Prioritizing your reading list and doing rapid niche research using AideRSS

AideRSS is a service I’ve wanted to make creative use of for some time. It’s neat – you supply an RSS feed and it ranks posts in that feed in order of reader engagement. The company is Canadian, too, and Canadian internet stuff is totally hot.

AideRSS scores each post by the number of comments it received, number of times it’s been tagged in, inbound links from a number of blogsearch engines, etc. Thankfully, it scores those posts relative only to other posts in the same feed. So while a post on TechCrunch with 20 comments might score a 5 out of 10, for example, a post on with 20 comments would score a 10 out of 10! Unfortunately, and this is a big dissapointment, AideRSS is just plain wrong far too often – reporting, for example, completely inacurate numbers for several posts in my feed. Come on AideRSS team, fix these problems. So it’s nothing to bet the bank on, but there’s some real potential here and as a rough guide it could still be useful today. I’ve contacted AideRSS to ask why they are getting things wrong as often as they are.

That’s all well and good, it’s a good way to see which of your posts are getting the most reader engagement (at least via these gestures being measured) and the widget that AideRSS provides is a neat way to highlight your most popular posts – but I know there’s a lot more that’s possible here.

Tonight I tried something unusual, at least it seemed that way to me. I plugged the RSS feed for items I’ve tagged “toread” in into AideRSS. It worked! It appears that the service figured out which were the hottest items in my feed. What a handy way to prioritize! I could grab scored RSS feed from AideRSS, including “good posts”, great posts or only the best posts. Here’s a widget displaying the best posts currently in my “toread” feed, according to AideRSS.

Isn’t that cool? Obviously it would be nice if users could define the number of characters and items displayed in that widget and the metrics used don’t capture anything personalized – but nonetheless, I think there’s some real potential here. (The numbers fetched aren’t always accurate, either – hopefully that will improve.)

Here’s an idea I thought of previously: say you’re looking to identify some of the top blogs in real estate. (Woo hoo!?) I would recommend starting at and sorting from authority. There’s an export in OPML link there, which unfortunately will not give you anything other than the top 10 blogs in that category no matter what you try to do, but you can import that OPML into AideRSS. You can then see the hottest posts in each blog, in other words: you can get a feel for what that blog’s community of readers takes interest in. So Technorati+AideRSS = easy identification of the biggest interests of top niche bloggers’ reading communities. Sounds invaluable to me.

These are the kinds of ideas I help come up with and implement with my consulting clients; though we wouldn’t want to depend too much on a tool that’s as loosely accurate as AideRSS is today.

If this general idea is of interest to you, perhaps more for personal use than marketing purposes, see also Rogers Cadenhead’s recent post on APML – Attention Profiling Markup Language. I tagged it in my blog and shared items feed, which you might like to subscribe to.

Thanks for reading.

Censorship: YouTube (up) down in Thailand, Veoh and Metacafe next – where will it end?

Remember the stories about YouTube being banned in various countries around the world? One of the most interesting cases was in Thailand, where after a long period when the Thai government blocked its citizens from accessing YouTube, the government lifted the block this week. It cited Google’s willingness to censor videos that insulted Thai royalty, though I believe Google had said it was willing to block this content months ago. Now tonight it’s reported that the Thai government has turned its attention to Veoh and Metacafe, two other video hosting sites. See Global Voices and the Committee to Protect Bloggers for reports.

How much more evidence do we need that when you cave to authoritarian demands, authority just makes more. What an awful precedent to set. I know that people more knowledgeable about Thailand assure critics that the Thai people themselves really do revere their king and want this censorship to be carried out, but since values are probably always arbitrary in the end, I reserve the right for mine to oppose such censorship anyway.

Allowing governments to silence unpopular voices is a bad idea for lots of reasons, not the least of which is this: people suffering at the hands of power must be supported in their efforts to contest that power, even if a large, other group of people would prefer that suffering to go on in silence.

See also the “self-discipline” pact signed by Yahoo and MSN in China this week, promising to report personal information on bloggers to the Chinese government on demand.

