogging has changed in the past year. Many Tech Bloggers use Techmeme.com as a prime source for material. Because public relations firms are feeding stories to “A” list bloggers before everyone else the “A” list bloggers posts of those announcements drive incredible weight in TechMeme.

As an example, a recent post on TechCrunch.com achieved a top listing on TechMeme.com only after 3 other sites had linked in to the story. While I watched that story grow to have nearly 25 sites linking to it, giving it the long tail effect, which is a Public Relations Manager’s dream.

You have an “A” list site like TechCrunch that rarely writes a negative review, you then have a auxiliary base of 25–100 blogs that link to the same review as their sourced material. Then Google comes around and indexes all the sites.

What you have just achieved is a #1 spot in the Google Search Results for an article on a product update or new site release. While this is not PayPerPost it is definitely “Public Relations Gaming” of the Tech Blogging community.

All bloggers pay attention to tagging and titles of our articles, so of course this plays into the hands of the PR people, too.

So what has changed? In the past before Techmeme.com we all had a larger daily reading list of RSS feeds; thus, we all may have linked to sites that were covering something yet may not have been the initial source. Thus, the companies did not get such a huge bump in Google Juice ranking.

I am not sure what can be done to fix it with the exception of no longer reading Techmeme.com and other sites that pull together top stories of the day. It is time to go back to a broader review of websites daily on topics and spread the link love a lot further.

This means reading the 600+ blogs I used to read each day instead of going straight to Techmeme.com

 

About geeknews

Todd Cochrane is the Founder of Geek News Central and host of the Geek News Central Podcast. He is a Podcast Hall of Fame Inductee and was one of the very first podcasters in 2004. He wrote the first book on podcasting, and did many of the early Podcast Advertising deals in the podcasting space. He does two other podcasts in addition to Geek News Central. The New Media Show and Podcast Legends.


16 thoughts on “Why Tech Blogging is Broken

  1. Hi All, excellent post and comments. Todd says his solution to this problem is “This means reading the 600+ blogs I used to read each day instead of going straight to Techmeme.com.” I think for most of us, except perhaps Todd and Scoble, that is very difficult.

    I suggest you try out BlogRovR.com.

    BlogRovR, of which I’m the co-founder and CEO, is a browser extension that fetches stories related contextually to anything you’re browsin on-the-fly, in a personalized fashion, consulting only the blogs YOU have chosen to subscribe to.

    Over 80,000 people use it, and we think it really makes it feasible to keep up with what 600 or more of your favorite blogs have to say about anything you care about.

    Thanks and we’d love to hear your feedback.
    Marc Meyer

  2. Eric

    Their are a lot of bloggers that are blogging things outside of Tech notice I say “mainstream “A” list bloggers in their “specific” categories”

    I do not say “mainstream Tech “A” list bloggers”

    The conversation I had was much wider than just technology, but my ride home made me think about the greater implications that he was talking about.

    Todd

  3. Dave – I think Todd does suggest with this sentence that tech bloggers get bribed:

    “But I do know it includes mainstream “A” list bloggers in their “specific” categories who are paid to link to specific sites.”

  4. I agree, although I think people are easier to game than code. I also believe that opaque personal biases are part of the game ‘I don’t link to him cuz he’s an A-hole’ or whatnot.

    We’ll always be able to game the system, it’s the social slant.

    Also, B and C listers can game Techmeme too. As long as Techmeme shows the linking to an article– gameable.

    But that’s a HUMAN thing, not a CODE thing.

    So, I dunno. I’m in a massive trans-web2.0 bar fight about the isolationism and elitism within the space. I referenced this post and decided to come over for air. :)

    Aloha!-m/

  5. I used to link to TechCrunch when it first started. Now I rarely ever do. To me doing so is just making my blog part of the ‘echo chamber’ and not adding any value to the conversation. I have unsubscribed to blogs that don’t add value.
    Unless you are part of the crowd in the Valley and can go to all the events there and elsewhere it is hard to get new content. You have to keep your ear to the ground and watch things like Twitter for clues to what is going on. Fact is, the mere linking behavior that puts a post onto TechMeme means it is already over linked and unless you have something to add you are better off staying away.
    There is another side to this that is sad. If for some reason I want Mike and the TechCrunch gang (anyone for that matter) to see one of my posts the only way that has a chance of happening (unless of course they subscribe to me) is to link to them.

