Marketers Debate a ‘Top 500’ List for Blogs

Feedster is floating a new top 500 list of blogs, ranked according to their accumulation of inbound links. Media buyers say they’re watching the list, but they disagree on its value as a consideration tool for ad placements in blogs.

The “Feedster 500,” which challenges the long-standing Technorati 100 list and claims to contain “the most interesting and important blogs,” will no doubt stroke the egos of many bloggers who appear on it.

However, it packs dubious value as an evaluation tool for media buyers, according to several agency executives who spoke with ClickZ News. That’s because it doesn’t rank blogs according to niche or topical focus, wherein lies their main appeal to marketers.

“A list or a service that helps advertisers understand what is predictable and what is risky is valuable,” said Jeff Lanctot, VP of media for Avenue A/Razorfish. “The downside of the Feedster 500 (or other lists) is what I’d call the 501 dilemma. Blogs are thriving because they can engage even the smallest audiences. Blog #501 might be the most important media resource for a small group of people.”

Pete Lerma, principal at Click Here, doubts any ranking based only on in-bound links. “We need traffic numbers and other measurements of reach to make these decisions,” he said. “While lists like the Feedster Top 500 can be a good starting place to discover blogs for ad placement, we cannot solely rely on them for decisions about ad placement.”

Feedster president and CEO Scott Rafer said he never intended the list should serve advertisers. “This is the blog 101 source for people who are just joining us,” said Rafer. “It’s an editorial product to give people an onramp to the blogging world that they can make sense of.”

Media buyers aren’t entirely dismissive. Several said the Feedster 500 shows promise as a guideline for their campaigns, particularly as their online marketing budgets begin to strain traditional sources of online inventory and blog advertising tools mature.

“It’s just skimming the surface,” said Nick Pahade, managing direct of Beyond Interactive. “It’s a great start to try to create some standards and some basic operating procedures around blogs as an advertising medium.”

James Hering, director of integrated marketing at Temerlin McClain Advertising, echoed the remark: “It certainly is an effective tool for us, in terms of looking at and evaluating quality environments. I am curious, and for now [won’t try to] call… whether or not this is an opportunity for us from an advertising perspective.”

Most media buyers ClickZ spoke with expressed a similar tone of guarded optimism, but doubted the validity of generalized rankings for blogs. Click Here’s Pete Lerma made an appeal for more developed data. “I hope we see much more transparency in reporting, and a push for a closer examination of how we measure the popularity and reach of blogs,” he said.

The Feedster 500 appears in the wake of — and partly because of — multiple recent controversies over the measurement of Weblogs.

Rafer said Feedster initially planned to publish its list in the fall when the company’s algorithms were more developed. It pushed the date up after Weblogs Inc. Network (WIN) publisher Jason Calacanis issued a plea and call-to-action for the creation of a reliable top 500 list. He put up a bounty of $50,000 in advertising on WIN sites or $10,000 cash to the first company to create such a list, ranked by in-bound links and based on data collected in the trailing 12 months. Calacanis and others have been highly critical of the Technorati 100.

Additionally, a noisy debate erupted last week over traffic rankings published in a comScore report on blog readership demographics.

Feedster’s Rafer said the company plans to develop the list beyond its current strictly horizontal view of the blogosphere, but the extent of that expansion will depend on client interest. “We would love to verticalize. We’re going to see how successful this is and make the decision in a couple of months,” he said.

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