This stuff drives me nuts. What can we do about it? I’m try to do what I can to support the newly resurrected Committee to Protect Bloggers. Subscribe to their RSS feed, check out the “safer blogging” guides they link to and help spread the word. Everybody knows that injustices are less likely to occur the more light that’s shined on them.

You can also help expand the reach of voices online outside of the dominant groups allready being heard from. Check out what my friend Beth is doing right now – she’s in SE Asia training people to train others in video blogging. That’s awesome. If you can do things like that, that’s great – for the rest of us, we can support people like Beth.

The internet holds far too much potential for social change to let it go dark in some of the parts of the world where it’s needed the most. Everyone, everywhere who seeks freedom using new media deserves our support and no one deserves the threat of imprisonment for challenging power online.

The best things about Technorati

Technorati CEO Dave Sifry stepped down yesterday and the news gave cynics another opportunity to talk smack about blog search in general. There are a handful of things I really like about Technorati and I think the company deserves a bit of defense. If Technorati takes a dirt nap, I’ll be bummed for a number of reasons. (I’ve had the phrase “dirt nap” stuck in my head for weeks and am very relieved to have the chance to use it here!)

It’s not the full text search of blog posts that Technorati is really good for. Google Blogsearch is faster if you want to know if anyone has beat you to a story and has much better spam control as it only indexes feeds that have a certain number of subscribers in Bloglines (hello, Google Reader and Blogsearch teams). Technorati has created a whole bunch of awesome experimental features, some of which worked and some of which didn’t. I don’t know how many of the people behind much of that innovation are still at the company but I hope things brighten up over there in the future.

What is Technorati good for? First, the Blog Index section of the site is very useful. Go to and you’ll find blogs that have been tagged as a whole, not on the level of a single post, by their own authors. Sort by “authority” (shudder) and you’ll see the ones with the most inbound links. I was talking to a potential client on the phone last week he asked “are there a lot of real estate blogs?” I knew anecdotally that there were, but quickly visiting told me there were more than 12,000 in Technorati alone! The Blog Index makes it easy to see which, by one standard, are some of the top blogs in any niche. It’s not perfect but it’s a good start.

Unfortunately, OPML export of anything more than the first 10 results of these searches isn’t possible. That looks to me like broken functionality and as the company slashes staff I have to worry that there’s little hope of the best parts of the service being maintained or improved upon.

The second cool thing about Technorati is the company’s partnerships with outside traditional large publishers. Specifically, the kinds of relationships they’ve built like the one with the Washington Post. In some sections of the WaPo website, you can see blogs linking to that article displayed in a little box, curtosy of Technorati. If those are sorted a bit for spam and crap then that becomes great stuff. I know that Sphere is providing related functionality on some sites, but it’s not the same. The ins and outs of this sort of service deserve a big blog post in and of themselves.

Finally, the Technorati 100 is a good thing. I know there’s a whole lot of criticism of it and a lot of that is valid. I don’t like the word “authority” and I don’t like measuring authority by links – but linking does mean something and the fact that Technorati shows off a leader board of that metric is worthwhile. FeedBurner ought to too, if the group feels like separating out blogs from the other feeds they publish.

I know that Technorati has been painfully slow at times, the most recent site redesign is awful and the focus on inbound links is overdone – but it’s an important company that deserves support in my opinion.

Introducing good bloggers and companies to hire them

Update: Response to this post has been extensive – it’s going to take me some time to deal with all the replies! That’s great.

I’ve been getting so many inquiries lately from companies looking to hire bloggers, and so many responses to messages I send out about them over twitter, that I’m losing track. I really like helping bring these two groups together. Sometimes I fantasize about starting a blogger training and placement service, but for now let’s just try to get organized! I’m a big believer in paying bloggers – see this post for example on social media marketing at SplashCast, that’s good stuff. Want a sophisticated discussion on the value of social media content creation? I can’t stop recommending this podcast and transcript by Dana Gardner on the topic.