  6. Interesting article, I don’t know if I agree with all your points, but good to think about.

    One nitpick: “While I watched that story grow to have nearly 25 sites linking to it, giving it the long tail effect, which is a Public Relations Manager’s dream.”

    This is not an example of “the long tail effect” as per the more commonly held definition of the long tail. Long tail refers to the theory that in any given market the “short head” of massively popular items represent 50% of the market while the “long tail” of niche and uncommon items represent the rest…

  7. I’m with Andy. People who give up blogs so they can focus on TechMeme, or even Techcrunch are giving up too much. If you want to really take advantage of the Internet, and learn something cool that not everyone else is reading, you’ve got to move beyond sites like these and get down into the thinkers that are originating ideas. They’re just off the edge of the map. That’s where you’ll learn the world is round and not flat:

    http://smoothspan.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/the-internet-first-breeds-diversity-then-conformity-punctuated-equilibrium/

  8. @Mark Hendrickson: I don’t think that Todd is saying that writers for TC get paid. He states clearly:

    “While this is not PayPerPost it is definitely “Public Relations Gaming” of the Tech Blogging community.”

    Which I would agree with, results of that “gaming” intentional or not – that is exactly what happens.

    In addition I would add that the negative or less than positive reviews or coverage on many “A-list” blogs are such throw-away posts. They contain one liners and little in depth discussion or analysis that it makes them useless and more comedy than commentary. I have seen it so many times on so many blogs. Critical posts contain little other than tearing a service to shreds or trying to get a laugh. Rarely do you see intelligent discussion or analysis. Truthfully I expect more from “A-listers”.

    Just as disappointing as when I read the interview with Arrington who stated:

    “But, you know, sometimes I wake up and I’m in a pissed off mood and I trash a company.”

    Where is the professionalism there? Nope did not think there was any. Awful.

    BTW I am subscribed to many, many feeds and heck some of them are C list. I agree, it takes longer but you get a much bigger picture and balanced view.

  9. I don’t want to take the time to go through every point that I think is totally wrong here, but I do want to go on record as saying that I think you are nearly entirely wrong about this.

  10. A really intriguing post Todd. However I think that you have given *way* too much credence to the always inflated claims of SEO companies.

    Of course Tech blogging, and most of the web for that matter, and much of the offline world, have been “damaged” with respect to objective quality content by various tactics that come about as the inevitable result of content monetizing.

    But take a look at the prominent TechMeme posts tonight – it’s clear that these are generally spawned from sincere interests and not “planted” as part of advanced SEO tactics. Do any plants happen? A few, but in SEO you have to balance the chance you’ll “sneak in” a good plant against the greater chance that you’ll permanently tarnish the blogger’s reputation cause a scandal (Wal Mart’s Edelman fiasco), or simply spend a lot of time and money for a marginal result. The best SEO strategies rely more than ever on getting legitimate content and placements.

  11. On a related note, I’ve never been overly concerned about getting my pieces on Techmeme. It’s great when they do hit Techmeme, but that’s never been my goal. So, while I can’t speak for others, I wouldn’t overestimate it’s influence on bloggers and the way tech blogging is done.

  12. As a writer for TechCrunch, I can speak for myself by saying that I have never been paid to link to anywhere, nor have I had any reason to think that my colleagues were getting paid for such dirty practices.

    And I would protest the notion that TechCrunch doesn’t write enough negative reviews. I try to critique every product/service that I write about in addition to highlighting the things that I like.

    If there’s any positive bias to our posts, maybe it comes from the fact that we prefer to write about things we find interesting. But I still think we publish our share of negative opinions…

  13. This is pretty obvious once you realize that TechCrunch and TechMeme *are* the much-hated “mainstream media” now. It’s like any revolution: out with the old bad, in with the new one.

  14. “In the past before Techmeme.com we all had a larger daily reading list of RSS feeds thus we all may have linked to sites that were covering something yet may not have been the initial source.”

    Erm, I still do! Yeah, it takes more work. So sue me. :)

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