I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what it takes for a blog to get BIG. Not like Copyblogger big, but like Huffington Post or Mashable big. Big as in millions and millions of pageviews a month.

My first step in investigating how big blogs get so big was to go through the top 100 blogs and see if there were trends in what the blogs were actually about.

Technorati Top 100Of course, defining a “top blog” is difficult. For my purposes here, I used the Technorati Top 100 list. I believe that Technorati takes a number of factors—like inbound links and traffic—into consideration when ranking blogs. There would be a different “top 100” blog list if it were sorted by Alexa rank, for example. But I’m using Technorati’s list because it’s the easiest one to obtain.

Below are 21 categories or topics that the blogs focus on; every one of the Technorati Top 100 blogs fits into one of those categories. The information below is arranged from greatest-number-of-blogs-in-a-category to lowest-number-of-blogs-in-a-category. Oh, and these are my own categories, not Technorati’s official categories.

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Blog Categories and Number of Blogs (Out of 100) in Each Category

Tech 28

  • Those 28 include…
  • 5 Apple blogs
  • 3 Android blogs
  • 1 Google blog (official)
  • 1 Facebook blog (official)

Politics 25

Celebrity/Entertainment/Gossip 8
Fun/Entertaining 8

General news 4

Science 3
General business 3
Gaming 3
Local news 3

Comics 2
Movies 2
Sports 2

Gay news 1
Fashion 1
Liberal arts 1
Music 1
Consumerism 1
Cars 1
Local politics 1
Local “scene” 1
Arts/culture 1

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Category analysis

Some blogs could fit into multiple categories, but I did my best to accurately place each blog into a single category. The line was really blurry with the “tech” blogs, in particular. “Tech” is a very broad topic, and the blogs in that category cover everything from startups to gadgets to apps to specific companies to business in general.

All told, there are 21 different categories (even fewer if you group the local news and local politics in with general news and general politics).

53% of the top 100 blogs fall into one of the two top categories, tech and politics.

The top 4 categories encompass a whopping 69% of the top 100 blogs. In other words, 69 out of top 100 blogs are about tech, politics, gossip/celebrity, or fun.

There are 5 “local” blogs, all dealing with either New York or Los Angeles.

Types of blogs

The vast majority of these are “news” blogs, meaning that they’re reporting the most recent events in their respective industries or categories. This is opposed to, say, how-to blogs. Very few of the top 100 blogs were how-to blogs. Several have how-to articles (like Mashable has articles about how to use Google+ and Autoblog has articles on how to get the most out of your car), but I don’t think there are any blogs in the top 100 that are purely how-to blogs.

There are a few commentary blogs (blogs that comment on current events rather than simply report them objectively), too, but these are all backed by massive institutions like the New York Times.

The vast majority of these blogs are run by teams of people. Those that are mainly the work of a single individual have the backing of big companies. An example of this is Paul Krugman’s blog at the New York Times. The only exception that I can think of that I saw to this is kottke.org, which, as far as I know, is still run by a single dude.

In other words, these top 100 blogs are more like corporations and less like sole proprietorships. That’s an important thing to keep in mind. Some of these blogs may have started out as being run by just one dude in his bedroom, but nearly all of them have a full time writing staff.

My thoughts

So my goal from all of this, as I stated at the beginning of the post was to see if there were noticeable trends in what the top 100 blogs blog about. I think it’s safe to say… yes. Obviously, there are huge trends. Remember, tech and politics blogs make up 53% of the top 100. That’s just insane. What is it about tech and politics that make it possible for there to be so many blogs on the subjects.

To be honest, I’m not entirely sure. Sure, lots and lots of people are interested in those two topics. They’re general interest topics. But so are movies and music. Everyone watches movies and listens to music. Why are there more blogs in the top 100 about politics and tech than movies and music?

I think a part of it is this. People want to know about other people’s opinions on political matters. People are willing to read a lot about the subject and they’re extremely passionate about it, whereas no one really cares too much about what other people are listening to. It’s kind of the same thing in the tech world. People want to know what’s going on, what’s coming, and what’s good and bad. The things in the tech category (business, technology, etc.) either make us richer or are supposed to make life easier. Everyone’s trying to make more money and make life easier.

There’s one other thing I want to say here. These blogs in the top 100, they’re not niche blogs. They cover a wide variety of topics. Even if it seems like a niche topic at first (like a blog about Apple), it’s not really all that niched down. There are no blogs about the iPhone in the top 100. There are no blogs about the iPad or iTunes or Mac computers. Yes, there are several blogs that cover these topics, but those blogs cover lots and lots of other things, too.

In other words, you’re not going to have a top 100 blog about college basketball. About sports? Yes. But not basketball.

All of this brings up another question, too, an age-old blogging question. Is it better to blog in a crowded niche where you know there’s a huge audience, or is it better to blog in a smaller niche where the audience is smaller? Ah, but that’s a post for another time :)

  • Why do you think there are so many popular tech and politics blogs?
  • What stuck out to you when you saw the makeup of the top 100 blogs?
  • What do you think a blog has to do to be in the top 100?