There are other places that bloggers can find paid work, check out the great community around for example, but I’m just going to introduce people I like (particularly good bloggers) to companies I like (good companies) informally and at no cost because people are already asking me to do so.

Am I available to write for your blog? Probably not, even if it’s very part time. Thanks for asking. Can I train a person already on your staff to rock the blogosphere and set them up with a bunch of resources to help make that happen? You bet; send me an email.

So, if you are a company who would like to hire a blogger for either in-house content creation or for news coverage for your blog network, send me an email at Tell me what topic areas you’re looking to fill, whether it’s a part time, very part time or full time job and how much the position pays. (How much should you pay? See the bottom of this post.) If and when I find bloggers who I would recommend for the position, I’ll email you and offer to introduce you. This is where the quality control comes in, my reputation for this depends on my not recommending bad bloggers. If you would like to hire me to offer advanced training for whoever you select, that’s great – let me know. You’ll end up with a world class social media presence. I’m happy to make introductions regardless.

Second, if you’re a blogger or otherwise skilled writer interested in a full or part time writing gig, send me an email at Your confidentiality will be a top priority. Tell me whether you’re interested in doing news, company blogging or both/either. Tell me what topics you are knowledgeable about. Tell me whether you are available for full time or just part time work. Send me an URL where I can see your writing in action. If and when I find a blogging job that I think could work well for you, I’ll email you and ask if you are still available. If you are, and if the company in question is interested, then I’ll introduce the two of you. It’ll be great.

I’ve started a private wiki to keep track of leads coming in from both directions. I’ll be adding a link to the sidebar of this blog about this, linking to this post. Did I mention that it’ll be great?

How much should you pay a blogger?

I am asked frequently how much a company should pay a blogger. I find that bloggers who are paid per-post generally get paid between $10 and $20 per post by good sites for general interest topics. In most cases, I recommend asking yourself what monthly budget you have available for a blogger, about how many posts you would like to see per week (3 or 20?) and working backwards on the rate. The most serious blogs should be paid for on a monthly basis, not per post. I believe that top-tier bloggers that will be tied closely to your brand should be paid between $5k and $8k per month. Pay your blogger well, communicate with them clearly about expectations and if it doesn’t seem worth it after some time then fire them and find a new one.

Note: I’ve been told by a couple of people today that this pay is higher than is reasonable to expect. That may be true to some degree, but I think the range is reasonable. News bloggers typically have one pay range, bloggers representing a company have another.

If you are going to pay a blogger $500-$1000/month, it had better not take very much time or that blog had better be a great way for said blogger to gain visibility and move onto a better gig. That’s what AOL Weblogs Inc. paid me for a whole lot of posts, but the blog was great for my career.

Those are my thoughts about paying bloggers.

I hope this offer to introduce parties on both sides will prove useful for all involved.

Thoughts on product launch promotion

Update: This post is now years old but I think it’s still really useful. Related posts I recommend checking out include this one about relationship building and this one about embargoes. Please make sure you check out Little Bird, too – it automates a lot of the things discussed here!

One of the consulting services I offer companies is in launch strategy planning for social media promotion. Over at SplashCast we’ve done two major product launches in the last week and I thought I’d offer some observations here based on those experiences. If you’re interested in reading about SplashCast’s use of social media for marketing in general, check out this post.

The launch of our NPR Podcast Player was covered at Webware, StartupSquad, Mashable, Download Squad, WebProNews, CenterNetworks and Technically Speaking so far. Last week’s announcement was covered by TechCrunch and Mashable. Big thanks to everyone!

Here’s some things I have found to be helpful in efforts like this:

Writing a pre-launch FAQ is one of the first things I advise any company does before reaching out to bloggers. I believe a good FAQ includes all the basic background information that would be communicated in a solid telephone conversation: company history, funding, executive backgrounds and possible if not already available use cases of the product. Based on my experience covering startups at TechCrunch I found the majority of telephone conversations with CEOs to be frustratingly long, slow and unneeded. Tech news and review bloggers are hungry for content and if you give them all the info they need to write, in an easy to consume fashion, they will appreciate it and be more likely to write about you. This FAQ document should also include a good logo image and screenshots that can be included in any write up. An embeddable screencast or demo video is great but good looking screenshots go a long way too. Here’s an example of a good launch FAQ. Update: That page is now down, a good example of why you should save a screenshot of key pages before you leave a job! None the less, here’s a cache of that document, minus all the media.

Once you’ve got all this information available on your website, you can send a 2 or 3 line inquiry out to bloggers. “We’re launching a thing-a-mabob. Here’s the info if you’re interested. Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about it. Thanks.” That works great, especially if you are emailing bloggers that you’ve already built relationships with. For more on pitching bloggers, see also my list of links on the subject.

There’s probably more blogs worth reaching out to than you think. When we launched SplashCast in January, I reached out to about 25 bloggers, ranging from the big ones to some smaller, up and coming ones. We also put out a press release, attended the DEMO conference and employed a successful PR firm, Horizon Communications. The agregate result of all this was more than 250 blog posts about the SplashCast launch. Just TechCrunch and MasterNewMedia coverage alone lead to tens of other blogs writing the company up in the following 24 hours.

Many of the smaller blogs that wrote about that first and subsequent launches send significant traffic as well. Traffic can come from unexpected places – for today’s NPR launch, for example, StartupSquad is sending us more traffic than almost anyone (their coverage was included in Robert Scoble’s link blog, for one thing) and our press release got picked up by Mashable, which was then linked to by WebProNews. We’ve never reached out to WebProNews before, but the point is that some coverage leads to more coverage when you make it easy for the ball to start rolling.

How do you find the blogs to reach out to in the first place? Some good tips can be found in my post here titled How to find good blogs on almost any topic, which I’m proud to say is the #1 Google search result for the phrase “how to find good blogs.

There are any number of strategic details to take into account as well, but I hope that this post will prove useful to readers doing social media promotion. If you’re interested in working with me on a project like this for your company drop me a line at My other consulting services include development and design feedback reports (because you’ve got to have something great to launch!) and working with companies to leverage OPML for competitive and market intelligence.

John Dvorak isn’t just cranky, he’s cranky and wrong

John C. Dvorak, Cranky Geek and long respected old dude, has penned a shallow but multi-part whine about the web 2.0 economy and the likelihood that it’s going to collapse at any moment. It’s titled Bubble 2.0 Coming Soon and it’s crap. This stuff drives me nuts – so I’m going to blog about it.

Ubiquitous broadband and the clear utility of the internet is changing the world and all our lives. Millions of people are using MySpace and YouTube and they are never going back. Small companies are seeing their technology get acquired or licenced and leveraged by large brands left and right. There are countless parts of everyday life that are or could be benefiting from asynchronous, distance-free communication online. In the mean time there’s an entire economy being built and it’s ok to be excited about it.

Dvorak’s screed has hit Digg and Slashdot, probably because there are lots and lots of people who are in a position similar to his. They don’t want to lose face by being enthusiastic about the internet again for fear its economy could take another big downturn. They aren’t paying enough attention to tell the difference between and Vimeo. (Blip works closely with publishers of grassroots serialized content and is licenced by CNN and Vimeo is an IAC property that emphasized privacy, the arts and is being used to serve ads across IAC properties. Neither is a “YouTube clone.”) Finally, I think they are freaked out at their oncoming loss of status when the media gates are thrown open, the youngsters freak out over incomprehensible rock and roll and these oldsters are plagued in their sleep by Dramatic Chipmunks turning and looking at them accusingly – over and over again but saying nothing.

It doesn’t have to be like that. Everyone can appreciate the awesomeness that is the emerging web of user generated content, online video and countless other paradigm shifting innovations. This is like the invention of the printing press or the television. It really is.

First though, we’ve got to clear up some misconceptions. Conveniently, Dvorak today posted almost every tired trope of the web 2.0 cynic. His list in italics, my responses afterwords. I wrote this on the city bus going home from work – I think it warrants even if it doesn’t require a more thorough engagement.

Every single person working in the media today who experienced the dot-com bubble in 1999 to 2000 believes that we are going through the exact same process and can expect the exact same results—a bust…

Neo-social networking. Today everything from YouTube to the local church has a social-networking angle. And this doesn’t even consider the actual social-networking sites, from MySpace to LinkedIn to Facebook to even Second Life. This scene is totally out of control and will contribute to the collapse for sure.

I say: Social networking is an emerging utility that combines the functionality of blogging’s self publishing with the usefulness of email list serves. Social networking services make these activities more accessible than ever before. They are a great way to find people you’ve lost touch with (MySpace, for example) and the local church is going to continue eating up the collaboration and easy content management that social networking provides. Niches here will be even more viable when profile and newsfeed portability is made easier. These services provide substantial value to the lives of everyday people and they will never go away as long as the internet exists.

Video mania. With dozens and dozens of YouTube clones cropping up to get on the “throw money away” bandwagon, you must sense that the eventual shakeout in this space will have a negative impact.

I say: Ad networks (ok, ad networks) tell me that there are countless niche video sites, from car lovers to cooking, that are already making money on video. There are food blogs alone with subscribers in the hundreds of thousands. Make it even easier to incorporate video into these strong niches online and the money being invested in this sector will make plenty of sense. I work for one of these vendors, but I took the job because I believe in the sector’s future.

User-generated content. This idea has been around since Usenet and just keeps improving. It will make no contribution to the overall collapse except for users reporting the collapse.

I say: UGC is the content that ads are sold against and publishing services themselves are in some cases directly monetizable (Flickr, for example). Dvorak should have argued that fear of brand damage by UGC is a threat to the web 2.0 economy – I think it’s one of the most viable threats, in fact. In the long run, though, there’s just too much money to be made in an entirely new economy for advertisers to stay on the sidelines much more for much longer.

Mobile everything. Here is another concept that has been in play since the mid-1990s. It cannot trigger a collapse since it will never fully get off the ground, although the iPhone mania may be a bad sign of something.

I say: Oh come on, now. Can anyone really not tell the difference between the mobile economy of today and of 10 years ago? Everyone has mobile phones now and the mobile experience is much more compelling. I’m not talking about the iPhone, I’m talking about global demand for mobile content and services that blows away anything in history and makes supply an undeniably big business. Unless, that is, North America turns out to be some freak of the developed world.

Ad-leveraged search. Most search engines will fail as a matter of course. This segment of the industry is mundane. It would be affected by a crash but not trigger one.

I say: Maybe maybe not. There will probably be a lot of consolidation here but good search is good search. Google’s not going anywhere and it’s the foundation of the search economy.

Widgets and toolbars. I cannot see the widget scene going crazy, and the jury is still out on toolbars. But there is the potential for nuttiness, I think. The problem here is that these things tend to be dependent on the stability of operating systems and browsers. One bad operating-system patch and suddenly nothing works.

I say: What on earth is he talking about? Are widgets an OS dependent application on the desktop? Maybe 5 years ago – today the vast majority of widgets live on web pages and make the *proven* “small pieces loosely joined paradigm” accessible to people with fewer technical skills than ever. Monetization? Advertising, data mining or loss leader – there’s plenty of hope for widgets.

Toolbars? The jury is still out on toolbars? Who does Dvorak hang out with that even talks about toolbars anymore – much less for whom the jury is out?

Why on earth is this man considered a leading voice on tech? I’m guessing that it’s because he speaks to the potent paranoia of much of the aging population – afraid in the face of a changing, confusing world that they will face humiliation if they bet on new tech, that they will be unemployed if things take a downturn or that they will lose their self-righteous know-it-all credentials if this new economy does succeed.

I for one am sick of it. I’m excited about the direction the web is going in and I think many people truly paying attention are as well.

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